Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Appropriate technology – its place in the development of Meghalaya


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The late Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had a clear vision about the development of the tribal areas in free India. He advocated a policy in which the development of the tribal areas would be entrusted to their own people, that is, it is the tribesmen themselves who must become technicians and experts in order to bring the benefits of modern technology to their own area. Mahatma Gandhi as far back as 1927 when he addressed a gathering of scientists said, “I….. I tell you…..all research will be useless if it is not allied to internal research which links your hearts to those of millions. All the discoveries you make should have the welfare of the poor. Man is at the centre of all development, endeavour and the under-privileged man especially should be the focus of such endeavour. The pattern of science and technology should therefore be decided on the basis of the needs of the people. In short, development should suit people. Not people adapted to suit development.

A United National publication, describes “appropriate technology” as “any scientific technology that rural population can adopt and utilize to fit their condition and need with no serious negative impact on their environment”. In a B.B.C. progrmme it has been described as “the technology with the human face.” This is the choice which has been placed before us today. Should we not, in choosing a technology to suit a backward tribal State like Meghalaya, base our considerations on that it does the maximum good to the largest number of people, reducing disparities and bettering the quality of life, while at the same time making the fullest use of the reasonable resources available plentifully in the countryside. The norms for such a technology are that it should be within the comprehension of the beneficiaries and suited to the rural conditions in the State, that while improving the villager’s skills, productivity and quality of work, the technology should enable the poor villager to earn a better income.

Foreign experts arriving in Shillong are often surprised to see vintage World War II jeeps and trucks still in regular service. An engineer marveled at the ingenuity of local mechanics and remarked that these untrained men were “born mechanics”. It is there fore unfortunate that a large untrapped reservoir of unused talent lies dormant in the village and likewise appropriate technology which could increase productivity in the village and while at the same time increasing production and help to combat the chronic unemployment and underemployment in the village and the consequent lure of urban centres such as Shillong and Tura. It would thus help to ease the pressure on these hard pressed towns.

Meghalaya is no stranger to appropriate technology. The State Government set up a Committee to study adapting traditional indigenous skills and local materials in construction of Government buildings well before others in the more advanced parts of the country. Recently there has been much interest in traditional methods of construction being adapted through modern technology to suit the needs of our times. ASTRA, the Centre for the Application of Science and Technology to Rural Areas at the Indian Institute of Science has evolved the use of mud stablised with small additions of lime or cement as a building material for low-cost housing.


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