Deepmala 29 – Need for New Values on Traditional Technology

To encourage communities, it is necessary to scout, support, spawn and scale up the green grass root innovation to generate employment and use natural resources sustainably through linking of innovation, enterprise and investment. This requires building up adequate linkages with modern science and technology and market research institutions.

Technologies developed by local artisans, craftsmen, potters, farmers, weavers, etc. are considered as traditional. These technologies are never included in the fabric of modern technology. Again a change of mindset and value systems is required. I tried an experiment in Pune during the Indian Science Congress in January 2000. As President of the Science Congress, I said let this Science Congress be ‘knowledge congress’. Let it be ‘people’s congress’. We will show that we value people’s knowledge. We had several grass root innovators participate in our science exhibition. They demonstrated their technologies. None of them spoke English. We had a session, where they made a presentation on their technologies in local languages to around 2000 scientists. They stood on the same platform from which the Nobel Laureates spoke. I must say that they got a bigger applause than even the Nobel Laureates. I believe the scientists, for the first time, realised the power of innovation that takes place in the field. They also saw the innovative and creative abilities of those, who were unadulterated by the modern day educational system. Can this realization now turn to respect and then to meaningful partnership? CSIR is forging such partnerships. Let me share one of them with you.

A village called Athaoni, on the border of Maharashtra and Karnataka is the place from where Kolhapuri chappals come to us. They were till recently made by age-old traditional technique. Our scientists from Central Leather Research Institute (CLRI), Chennai studied this and helped to reduce the processing time from 30 days to 10 days through application of some innovative science. The stamping process was standardised, certain innovative changes in design, based on fairly sophisticated computer aided techniques, were made to give more comfort to the wearer. But this ‘inclusion’ of modern science was done gently and subtly, so that it will not be interpreted as ‘invasion’ on traditional practices, which had gone on for several generations. The oldest man in the village was consulted. He was convinced that the age old traditions must change. Today several hundred artisans have been trained by CLRI. This has not only enhanced the family incomes of the villagers but also changed their perception of science, development and change – in short, a micro social transformation. For us in CSIR, we have realised that it is not techno-economics alone, but also socio-economical & socio-cultural aspects, that we need to be conscious about when we build a bridge between traditional craft and modern science.