Envision yourself in a village. Odds are you will visualise bullock carts paving their way on dusty roads, farmers pushing themselves on the field to feed the nation, mud houses emitting a sooty smoke, children playing with an innocence you will never see……….Wait! I forgot to mention women.
What comes to your mind almost instantly when someone asks you to picturise an ideal rural woman? You will probably come up with an image with fuel wood on her head or make it a water pot. It sounds a bit on a better side, doesn’t it? But have you ever tried to imagine the plight of women in rural kitchen? She returns after collecting fuel wood and water for daily chores. She lights up a stove and after sometime it is smoke that embraces her. Her eyes become watery and lungs hardly expel the air. According to WHO, every year 500,000 women and children die prematurely in India due to various ailments arising from long term exposure to smoke in rural kitchens. The culprit is the traditional cook stove, rather than the fuel (mostly waste woody biomass), which is actually renewable and environment friendly.
Given the rising cost of LPG and inefficiency of distribution system, people in rural area still resort to biomass for fuel. It not only creates indoor air pollution and pose a serious health hazard but is also an inefficient way of energy conversion. As a result, Government of India launched a national programme on improved chulhas in 1984 aimed at popularising the use of improved cooking devices in rural areas. In spite of its good intentions, the programme has not yielded the expected results.
ARTI (Appropriate Rural Technology Institute) an NGO based in Maharashtra started in 1996 has come up with a solution, a stove. It was founded by Dr. Anand Karve (grandson of the legendary social reformer Maharishi Dhondo Keshav Karve) along with a group of scientists and social workers with the objective of developing, popularising and commercialising innovative rural technologies. One such example of rural technology catering to the problem of smoke from chulas is their product Bharatlaxmi (meaning, wealth of India). It is a state-of-the-art cooking stove designed on the lines of a fixed improved single pot hole stove that is already popular in Maharashtra. It consists of eight bricks of insulating cement tied with a metallic wire and an iron grate.
‘Since I got this chulha, there is no smoke in the house. With my previous traditional chulha, I can’t even describe how much my eyes used to water. Now I need only a handful of fuel sticks and the cooking is finished so fast! Earlier even if I cleaned the house every other day, in a short while again it looked dirty. Now I don’t have to clean for 4-5 days, still it is fine.’
- Testimony of a lady using the stove
Bharatlaxmi stove has undergone stringent efficiency, durability and emission testing. It has been effective in reducing indoor air pollution in low income rural households. There has been 50% reduction in fuel consumption and 30% reduction in cooking time by using this stove. The main advantage that comes with this stove is that no behavioural change is required on part of user compared with traditional chulha.
Cummins India supported and financed the installation of Bharatlaxmi stoves in Nandal, now a smoke free village thanks to technical knowhow of ARTI. It was because of this support that ARTI was able to charge a marginal sum of Rupees 100 from the villagers and the rest cost was borne by Cummins. The project is going to make more homes smoke free by installing 500 more Bharatlakxmi stoves in nearby villages. The only hurdle in way of installing these stoves on a large magnitude is lack of funding. Members of ARTI are trying to raise the amount and have appealed to masses of our country to help them improve the lives of rural women.
Here is a Info-commercial Video on ‘Bharatlaxmi Gas Stove’ in Marathi.
Bharatlakxmi is one of the latest products by ARTI. Previous works of ARTI have been equally beneficial to village community for which it has won Ashden Award twice and is the only organization in the entire world to be awarded twice with this honour. Dr. Karve jointly with his daughter Priyadarshini had developed a breakthrough technology of converting sugarcane leaves (traditionally burnt or just thrown away) to fuel. This has not only helped to make use of tonnes of waste leaves into fuel but also provided an alternative employment opportunity to seasonal sugarcane-cutting workers.
Apart from the above mentioned technologies, ARTI has completed 9 research projects now being implemented in various parts of our country as well as in Asia and Africa. Till date ARTI has received numerous national and international awards and recognitions. Contribution of various individual members has also been applauded world-wide. The lives they are able to touch and change is however, their true motivator. Their efforts are still in the direction of serving as an instrument of rural development through application of scientific knowledge and technology. They have and are continuing check the migration from rural areas to city and thereby touching millions of rural lives.
सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः।
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