RuTAG-NE

Rural Technology Action Group-North-East

Initiated and Sponsored By the Principal Scientific Adviser to

The Government of India

 

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The Rural Technology Action Group (RuTAG) is a mission, conceptualized, initiated and sponsored by Dr. R Chidambaram, Principal Scientific Adviser (PSA) to the Government of India. It aims at improving the rural economy through appropriate S & T interventions in the traditional methods of production. The eight states of the North East, viz., Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim, the communities of each have their own traditional life style and crafts and enterprises, mainly based on the locally available resources, like, cane and bamboo, handicrafts and utility products, rearing of silk worm and production of yarns and fabrics and pottery to name a few. The people in the region, in general, are accustomed to local resource based development and thereby raise their economy and improve their quality of life at the same time. The economy at the rural level will get a significant boost if the existing technologies of production can be improved in terms of efficiency and productivity and consideration of optimization of cost and energy. While there are many Government and non-Government Organizations and institutions working for the same objectives, the modus operandi of RuTAG mission is to bring all such groups or stake holders together to proactively work for the development of the region so that people can derive the benefits of Research & Development in various scientific fields. To address some of such issues to upgrade rural systems in terms of efficiency/ productivity which will help in boosting the rural economy of the North Eastern Region, a centre of RuTAG was established in the year 2006 under the administrative control of IIT Guwahati in its campus located at North Guwahati.

Since its establishment, RuTAG-NE has been working towards attaining its cherished goal by providing S&T interventions in the rural sector of the region for such systems that have already been developed to a stage of functionality and are identified for further development. For example, the traditional process of Eri Silk production is time consuming and laborious. RuTAG-NE has developed a machine which can accomplish a day's work in an hour or so. The machine has been field tested, and a group of artisans and communities are still working on improvement of these machines further. RuTAG-NE has successfully set up a pilot project on production of plain Muga Silk fabric with power loom at the Export Promotion Industrial Park (EPIP) at Amingaon, Guwahati.  Muga Silk is supposed to be one of the costliest fabrics in the world obtained from Antheraea assamensis, and it is found only in Assam. The golden fabric of Muga is in high demand in foreign countries, like, Japan for making Kimonos. The establishment of the pilot project is a major achievement of RuTAG-NE. RuTAG-NE has also designed and developed a few accessory machines of power loom, like Pirn Winding Machine, Hank to Bobbin Winding Machine and Sectional Warping Machine, which are of lower cost in comparison to what are available in the market, and are now in use in weaving clusters in Sualkushi. Besides, a group of women of Shanti Sadhana Ashram, an NGO of Guwahati, was trained in the production of cost effective sanitary napkin at Gandhi Gram Trust, Dindigul district, Tamilnadu during January-February 2007. The necessary support and coordination for organizing this program was obtained from RuTAG Tamilnadu at IIT Madras, Tamilnadu. The Ashram has been regularly producing and marketing napkins for customers of local population. A major concern of Yak and cattle rearing in the high altitude region in Arunachal Pradesh is the scarcity of fodder during the   freezing winter season. Although there is abundance of fodder in the summer rainy season, farmers cannot preserve the same due to non existence of adequate storage facility.

The National Research Centre on Yak (ICAR) at Dirang in Arunachal Pradesh and NRC on Mithun in Nagaland have acquired a large machine, one each, at Dirang, Arunachal Pradesh and Jharnapani, Nagaland, for Production of compressed feed block fortified with micro nutrients to supplement the feed for Yaks and Mithun respectively during the lean season. This machine has been designed by IARI, New Delhi. It costs around Rs 8-9 lakhs. This is rather too costly for the farmers, and more over, its maintenance is also difficult.  RuTAG-NE has developed a relatively smaller machine as a model which can meet the requirement of groups of farming community/private farms at affordable cost. The machine developed by RuTAG- NE has scope for further improvement, and it is user friendly at the same time. It has potential scope for use in other regions, particularly in places like Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir and other Himalayan regions. Another problem which has been plaguing a sizable population of Dhemaji and a few other districts of Assam is the excess of arsenic in drinking water. The element is believed to be a major threat to health of the people of the affected areas. RuTAG-NE has installed Sono-3-filters designed by a group of scientists of Bangladesh and West Bengal, in five potential areas of the district, and has demonstrated the technique of filtration of water contaminated with arsenic in such localities. The Darrangiri banana market in Goalpara District, Assam is considered to be one of the largest banana markets in Asia. The farmers and traders carry bunches of banana on ordinary bicycle to the market from the adjoining areas of Assam and Meghalaya. RuTAG-NE has modified the design of the bicycle, and has developed a more robust and user friendly bicycle for carrying more number of bananas bunches. The vendors can now save additional Rs 150 per day on such a bicycle, and they can also drive the bicycle along with the banana bunches.  RuTAG-NE has formed a good network of S&T groups, NGOs, and institutions and Government/ development agencies as well to identify new problem areas and provide necessary S&T interface and interactions. The contributions of the NGOs, ashrams and other collaborators/ stake holders with RuTAG-NE have been significant.

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