On the one hand there has been so much talk about reducing distress of farmers and adopting eco-friendly technology but, on the other, an invention capable of reducing the costs of farmers and at the same time reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions significantly has been badly neglected during the past three decades. Is it because the inventor is a farmer scientist who also happens to be a crusader against corruption?
It was in 1987 that Mangal Singh, a farmer innovator of Bhailoni Lodh Village in Lalitpur District of Uttar Pradesh (Bundelkhand Re-gion) first installed a Mangal Turbine near his village. The turbine was capable of drawing water from a river to irrigate agricultural fields without using diesel or electricity, by simply using the energy of flowing water.
It was after nearly a decade, in 1998, that the machine was patented as Mangal Water Wheel Turbine Machine (patent number 177190 dated 13.11.1997), according to a Government of India gazette notification dated 30th November 1998. Around the time, the remote village of Mangal Singh was visited by countless dignitaries including senior officials, technocrats and scientists who testified to the great utility of the invention.
B.K. Saha, former chief secretary of Madhya Pradesh, wrote that the device was “extremely cost effective” and “ecologically completely benign”. A study of water resources of Bundelkhand by IIT Delhi and Vigyan Shiksha Kendra stated that the “Mangal Turbine would prove a boon for fulfilling the energy need of irrigation, agro-processing, etc in the rural sector wherever low water exists in the rivers/ nullahs (streams).” Sarla Gopalan, advisor in the Planning Commission, called the Mangal Turbine “an excellent example of water conservation.”
The list of commendations and praises is a long one. The latest and more comprehensive review of the experiences relating to the Mangal Turbine was prepared by B.P. Maithani, former director of the National Rural Development Institute (NDRI), who was assigned the task by the Department of Rural Development, Government of India. The review, also called the Maithani Report, said that from the perspective of rural development and irrigation the invention was “unparalleled in its simplicity and utility”, adding that the benefits of the invention were “multiple and multidimensional”.
What exactly is the Mangal Turbine and how does it work? The Maithani Report has summarised it nicely: “There are several variants of the turbine but the standard device contains a water wheel of two meter diameter with 12 blades radially fixed to the rim. The shaft is coupled with a suitable gear box for stepping up of rotation to 1500-1800 rpm. The output shaft of the gear box is coupled on one end with a centrifugal pump for lifting water and the other end is mounted with a suitable pulley to operate any other machine like crusher, grinder, etc. By using the energy of flowing water in a stream, the Mangal Turbine enables lifting of water for irrigation/ drinking purposes and also produces mechanical power that can be used for various other purposes. The device can also operate an alternator to generate electricity for lighting nearby areas.”
Thus, it is clear that the Mangal Turbine, apart from irrigating farmland, has multiple and multidimensional uses in terms of drinking water, energy, cottage and agri-processing industries, environment protection and reduction of GHG emissions. It is estimated that over its lifetime one Mangal Turbine can result in saving of 125400 litres of diesel and 335 tonnes of GHG emissions. The IIT Delhi study quoted above estimated that for one district of Bundelkhand if potentially 500 sites could be identified and two Mangal Turbines installed at each site, then in a single district about one hundred thousand hectares could be irrigated and 25 MWs of energy generated.
Despite the potential of Mangal Turbine at a macro, national level and instead of being encouraged for further research, Mangal Singh was subject to endless victimisation by several officials and also faced the opposition of some local powerful persons who did not like his sudden rise to fame. Singh has been an RTI activist and anti-corruption crusader. His opposition to several wrong deeds of powerful persons created enemies for him.
CAPART (Council for Advancement of People’s Action and Rural Technology) is a government organisation supposed to help rural innovators but it treated Mangal Singh so harshly and unjustly that he was left with no other option but to fight expensive court cases, to try and get justice. It adversely impacted his taking up further innovative work.
The Maithani Committee Report, an officially assigned review of the Department of Rural Development, Government of India, has criticised the harassment of Mangal Singh in very strong terms. The report stated: “Shri Mangal Singh was harassed and harmed in the process of the implementation of the project. This has happened not only in connection with the project under reference which was the last sanctioned by CAPART. It has happened in respect of all projects sanctioned by CAPART to Shri Mangal Singh earlier too…
There is no case against Shri Mangal Singh who needs to be compensated for the losses suffered due to adversary role played by CAPART in all the projects sanctioned to him simply because he did not ‘please’ them.”
Although the review report was prepared in 2011, Mangal Singh is still running from pillar to post in search of justice. His once famed health has deteriorated badly now. He is nearing 70 years of age and all the bright dreams seen by him in better days have been shattered.
His body bends from the burden of a laptop and two bagfuls of files as he staggers to board a bus from a crowded bus stop in Delhi. While his own sufferings have been too many, what bothers him no less is that his great invention has not blossomed or been used fruitfully despite its great potential.
“I have travelled a lot to various parts of the country to popularise it,” he told me recently, “but what can a harassed man without any resources achieve on his own? A government project once given to me had a budget of Rs 6400 for marketing and promoting my invention, even though crores of rupees were being wasted at the same time on highly dubious projects.”
Singh mentioned how an international organisation which initially made a show of helping him later lured away his assistant with better money, then asked him to set up a Mangal Turbine near six Mangal Turbines earlier set up by him in such a way that the six turbines would get submerged. The Maithani Committee has also mentioned the episode.
Says Mangal Singh, “There is no other device in the world which can provide irrigation of hundred hectares or more without using diesel or electricity and which can be fabricated entirely in a village. It can also be used to give a new lease of life to several non-functioning lift canal schemes. So many senior officials and experts have carefully examined my invention and lavished praise on it, but will someone please tell me why this invention could not spread and I had to endure such endless suffering?”