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Innovators struggle for funds

Biren Kalita and Nripen Kalita at his workshop. Pictures by Kishore Talukdar

Borjhar, Nov. 24: His appeals for old age pension have fallen on deaf ears for several years now. Worse still, Biren Kalita, who had come up with a cure for cattle is now bedridden and does not have money for his own treatment.

The 74-year-old, who was honoured for his innovation of herbal medicine to cure placental retention in animals (tested on cattle), has been ill and bedridden for the past four months now.

Kalita is a resident of Jiakur, a village in Kamrup district, about 50km from Guwahati.

Placental retention or retained placenta is defined as the failure to pass all or part of the placenta from the uterus within 24 hours of calving.

“We are yet to get any benefit under the pro-poor schemes. Our pleas for a BPL card, shelter under the Indira Awas Yojana and old-age pension (Rs 500 per month) have not been heard by the government for the past decade,” Kalita’s wife, Hemaprabha, told this correspondent.

The National Innovation Foundation (NIF) had conferred on the septuagenarian the state award to make India innovative and creative. The honour was given during the Sixth National Grassroots Technological Innovations and Traditional Knowledge Awards function in New Delhi.

The foundation is under the department of science and technology.

“Villagers had given a positive feedback after they found his medicine working on their cattle. Three years back, our neighbour, Nripen Kalita, had informed the foundation about the development, following which a sample of the medicine was tested in Gujarat for a year and the result turned out to be positive,” Hemaprabha, 65, said.

Penury, too, has taken a toll on Kalita’s health. “He has been bedridden several times. The cash prize of Rs 50,000 has already been spent on his treatment. Now we do not have any money to buy medicines,” she said.

An electrical mechanic, Nripen, 48, was also honoured by the NIF in 2005 for his creation, a zero-head water turbine which generates electric energy from moving water and simultaneously pumps the water for irrigation and other similar purposes.

From the water current of the Kulshi, which flows behind his house, Nripen’s turbine generates electricity and pumps water for irrigation at an affordable cost.

“Now I want to further develop the zero-head turbine so that it generates 10KW electricity,” Nripen said. “With the generation of 10KW power, I can run a workshop where an industrial unit for power production could be built and employment generated for at least 10 people at the initial stage,” he added.

But like his neighbour Biren Kalita, Nripen, too, has run from pillar to post for financial assistance to further work on his turbine.

On May 17, Nripen had through a letter to chief minister Tarun Gogoi sought financial assistance. “The chief minister had given an assurance of funding Rs 10 lakh each to five innovators of the state in March 2012. But the assurance is yet to materialise,” he said.

“Everything gets rusted. I am paralysed by this funds crunch,” Nripen said.

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