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Official neglect of rural inventor's unique irrigation turbine which 'saves' energy

By Bharat Dogra*

Mangal Singh is 75 and suffers from several health problems. He is a deeply frustrated man today. Yet 35 years ago he was at the peak of fame as senior officials and scientists were heading for his remotely located village to see and examine his invention which had become the most talked about example of appropriate technology those days. Most of them returned from his village with rich tributes.
Despite all the acclaim he got, despite his patented invention called Mangal Turbine being praised and recommended by senior officials and scientists, despite the fact that he got several awards as well, soon he started getting victimized and obstructed in several ways.
Was this because he was also an anti-corruption activist and was exposing the corrupt practices of some grants making bodies as well? Was this because some big NGOs and their bosses who had come with offers of help were actually trying to capture and copy his work for their narrow use?
Was this because of Mangal Singh’s ability to greatly reduce costs which was not liked by those who were making big money in highly wasteful work done using public funds? Whatever be the reason, Mangal Singh soon faced many problems and obstructions from which he has still not recovered and due to which his other highly innovative also suffered badly.
This has happened despite the fact that this innovation which makes it possible to lift water without using diesel and electricity does not just reduce costs of farmers but in addition also reduces GHG emissions.
Mangal Turbine (MT) helps to reduce use of fossil fuels greatly in lifting water for irrigation or other uses as well as in village based agro-industries. In 2011-12 the report of an official review committee instituted by the Rural Development Ministry, Government of India (the Maithani Committee Report) re-confirmed the great usefulness of this invention and re-emphasized the need for its extensive spread.
Yet despite its repeatedly confirmed many-sided usefulness in suitable conditions for lifting water without diesel or other fossil fuels, in India as well as in other countries, MT has still remained badly neglected.
This technology is described by Mangal Singh in the following words: 
"The water wheel turbine machine consists of a water wheel which is firmly mounted on a steel shaft and supports on two bearing blocks fixed on foundation supports. The shaft is coupled with a suitable gearbox through universal couplings for stepping up speed of rotation. 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 for deriving power for operating any machine. 
"Design of the water wheel turbine is simple. It is available in different size to meet the varying requirements. Operation of water Wheel Turbine Pump-cum-PTO Machine is very easy as anyone can operate the machine by opening the wooden or steel gate valve, the machine is stopped by stopping the flow of water through the gate."
Thus apart from lifting water the Mangal turbine can also be used for several additional tasks. In the words of Mangal Singh:
"This is used for pumping water from the rivulets and water streams on which it is installed. The machine can be used for several rural works such as operating cottage-scale flour mill, sugarcane crushing, threshing and winnowing, oil expelling, chaff cutting, etc. The machine provides a clean alternative (non-conventional) source of energy in remote rural areas for increasing agricultural productivity, income and employment".
By linking it to a generator, this machine can also provide electricity.
The Maithani report has explained the idea and functioning of Mangal Turbine:
“Mangal Singh of village Bhailoni Lodh, Block Bar, district Lalitpur UP invented a fuel less water lifting device in 1987. This device is known as 'Mangal Turbine'. There are several variants of the Turbine but the standard device contains a water wheel of twp 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, Mangal Turbine enables lifting of water for irrigation/drinking purposes and also produces mechanical power that can be used for various other purposes."
Mangal Turbine helps reduce use of fossil fuels in lifting water for irrigation as well as in village based agro-industries
When first announced, this patented invention had led to much excitement in India’s scientific circles relating to farming and rural technologies. Some of the top officials and scientists visited first demonstration site of MT in the ancestral village of Mangal Singh (Bhailoni Lodh village, located in Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh). They wrote impressive reports of high praise and recommended rapid spread of MT to the government.
Dr TP Ojha former Deputy Director General (Engineering) of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research wrote, "Mangal Singh's device offers great promise and possibility of lifting river water for irrigation, fisheries, forestry and drinking purposes.”
A report titled 'Problems and Potential of Bundelkhand with Special Reference to Water Resource Base' was prepared in by the Centre for Rural Development and Technology of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi and a leading rural science organization Vigyan Shikshan Kendra. This report said:
"Most significant aspect is that the entire system designed by Mangal Singh is easily fabricated in the village itself, using available material and local workmanship… Thus, Mangal Turbine would prove a boon for fulfilling the energy needs of irrigation, agro processing etc. in the rural sector wherever low water head exists in the rivers/streams…"
All these observations regarding the great utility of Mangal Turbine were re- confirmed at the level of the central government ( India) by the Maithhani Committee in 2011-12. The Maithani Report said about Mangal Turbine:
"It is undoubtedly unparalleled in its simplicity and utility. Its cost benefit cannot be restricted to the extent of area irrigated and increase in production and income on account of that. Its benefits are multiple and multidemensional.”
It has been estimated that if one unit of Mangal Turbine runs for 11 hours in a day, then it saves 44 litres of diesel in a day (on the basis of use of 4 litre diesel per hour by 25 HP diesel pump). Again assuming irrigation by MT on 190 days in a year, a single unit of MT can save 8360 litres (44x190) in a typical year. Over a lifetime of 15 years one unit of MT can potentially save 125400 litres (8360x15). In terms of greenhouse gas emissions (using assumption made in US Environment Protection Agency fact sheet) this works out to 335 tonnes.
This estimate by Dr Jai Shankar Singh is made on the basis of the assumption that one unit of MT will lift water from a stream which is equivalent to 25 HP diesel pump set and irrigate a command area of 50 ha. Reduction in diesel consumption and related GHG emissions can further increase significantly to the extent that the M.T. is used also (in addition to water lifting) for processing of various farm produce and other work.
Mangal Singh first worked at various sites on Sajnam river in and around his home district of Lalitput .For some time several units of Mangal turbine could be seen functioning here effectively providing irrigation at low cost to farmers and helping them to grow crops on land on which earlier nothing could be grown due to lack of water.
Later he helped to install Mangal turbines (or conduct preliminary work for this) in several places of Madhya Pradesh and other parts of India. Unfortunately, before this work could spread further, Mangal Singh soon became a victim of harassment by some powerful persons, some of them belonging to CAPART, a government organization which funded rural technology projects.
Much later the government appointed Maithani report stated: 
"Shri Mangal Singh was harassed and harmed in the process of 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 Mangal Singh earlier too."
In the process of harassment, impoundment of passport, seizure of bank accounts, auction of ancestral land, even short-term imprisonment of Mangal Singh, the work of spreading Mangal Turbine to more and more areas, or even maintaining the exising units, was neglected and suffered badly. Some of the units set up by him were also damaged by others.
As recommended by the Maithani Committee, the neglected task of spreading Mangal turbine very widely should be taken up on the basis of urgency. Other countries should also benefit from the potential of Mangal Turbine in reducing GHG emissions and reducing costs of farmers at the same time.
Mangal Singh is now in his mid-seventies and no further time should be lost in utilizing his special skills and capability for spreading his invention of Mangal Turbine and training rural technicians in this work. He should get opportunities for also continuing his other work which got stalled because of facing so much harassment.
Mangal Singh has said that those working earlier with him were bribed to copy the work for powerful organizations so that he would not get credit even if this work is recognized. However the history of the work done by him can be seen in many documents so it will not be easy to deny the due credit to him.
He also wants that courts should soon settle the matter of his pending dues being paid to him by the government, as recommended by the Maithani Committee and by BK Sinha, former secretary of rural development in the union government.
The Maithani Committee was accepted by the then secretary BK Sinha and the then Minister Jairam Ramesh, yet was not implemented in the right spirit. He says that if he is given the opportunity to explain his case in Hindi in a court of law, the judges will be convinced of the great injustice done to him and for initiating corrective action.
---
*Honorary convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now; recent books include ‘Planet in Peril’, ‘Man over Machine’, ‘Protecting Earth for Children’ and ‘A Day in 2071’

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