JUGAAD... The New Buzz Word

 | September 30,2013 02:54 pm IST

Not long before, during the regime of our honorable Prime Minister Mr. H D Devegoda, an American statesman visited the country.

The purpose of the visit was to get acquainted with the other side of the country, what euphemistically is called the real India. He was escorted by a Driver (of course with a car) and an official guide. As the car left the capital roads for the glorious cities of Meerut and Bulandshahar, the statesman had the time of his life. Four hours of non-stop drive, and they reached Baghpat. Then the inevitable happened and the driver said, "Sir, the accelerator wire has broken and the radiator is also leaking." What else is expected from a 1980 model Ambassador? "What now, thought Mr. Smith, I don't see any mechanic also, I guess I shall have to bother Mr. Devegoda again." But, the guide who almost read his mind said in his heavy South Indian accent, "Dant burry, sir, I shall do some Jugaad." Mr. Smith could not understand the last word, but how could the US bureaucrat ask a meaning from a rustic guide? He kept mum and just nodded. The Guide instructed the driver to pull the chalk and control the speed through it. Then using turmeric, a natural coagulant, he plugged the radiator leaks. Mr. Smith could not fathom the new arrangement, but needless to say, he was impressed.


Gradually, such episodes became routine in his ten-day visit of the "real India". Every time there was a problem, the guide used to do some or the other Jugaad. When Mr. Smith could not sleep in a village of Haldwani as the village was not electrified, the Guard put a Kaanta on the electric wire passing by and a table fan from a tent house did the rest. When Mr. Smith wanted to watch the Formula One race in a village in Darbhanga, they made a dish antenna out of cycle rim within an hour, and when he wanted to move across the fast flowing Ganga in Bengal, the local fishermen made Jugaadu boats with whatever bamboo, jute and cane were available.


In nutshell, every time Mr. Smith faced a crisis, they did some or the other Jugaad. By the time he returned to Delhi, he was on cloud nine. He knew for sure this discovery of Jugaad would be spoken in the same breath with Archimedes. Now, the million dollar question! How do you acquire this extremely advanced technology from India? He went back and told Mr. Clinton, "Mr. President, now I realize why the media speak so highly of India? They are 100 years ahead of us. You make a wish and they do something called Jugaad, and your wish is fulfilled. I strongly recommend the acquisition of this new technology before the Chinese and Russians even hear of it." After a serious discussion at length in the oval office, Mr. Clinton rang up Mr. Devegoda and said, "You ask for the price and we will give it, but we want Jugaad." Any guesses what was the historic reply of Mr. Devegoda. "Arre bhai... how can I give you Jugaad... between you and me, you know actually my Government itself is running on Jugaad."


Now for all those ignorant souls who have come across this term for the first time, "What is the meaning of Jugaad?" Earlier this word used to have stigma attached to it. It was a colloquial Hindi word that meant a resource, source or a connection or a trick to use them, to make your way out when you do not deserve something or which is not fair. A slight connotation of sly, unfair and cunning behavior was attached to this word. But, gradually with what is called standardization of language by the linguists, this word has taken an additional and more popular meaning now. It means creative improvisation and finding alternative ways of doing improbable things. It has absolutely nothing to do with the level of education one has or the grooming one gets. It tells you more about the ability to think out of the box and optimizing the resources available in the best possible manner. The western world might like to call it crisis management in its clichéd parlance. Let us see some examples from different fields how this Jugaad has been able to turn an adverse situation into an advantage. Surprisingly, the people who have done this are the most unlikely ones.


Not known much is an interesting incident from Indo-Pak war 1971. It was the era of T-54 and T-55 Russian tanks. The senior military commanders were in a fix over the defective firing pins in them. These tanks were already deployed on the western border and there was a race against time. Helplessly, they thought searching for a local alternative. There was an old Sikh in a nearby village who could fabricate them with Jugaad applying some local make shift arrangements. After some trials in his workshop, he perfected the firing pins, which could serve both the models. Within no time, he duplicated hundreds of them at a cost of Rs. 27 each, against the Rs. 300 for an imported one. Rest, as we say, is history.


Innumerable problems beset the boring of twin tunnels in Goa that could be surmounted only by lopping off nearly a third of their proposed length. As none of the known procedures worked, the engineers resorted to Jugaad. They raised the level of the alignment and accomplished the "unthinkable". Subsequently, the debris from the hollowed out sections was utilized in maintaining the same elevation at the opposite end. The leftovers were used to prevent water-logging and track submergence. The Jugaad saved more than Rs.12 crore.


Another terrific example is from the states of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana. The farmers here have designed an indigenous vehicle Jugaad (Yes, it is even named Jugaad as a tribute to the innovation which went into its making). It was made of the engine of the diesel pump used for irrigating their fields. Other materials used were some spare parts from a used vehicle junkyard, old jeep clutch and a radiator. Further investment of a sum of Rs.30,000 and Jugaad was ready. This could go 40 kilometers an hour, was inexpensive to run, could carry thirty people, lot of agricultural stuff and even their buffalos when there was a need. If any thing went wrong they could fix it themselves. And if they did not want to invest in a new pump the same pump could be used for pumping water. Some enterprising ones even started using them as Taxis. Its manufacturing does not require any assembly lines. The mechanics buy minivan spare parts - wheels, axles, transmissions, gearboxes, and steering - from markets in Delhi. They get their engines, made to power water pumps, from Agra. And they pick up steel for the chassis and wood for the framing from Jaipur. Can someone tell me where did they get an M.B.A. from?