“I was considered to be paranoid,” said 57-year-old Uddhab Bharali. In the 1990s, when Bharali was scavenging through scrap materials to find parts to make machines, onlookers mocked him and told him to do something worthwhile. Bharali, unfettered by naysayers, continued with his innovations and over 30 years after he first developed new polythene making machine in 1988, Bharali has now become a bona fide innovator with over 150 innovations under his name.
Uddhab Bharali Dropped Out of College
Bharali, who is the recipient of many coveted awards and recognition including the most recent Padma Shri faced many hardships in his life. While he was a good student, the engineering aspirant had to drop out of college during his final year owing to financial hardships. To help his father in repaying debts, he dabbled with innovation and developed new tools — an interest that Bharali had, even as a child.
Talking to The Logical Indian, he said, Lakhimpur in Assam was a zero industries district and at the time only the tea industry was booming. They required polythene covers in bulk and instead of buying a machine which would cost him lakhs of rupees, Bharali developed his own for about Rs 67,000.
To recover his family from massive debt, Bharali, who was just 23 at the time, took up all sorts of odd jobs, but never gave up on his passion for research, development and innovation. Success of the polythene cover making machine gave him the confidence he needed. He said, “I realised that I can take my interest forward, and not only help my family out of debt but also those in need.” To come up with his innovative products, Bharali, like many others relied on ‘jugaad’ where he used cheap, easy to find materials to develop products which are sustainable and efficient.
After repaying his father’s debt in 1995, Bharali landed a contract, looking after the machinery used in a hydropower project in Arunachal Pradesh. He said, “After three years, I had to return to Assam when the news of my elder brother’s death.” He was quick to realise that as the sole earning member of his family Bharali had to make ends meet.
Between the 1990s and mid-2000s, Bharali developed 24 products which focused on assisting farmers. “While I would like to innovate in every sphere, most of my requests come from the agricultural sector. Bigger companies develop machines for larger productions, but does anyone think of the farmers and the strenuous work that they have to do?” Bharali asks. From developing different kinds of peelers, re-designing Assamese paddy grinder to cutters for tea-leaves, he left no stone unturned when it came to simplifying agricultural processes for the farming community.
Solving Farmers’ Issues
The serial inventor designed and prototyped an entire range of mechanical innovations before he finally got the recognition that he wished for. In 2006, Bharali designed a pomegranate seed peeling machine which garnered accolades and appreciation not only from India but from the world over. He said, “This machine gave me the identity of an inventor and even the National Innovation Foundation, Ahmedabad took note of it.”
The machine is truly one of a kind as it was designed to separate the outer skin from the thinner membrane without causing any damage to the seeds. It was as if Bharali had hit a jackpot as orders for this unique invention started pouring in from the US, Japan, and Turkey. Some of his other inventions include an areca nut peeling device, and the Cassava Peeler among others. Aimed at reducing hours of back-breaking labour, his simple yet thoughtful inventions proved to be a hit among the farming community and those engaged in agricultural labour.
In addition to these, he has also invented remi recortication machine, garlic peeling machine, tobacco leaf cutter, paddy thresher, cane stripping machine, brass utensil polishing machine, safed musli peeling machine, and jatropha de-seeder. These inventions are popular abroad and local authorities like the Central Silk Board, North Eastern Region Community Resource Management Project and the National Innovation Foundation have helped Bharali to install these new machines.
He said, “Recently I have developed a Red Cardamom dryer for the Spice Board of India, and a seed extractor for bananas for Institute Of Advanced Study In Science And Technology.” While most of his clients are government bodies or research institutes, Bharali spends some time working for the betterment of the underprivileged as well.
No one better than Bharali understands the pain of loss. “I understand how it feels to have nothing or no one and hence, I want to be able to help those who need me,” he laments. With the aim of helping those in need, he has started a shelter facility in his area, as well as a feeding programme. Additionally, Bharali also develops machines for the differently-abled which helps them enhance their quality of life. Apart from being an innovator, he is a guest lecturer at a number of colleges and universities in Assam and all across India. A winner of many awards and recognitions, Bharali is far from retiring.
The quest for knowledge and innovation helps in the progression of society. The Logical Indian applauds Uddab Bharali’s zeal and determination to innovate.