The Great Indian Jugaad

The top jugaad inventions from India during the COVID-19 pandemic

Team RD Updated: Sep 5, 2020 10:51:32 IST
The Great Indian Jugaad All illustrations by Siddharth Jumde

Indians are no strangers to hardship but the current coronavirus pandemic has surely tested the limits of desi homegrown cleverness. Here we feature some of the ways in which the Indian jugaadu came through against COVID-19.

Virus-Free In 15

An old refrigerator becomes a disinfection chamber

What do you usually do with an old refrigerator? Look up some websites for a good deal and sell it off, right? But two resourceful masterminds—Dr Arun M. Isloor, a professor and head of the chemistry department at the National Institute of Technology, Karnataka, and research scholar Syed Ibrahim—had a better idea.

Disinfecting personal-use objects like wallets, keys and mobile phones, or sensitive items such as food or currency notes, to prevent transmission of the coronavirus was not only a hassle, it also damaged items and left room for improper cleaning. Hoping to help ordinary folk keep up the safety measure, the scientist duo hatched an ingenious solution. They hooked up an old refrigerator with three ultraviolet (UV-C) lamps—a well-proven means of destroying surface contamination—turning the throwaway appliance into a low-cost, toxin-free, easy-to-assemble disinfection chamber.

Dubbed Zero-Cov, the creators claim that the chamber kills 99.9 per cent of microorganisms present on any object—even highly contaminated PPE kits or masks—in just 15 minutes.

User beware, though: UV-C is harmful upon direct exposure to the body, so don't even think about climbing in there to avoid taking a shower.

Source: NDTV


The No-Pressure COVID Hack

From cooker to sterilizer


You’d be hard-pressed to find an Indian kitchen without a pressure cooker. But who knew it could sterilize vegetables too?

In a now viral video shared by an IAS officer on Twitter, a man fits a pipe instead of the whistle on the cooker and directs the rising steam on a ready plate of raw vegetables, apparently, to disinfect the foodstuff better than rinsing could.

Easy enough—but does it work? Sure—the jugaad method, while simple, certainly does the job—steam is hot enough to kill pathogens and keeps vegetables crisp, preventing the discolouration and partial cooking caused by hot water.

Is it safe though? The jury’s out on that point. Pressure cookers are famously troublesome if not used correctly and many have posted warnings about possible steam burns, incorrect water quantities that can lead to explosions, or even the chance that a flimsy enough pipe might melt from the high temperature.

‘A’ for effort—but maybe best to save it for biryani day.

Source: India Today, Twitter


At Your Service

A robot for COVID patients

Doctors and nurses could sure use a break to hang their superhero capes—if only they could. But with those pesky Hippocratic and Nightingale pledges getting in the way, and the pandemic far from abating, health-care professionals are in dire need of a little relief. Help has been forthcoming though—students of Vimal Jyothi Engineering College in Chemperi, Kerala, with the help of the state health department, have created a robot that can help with routine tasks in hospital wards for COVID patients. Enter Nightingale-19, a remote-controlled, robot trolley-on-wheels that can deliver up to 25 kgs of food and water for six patients, at a go.

Made of metal—easily disinfected after every round—and parts from other machinery, such as a microcontroller board, a car’s wiper motor and a racing-drone camera, this clever contraption has made a big difference. It reduces instances of high-risk contact and lowers costs for protective gear, while ensuring patients get what they need, including face time for the isolated inmates! That’s because Nightingale-19 is fitted with a specially designed video-display system, which lets patients communicate with their doctors and nurses, lending that necessary human touch.

Source: The Better India


Breathing Easy

Four patients, one ventilator

Who can debate the virtues of cost-efficient, scalable hacks that deliver efficient results! Come corona, and these ideas save lives. With demands for respiratory ventilators skyrocketing during the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals faced massive shortages. One of these life-saving machines can push 2,000 ml of oxygen per minute into the lungs of a 280 kg body. Since most patients rarely weigh that much, the devices are often underutilized, according to Pankaj Gupta, managing director, EthAum Venture Partners.

Inspired by a similar US hospital hack, Gupta made a splitter with multiple outlets that can divert oxygen from one ventilator to four patients. These now allow one ventilator to meet the oxygen needs of four people weighing 70 kg each, he claims. Around 200 volunteers across India came together to design, build and donate more than 10,000 of these four-way splitters to hospitals battling the pandemic, making this one of the best COVID hacks.

Source: The Hindu Business Line


Driver’s Licence And Temperature Please ...

Thermal test via selfie stick


The selfie stick was a welcome invention for Instagrammers and Tik-Tokers, but policemen in Chandigarh put this vanity device to far better use during the coronavirus pandemic. By mounting an infrared thermometer—a device that measures a person's temperature with zero contact—to the clamp where a smartphone usually goes, they were able keep safe distance from errant drivers and motorists while checking for elevated body heat—a common symptom of COVID-19. While law enforcers across India have found an array of solutions to lockdown problems, this one is a winner for sure.

Source: Times of India


Pandemic Pillions

The social-distancing two-wheeler

Any jugaadu worth his salt can make treasure out of a scrap dealer’s wares, and 39-year-old Partha Saha—school dropout, mechanic, technical instructor and YouTuber from Agartala—is no exception.

Deeply concerned about his nine-year-old daughter going back to school post-lockdown on a crowded school bus where social distancing is likely forgotten, Saha came up with a better way. He bought an old bike from a scrap seller, removed the engine and fitted it with a 750 watt DC motor and a 48 volt battery, converting it into an electric bike. He also split the bike’s body in two and used a metre-long rod to connect the wheels.

The result—a functional two-wheeler that reaches 40 kph while keeping rider and pillion a safe distance away from each other. No hopes of seeing one of these at your local auto retailer, however—Saha maintains that the bike should raise awareness on the importance of social distancing, rather than become the next penny-farthing.

Source: Hindustan Times


Cleaning Up, On The Go

Transport you can wash in

It’s not enough to only maintain social distancing in these times—one needs to ensure proper hygiene too. An autorickshaw driver in Mumbai has gone a step further by providing his customers everything they need to clean up, right on his vehicle.

The resourceful driver’s hack, which went viral on social media in July, involved simply remodelling the section right behind the driver’s seat to include a handwashing station, complete with a basin and hand sanitizer. The driver even made space for two bins in which dry and wet waste can be disposed of safely and separately.

On the outside of this novel auto-ride, the driver put up an educational poster with key points about COVID-19 and helpline numbers for the official Mumbai civic body. No more excuses for not staying clean, even when you're on the move.

Source: Times Now


Anything For The Essentials

Pipeline delivery systems


At a time when anyone not wearing a mask or standing too close in line at the bank can earn the stink-eye, social-distancing norms have perhaps hit commodities and service providers hardest. How can deliverymen and shopkeepers, whose livelihoods bring them in close, physical contact with hundreds of people every day, possibly follow the rules and do their jobs? One humble milkman shows us a way.

An undated photograph, thought to be from Madhya Pradesh, was shared by IAS officer Awanish Sharan on Twitter as an example of how even the humblest mind can win over muddles. The image shows the inventive Indian pouring milk into a plastic funnel attached to a pipe hooked up to his motorcycle. The buyer, standing safely away at the open end of the pipe, receives the milk in a container.

The same technique was used by a local alcohol shop in Bihar to slide bottles over to buyers through an improvised tunnel. In fact, the spirit shop improved upon the milkman's solution by fitting in a perforated plastic bottle, which is pulled in and out of the tunnel with a rope, to transfer cash from buyer to counter for a fully contactless payment system.

Quite a long way to go for a drink, but can’t do without the essentials, now can we?

Source: Indian Express, India Today


Shopper’s Delight

Push-and-pull transactions

Following social-distancing rules mean that often the mountain must come to Mohammed. But Indian jugaad geniuses are clearly up to the task, as evidenced by a small-time shopkeeper in Maharashtra. In a much-lauded video clip first shared on Twitter, the young man can be seen explaining his clever contact-free customer-service system: He stands at one end of a table in front of the shop, greatly extended by several feet, to form a long, runway-like platform. When packages need to reach customers standing on the other end, he places them in a plastic trough that travels back and forth along the runway. How? With the help of rope and a rudimentary pulley system made out of the wheel frame, gears and pedals of an old bicycle! Turning the pedals pulls or pushes the container from one end to the other.

The attention to hygiene doesn’t end there—cash sent over via the trough is sprayed with disinfectant and sun-dried before being carefully gathered in a jar too. Anyone else still think wearing a mask is a pain?

Source: The Logical Indian


Inspector Jugaad

A cycle that runs on rails

Inspecting rail tracks is a critically important job performed by Indian Railways personnel. However, long stretches of rail lines covering far too much ground means that walking to inspection points is dangerous, laborious, time-consuming and, during the pandemic, impossible to keep up. For Pankaj Soin, the senior divisional engineer in the West Ajmer division of Indian Railways, the solution was simple—don’t walk, pedal!

His jugaad solution to the problem is cheap, easy and brilliant—a bicycle that runs on train tracks. The rail bicycle travels on one line of the tracks, while an iron pipe with wheels from discarded rail carts on its ends moves along on the other line, forming a tricycle of sorts. A similar extension in the front secures and balances the cycle.

Besides being economical, the vehicle is easy to lift and carry, can be quickly assembled, taken apart or repaired and can carry two people at a time. Maybe a few of these can be made handy for passengers when the trains run late in Ajmer.

Source:, YouTube


—Compiled by Ishani Nandi, Naorem Anuja, Kritika Banerjee and Saptak Choudhury
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