With the objective of helping strengthening and upgrading the existing technologies for the help of the rural groups, Rural Technology Action Group (RuTAG) at Department of Hydro Renewal Energy – HRED, IIT Roorkee was sanctioned in August 2009 and since then RuTAG has worked on several initiatives including development of cost effective, high productivity, modified Bageshwari wool charkha for the wool spinners of Bageshwari.
Spinning wool is considered as one of the main source of income for a large portion of public in hilly states such as Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. Since 1926, Bageshwari charkha is being used to spin wool in these regions.
In order to identify the problem faced by spinners, RuTAG IIT Roorkee team even visited Berinag on March 25 – 27, 2011. “In order to eliminate the limitations of traditional charkha, an attempt was made to modify the charkha by introducing foot operated electrical motor, speed controller, modified flyer and a crank for lateral motion of bobbin and light weight steel pipe instead of wooden frame. The Charkha was developed after it underwent 4 stages of modification” said R.P. Saini, Professor HRED, IIT Roorkee.
The team interacted with the spinners living in the adjoining villages with the help of regional coordinator of Himalaya Trust and training on the modified charkha was conducted at HRED, IIT Roorkee. A spinner normally spins nearly 70-80 grams of woollen yarn per hour using traditional charkha resulting in spinning of approximately 600 grams in 8 hours, whereas Modified Bageshwari Wool Charkha can spin local wool up to 200 grams during one hour. One unit of modified charkha would produce approximately 1.6 kg of local wool yarn and 1.4 kg of Merino wool per day, resulting more than two times more production compared to traditional charkha.
Based on feedbacks received from NGO- Himalayan Trust Bageshwar and the spinners, it was reported that a weaver normally earns on an average Rs.90-150 per person per day through spinning Tibetan and Merino wool on traditional charkha, but after the introduction of modified charkha, a weaver can earn upto Rs.250-350 per day resulting on 2.5 times more earning by the weavers. It was also found by the spinners that yarn produced by motorized charkha is stronger than the yarn produced using the manually operated charkha and is more uniform also.
Furthermore, it was observed that the charkha is eco-friendly as it does not require any fossil fuel and sort combustion, so there is no risk of explosions and operation of charkha does not harm the environment. It ensures safety of the people and has no human drudgery as well as is easy to operate. Further, R&D for reducing the cost and integrating with sources of renewable energy is underway.
In terms of cost, the modified charkha has been found to vary from Rs. 8,000-10,000 per charkha if it is produced commercially in bulk. Once given to the manufacturer, it is easier to manufacture as almost all the parts are available in the local market, while the gearbox box and speed controller may be procured from nearby markets. As far as the operating cost of the charkha, it is almost nil if it is operated manually but will be about Rs.2 towards electricity charges if operated by electrical motor in 8 hour shift in a day.
A number of wool samples were spun at RuTAG, IIT Roorkee by modified and traditional charkha to compare spinning production. In order to analyse yarn quality, these wool samples were also tested at Wool Research Association (WRA) Lab, Thane (Maharashtra). Based on the results, it was found that the results of the modified charkha are promising and can be used for spinning of wool. Further , five sets of modified charkha have been fabricated and distributed to local users through NGOs namely Himalaya Trust, Bageshwar, Johar Mahila Janjati Utthan Samiti, Dehradun and with Badrish Himalaya Janjati Seva Samiti, Chamoli for field testing. To operate this modified charkha, the local users have also been skilled through a workshop organized by RuTAG in association with various NGOs. As of now, the user’s feedback is very positive and encouraging.