T. J. David
Fellow Since 1990
The Inventors' Action Society
This profile was prepared when T. J. David was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1990.
The New Idea
David, 42, has more than 20 low-cost inventions to his credit in the field of appropriate technology. They include an animal-powered transmission system, a poultry care system, and a pumpless cooler. He is currently seeking to commercialize a pedal-harvester. The current custom-built models sell for Rs 12,000 (U.S. $650) as opposed to such available alternatives as a tractor-mounted reaper ($8,700) and the combine-harvester ($60,000). David sees two prime markets for this reaper: groups of reapers working in villages where they face low wages for their work and small (certainly tractorless) farmers in villages where the cost of reaping is high.David is working on the pedal reaper both because he thinks it can enrich the lives of many poor people and, in his own words, "out of my joy and my happiness." He invents because he loves the craft. After all, he comments, "No one commanded the Wright brothers to make a plane."David's creativity manifested itself early in his life. As a schoolboy he would take his friends' toys apart and put them together again. By 1970, he patched together his first invention _³ a copless loom, that did not require a shuttle. The following years saw a series of other inventions, and praise for his work poured in from the National Research Development Corporation (NRDC), the Ministry of Science and Technology, other government institutions and the private sector. The pedal-propelled harvester has been commended by the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi, the G.B. Pant Agriculture University, Nainital and the S.K.N. College of Agriculture, Jaipur.However, despite all the evaluations and praise, David's reflections on his last years are sobering: "I have faced such an ordeal I am doubtful I live on this planet." He not only had to teach himself the science and engineering he uses, but he has had to learn how to deal with both markets and, especially intractable, bureaucracies set up to encourage invention. David's intelligence and persistence permitted him to continue and to come to understand how the systems confronting him so very unsympathetically work, and what must be done if they are to be reformed so that India's inventors can help the country develop the grassroots technologies it needs.His Inventors' Action Society will act as a support system and advocate for "craftsmen inventors". The society will respond to its clientele's wide service needs with a rich array of direct supports ranging from colleagueship for often lonely people to easy access to technical information, from counseling regarding possible sources of financing to an education program designed to encourage the press to help spread word of members' inventions (both a marketing boost for the member and broader public education regarding the value of "craftsmen inventors").One of the society's most important functions will be to review and credential "craftsmen inventors" and their inventions. Big institutions, even when they would like to help, generally stall into permanent paralysis when confronted with the need to evaluate such an inventor and his or her invention. Their bureaucratic staff instinctively cringe when confronted with a file bereft of the credentials and institutional endorsements that provide protection when they do not truly understand the case. David is hopeful that the Society's peer review and certification will help the Industrial Development Bank implement more supportive policies.It will also suggest and press for policy changes and new or improved programs in institutions it thinks should be more helpful.