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Ghandian Charkha Gives Rise to E-Charkha

April 2009
Ghandian Charkha Gives Rise to E-Charkha

We know about e-mail, e-commerce, even e-literacy. But what is e-charkha? It was inspired by Gandhi’s famous charkha (spinning wheel), although there’s little resemblance between these two versions from two different centuries.

Bangalorean R. S. Hiremath, an engineer, came up with the new two-in-one contraption, which generates power while it’s being used to spin yarn. Two hours of spinning produces six hours of power. Here’s a less daunting way to look at it: One can light up a tiny room for an hour with a 25-watt bulb by spinning the e-charkha for just 10 minutes. Seems to be an admirably Gandhian approach, and a bargain to boot.

Apart from being cost effective for rural residents, the e-charkha is an alternative energy idea that’s in tune with the times. For those who cannot afford generators, this would be one reasonable solution for the frequent power cuts in India. The Andhra Pradesh government plans to distribute e-charkhas to village homes that don’t have electricity.

E. Nath (Ekambar Nath), a disciple of Gandhi, designed an early precursor of the e-charkha. He called it ambar charkha (a-charkha?). The e-charkha, which is also being tested in a few other developing nations, costs about Rs.9000 (less than $200). Mass production, if the concept catches on, will lead to lower prices.

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