Manoj Ojha, 26, a student of Cuttack’s Industrial Training Institute, is part of a team that has built a drain unclogging contraption. He says: “I feel bad when I see people wading through filth and sewage to unclog open drains. We have built a device that uses a pulley system to work a backhoe, which lifts trash from drain water”. Manoj and teammates believe their contraption should interest municipal corporations in Odisha.
Like Manoj, about 250 students exhibited their inventions in Cuttack and Bhubaneswar at the Skilled in Odisha event organised to showcase the skills of young people in the state. While most participants were elated by the initiative, some feel that the state is not doing enough to protect their skills and inventions. Manoj and his teammates feel that they don’t know how to approach clients for their contraption. “We do not know how to price, brand and sell our invention. We also fear someone may steal our invention,” he said.
Addressing such concerns, chairman of Odisha Skill Development Authority (OSDA) Subroto Bagchi said: “Our first challenge is to help the skill trainee break free from the mindset that he or she is merely an industrial drone… and recognise the larger potential within”.
There are others with similar problems. ITI Berhampur students, Swadin Palei and Mithun Behera, have forged modern art from used scrap metal. At the event they displayed their figurines made from hubcaps, bicycle chain drives and broken handles. “We are machinists and instrument mechanics by training, but we want a career in designing modern showpieces like we see in magazines,” they said.
Around 30 hearing and speech impaired girls, supported by a private university in Odisha, exhibited their sewing skills at the event. Partha Mohanty, head of the training department at the university, said: “We have selected girls from different districts of Odisha. They wanted financial independence despite their challenges. Now they make uniforms for students and earn around Rs 6,400 per month. We provide them free lodging and charge a minimum amount for food”.
The event also showcased traditional skills of the state, such as the famous Pattachitra of Raghurajpur village in Puri. Pattachitras, a tradition that dates back to fifth century BC, are scroll paintings which capture scenes from mythological tales associated with the Vaishnava sect. These paintings are unique because instead of industrial colours, hues are created from conch shells which remain brilliant for a longer period. Bamadeba Das, 38, a resident of the famous artisan village said he participated in the event because “business in Raghurajpur was slowing down”.
The Odisha government launched the event on April 28, the 170th birth anniversary of Madhusudan Das. Five MoUs with international agencies to develop skills in various sectors, ranging from robotics to eye care were inked at the event, officials said. The state has skilled over 8 lakh youth, mostly school drop-outs, since 2014, the officials added. “Just like top engineering, management schools produce lock-in talent for companies, the same thing should happen for a plumber and welder from Odisha”, said Bagchi.