To aid coolies, farm laborers, mining and construction workers in handling heavy workloads, a 27-year-old engineer from Karjat in Ahmednagar has designed a device to ease the ramifications of back-breaking work and facilitate a longer productive work tenure.
Called ‘Bharwahak’, which means load carrier in Marathi, the device is strapped to one’s body at the abdomen and feet. Niranjan Toradmal, who has designed and created Bharwahak, claimed it can reduce the weight of any load by nearly 80 per cent.
The device is to be worn on one’s shoulders and comes fitted with columns that work on battery-operated sensors. Based on the movement of the legs while walking, the sensors switch the functioning of columns between “lock”, “partially lock” and “free”. “If the centre of gravity of the load and the body is linear, it facilitates load transfer to the ground,” said Toradmal, adding that the device can help carry crates, boxes and sacks.
Made using parts of mild and stainless steel, the equipment weighs 4 kg and can be used to carry nearly 100 kg. Where the maximum load is not over 25 kg, a lighter version can also be made, Toradmal said. If mass produced, the device can be made available within Rs 4,000, he added. Toradmal funded the project with partial help from Gadchiroli-based NGO Search and spine specialist Dr Shekhar Bhojraj.
An alumni of Maharashtra Institute of Technology in Pune, Toradmal started working on the project after completing his graduation in 2014.
“A physiotherapist friend told me about several cases of back pain among farm workers in Gadchiroli and asked if I could create a device to help them. Author Anil Awachat’s book ‘Manasa’ also details the travails of labourers. I found that the same problem existed not just in other areas but also for people involved in other professions, such as coolies.”
Todarmal, currently based in Pune, had to make over 20 prototypes before finalising the existing design. “I worked through trial and error. I kept on improvising based on the feedback I would receive from its users,” he said.
“Before starting work, I met several coolies at the market yards in Pune and Vashi, at the Dockyard in Mumbai. I also visited cement godowns and farms where labourers work with sprayer pumps weighing 20 kg for eight hours. Most of them told me that they leave the profession after two to five years owing to spine and knee issues. Even in rural areas, people are forced to carry load on their backs daily,” he said.
Toradmal then researched the human body’s structure, and how much load can be borne by different joints.
In the earlier versions, he experimented with a variety of materials, including bamboo. He initially designed a model where a person would carry load on their head. “I then improvised it allow an individual to carry the load on his sides. Finally, the design with load on the back stuck as the best,” he said.
The trials have been conducted in Pune’s market yard and farms in Karjat, said Toradmal, adding that the device needs to be experimented across professions, involving manual load lifting.
“Similar devices can be found outside the country but are not cost effective and specifically designed. Such equipment is used by the Army but the cost is quite high, and its technology is based on artificial intelligence. It involves big batteries and motors. A regular farmer or coolie can’t afford it. Here, the load transmission is done mechanically, whereas sensor is used to bring synchronisation between leg movements and the columns,” he explained.
Toradmal does not plan to secure a patent. “I want to keep it open source so that it can be replicated by others,” he said.
Dinesh Purandare (84), who works at a company that manufactures raw material for making skates at Shivane in Pune, tried ‘Bharwahak’ in May and June. “At our workshop, we are required to carry raw material from one place to another for at least two hours. I realised I felt much less tired and could stand and speak to colleagues despite the load on my back,” he said.
A native of Saswad village in Purandar taluka (Pune district), he added, “Those working in this industry easily feel worn out after some time. I have seen many quit jobs when spine problems crop up. This device is good to use.