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This M.Tech Course Will Help Engineers Solve Real-World Societal Problems

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Are you an engineer? Do social issues affect you? Do you think that big societal issues could be tackled by technology? Do you want to contribute to the society? Above all, do you want to see your engineering skills be used to solve real-world problems?

Then I have a course to recommend.

Real-life problems are often not domain specific. Every problem has a different dimension to it and needs to be analysed in totality while engaging with all the possible stakeholders. We often see technology failing at the ground level, and some technology makes a remarkable success. We have to analyse every phase of its development, whether it has failed in designing, fabricating, implementing or at the usage stage. We have to see the interaction of the technology with the user or society. Sometimes, we see that technology is designed and deployed for solving a problem, but it ends with another societal problem which was not thought of in the development phase. For example, the use of ultrasound for gender determination.

We are facing severe problems as a society and global community, and people are looking at engineers to bring about solutions as we were the ones who probably created the problem in the first place. Global Warming, pollution etc. are some of the biggest threats to our planet and how can we combat these challenges for a better future? We should be able to analyse all these factors/impacts to make an informed and well-studied choice while proposing a solution.

We could narrow down the problems and look at the lowest possible administrative body of a country (In India, it is a Gram Panchayat) and try to analyse the issues at this level. We could probably be able to solve the problems from their roots and showcase some models of an ideal society. The most common issues faced by the people, in general, is about their basic needs such as water, electricity, education, health, and justice.

One’s work as an engineer should be focusing on the issues which matter to the society the most and solving these issues are not as simple as they may appear. We should have proper training and tools to start with. We need specific resources to transform from an “engineer” to a “sensitive engineer” or a “developmental engineer”. I want to introduce you to a course which is doing exactly that.

A Masters course, M. Tech in “Technology and Development” offered by the Centre for Technology Alternatives for Rural Areas (CTARA), Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IITB) is an interdisciplinary course for two years. This is structured in such a way that a fresh graduate can join this program and learn all those tools and go through a rigorous training to become a “developmental professional”. The master’s degree programme is divided into three parts.

The 1st year of the M.Tech is all about the courses from various sectors where you learn about water management, energy resource utilisation, soil and agriculture, development theories, public policy, research methods, and statistics. You also learn some technique and tools in these courses which come handy when you go to the field and analyse a real-life situation. The courses are coupled with compulsory field visits to see on the ground what you studied in the classroom. Here you get the opportunity to meet and interact with the people who have been working in the field for years, and you get the first-hand experience of “technology relation with people”. You meet people from NGOs, social enterprises, industries and civil society representatives (MLA, MLC etc.)

The 2nd part of the M.Tech is 2-month structured rural field stay. After completion of 1st year (2nd semester) and before starting the 2nd year (3rd semester), the student has to stay in a village for two months with the villagers. This is the highlight of the M.Tech course where you also carry out your study.

The goal of the stay is to understand the functioning of a village and working of Gram Panchayat and its various bodies.

Components of the stay:

a) Village Level Analysis includes a study of the Village Profile, Livelihoods, Demographics, Natural Resources, Roads and Public Transport, Food Security, Water Resources, Education, Water Supply, Public Health, Sanitation and MSW, Public Infrastructure, Energy, Committees, Agriculture, Financials etc.

b) Household Level Analysis: Household Information, Residential and General Information, Water and Sanitation, Household Health, Livelihood, Household Amenities, Migration etc.

c) Scheme Analysis Detail analyses any two govt. schemes running in the village.

d) Directed Research Projects: The students work on two live projects on the issues being faced by the villagers.

The third part of the course starts when the student comes back after the two months of rural field stay. Now, the student has to choose the masters project which is typically divided into two semesters. The master’s project is the opportunity where you could choose or propose projects from any area and choose a real-life problem to work on. This is where you get the chance to integrate your parent academic background (e.g. Mechanical Engineering, Electrical Engg, Chemical Engg etc.) with your learning from this programme. You will have the liberty to switch to another area and learn new things. E.g. a mechanical engineer doing a project will have the opportunity to design a water and sanitation policy etc. Masters projects involve a critical thinking and the skill to analyse a problem from all possible aspects. It is possible that you could work on making a policy, making a product, process improvement and evaluation of a govt. scheme etc. as your M. Tech project.

After completion of the master’s project, you get the degree of M.Tech in Technology and Development.

This is not the end of the story. Now, your journey starts as a ‘developmental professional’.

Find out more about the course hereStay happy and be the reason for someone’s smile 🙂

Hitesh Mahawar is an M.Tech student at Centre for Technology Alternatives for Rural Areas (CTARA), IIT Bombay and Project Research Assistant, Rural Technology Action Group (RuTAG), IIT Bombay. 

Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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