8 Things We Can Learn from the People of Meghalaya

8 Things We Can Learn from the People of Meghalaya


I recently visited Meghalaya, one of the most beautiful states of India, situated in the north-eastern part of the country. This was my first tour of the north-east, to Assam and Meghalaya, two of the popular ‘seven sisters of India’ as they are called. While my visit to Assam was much of what I had expected to see, the tour of Meghalaya was an eyeopener.

Here are 8 things profound in Meghalaya that made me reflect hard on our ways of living in the cosmopolitan, metropolitan cities. Take a bow, Meghalaya!

Laitlum Canyon, Shillong
Laitlum Canyon, Shillong

1. Clean your own mess
Nearly every household in Meghalaya, particularly in the surrounding areas of Shillong and in Sohra, takes care of its garbage. They not only reuse stuff a lot, but also make compost of the wet waste, burn the rest of the waste and then use the ashes as a soil fertilizer. The government agency does come for waste collection but what’s noticeable is that people neatly pack the garbage in bags or covered bins before keeping it outside their houses for the regular pick up. People are generally conscious of not creating waste, disposing it only where there is a dustbin, and keeping their surroundings clean. For miles, on the road, in the hills, around the lakes, in the grasslands, nowhere one would see any waste, and therefore touring the state is a pleasurable experience and the only thing you are to see in Meghalaya is its extraordinary beauty. Unlike some of the cosmopolitan and metropolitan city dwellers of India and indifferent administration, people in Meghalaya seem very particular about keeping their houses and city/villages clean.

It is admirable that from the lowest to marginal to large income families, nearly everyone in Meghalaya makes an effort towards keeping their place clean, making their state probably the cleanest in India. And that deserves respect because no other state in India that I have visited has been able to match up to this level of conscious effort from residents and the government.

2. Go organic
The people in Meghalaya seem to have a deeper connection with nature. Both the residents and the government opt for maximum use of organic material. For example, extensive use of bamboo, roots, natural herbs, wild plants, etc. can be seen in the stuff that is being used in houses and in the state, in general. For example, nearly all over the state the government has put dustbins made of bamboo. It doesn’t get affected by rains, it is easily replaceable, and it is cost-effective! I feel it is a vicious circle – they preserve nature, which leads to better weather conditions, better green cover and which in turn gives them easy access to organic produce for use.

3. Dustbins everywhere
It’s true. This is the first state I have seen in India which has a dustbin at nearly every 100-200 meters. It was simply super cool! I always feel that one of the main reasons why cities like Delhi and Bangalore have turned into garbage cities is because there are no dustbins, for miles! And the ones that are there are either full or do not have a base! There is no regular collection/clearance either! In Meghalaya, not only were the dustbins made of organic material (which also promotes local industry), but they were also placed everywhere at a uniform distance and they were being cleared with great discipline, even in remote areas. I did not see any overflowing dustbin, rather each one in Sohra (which is the wettest place on the planet) was covered with a reused cement bag to prevent the trash from getting wet! I wish municipal corporations in India visit Meghalaya, instead of making trips to foreign countries, to learn how to manage city waste!

Street lamps in Sohra
Street lamps in Sohra

4. Reuse
It is amazing how the entire state is focused on reuse. In Sohra particularly, the street lights are covered with not glass or metal lampshades but by reused, half-cut plastic bottles/jars. It not only reduces the plastic pollution but also protects the lights from the constant rain in the region. And, again, it is durable, cost-effective, and easily replaceable. I found it quite an innovative model adopted not only by the people but also accepted by the state government. Imagine if we adopt the same for all of India in some manner – we could reuse a considerable amount of plastic and save on generating more waste.

5. Kindness matters
The culture of a state/region matters a lot when it comes to tourism. Unlike Uttar Pradesh, a state where you need to be wary of thieves, eve-teasers, fake guides, etc. around the tourist spots, touring Meghalaya is very safe. People are generally kind. Even the very low-income groups living in remote areas are kind in offering help if you need it. In my five-day tour, there are several instances where we stopped for tea and snacks and witnessed locals’ kindness towards each other, be it a free tea or a free ride or an affectionate bowl of soup! When people are happy, and share a hearty smile, the general mood/the environment is light. In Meghalaya, especially in Sohra, one could feel it almost everywhere.

6. Endurance
Living in the hills can teach you a lot. Life in the hills is hard, the weather conditions, the distances, the lack of proper livelihood, the lack of facilities, etc. make living daily life quite a task. I believe endurance comes naturally to the people who live in the hills. In Meghalaya too I found that people have far more endurance and acceptance of life as is than we who live in the well-provided for environments. I find that quite admirable. To learn to live life at its pace, not rush it or fret about it, is something one could learn from them.

Flowers on the roadside in Sohra
Flowers on the roadside in Sohra

7. Care for nature
Nearly every household in Meghalaya is a garden! No matter the size of the house, every home is well kept with nice little windows and white lace curtains, and a welcoming garden of flowers or an alley of potted plants. People are very careful about preserving nature. They care for it, nurture it, and protect it diligently. I also found that people are quite conscious of how their actions could harm nature and they try avoiding them. A conscious effort not to litter is just one of the things that’s on the list. And that is why all over the state one can see clean, abundant flowerbeds on the roadside, grasslands, flowers and vegetable gardens in the houses, well-maintained parks and lakes, and untouched natural beauty. I feel much of Meghalaya’s beauty is nature’s gift to its inhabitants for the care they offer towards its upkeep.

8. Live like a community
Last but not least, I found a great camaraderie and a sense of community in the people of Meghalaya. It makes a lot of difference to a tourist to see the people of a state as one community, and a welcoming one at that! In a 10-day tour, I never saw a fight, heard no arguments, no abuses, no accidents. I am not doubting that they all must be existing but no one was washing their dirty linen in public. Why I point this out is because there are places where the behavior of the locals among themselves can tell a lot about the culture of the state, which at times is not a pleasant realization. I feel that people in Meghalaya are aware that they are a tourist-friendly state and they are supposed to behave responsibly. It almost looks like there is an understanding among them and certain behavior is promoted as a community.

I hope this list evokes curiosity in you to visit this beautiful state and contribute to its economy. Do write in if ever you visit Meghalaya and are able to observe any of these eight things. It would be great to learn from your experience. Also, I hope someday someone will take inspiration from this to start making amends, at home, and drive change to make our cities technologically advanced, yet naturally beautiful.

New portable device can detect diabetes, kidney failure, chronic anemia, malnutrition

New portable device can detect diabetes, kidney failure, chronic anemia, malnutrition


Bangalore-based PathShodh Healthcare, a startup at the Entrepreneurship Centre of the Indian Institute of Science, has developed a hand-held device to measure eight vital parameters for diabetes, kidney failure, chronic anaemia, and malnutrition.

The device, called anuPath, has been developed by Dr. Vinay Kumar along with Professor Navakanta Bhat of Indian Institute of Science and a friend, Gautam Sharma.

According to a recent International Diabetes Federation (IDF) report, diabetes currently affects over 425 million people worldwide, and the figure is expected to reach 629 million by 2045. With 73 million diabetics, India ranks second in the world after China.

People with diabetes have an increased risk of developing a number of serious health problems. Consistently high blood glucose levels can lead to serious diseases affecting the heart and blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, nerves and teeth. In addition, people with diabetes also have a higher risk of developing infections, says the IDF report.

Currently, anuPath can test for hemoglobin, HbA1C, glycated albumin, blood glucose, serum albumin, microalbuminuria, urine ACR, and urine creatinine. It will be extendable to other markers (glycated albumin, serum creatinine, serum bilirubin, etc.) in the future. It works on a non-enzymatic- and non-antibody-based electrochemical biosensing technology. The measurement is done on electrochemical disposable test strips that contain a membrane infused with patented sensing substances. For each biomarker there is a separate disposable strip. When the user places the required sample on the electrochemical disposable test strip, anuPath detects the electrochemical outcomes and the deciphered results are displayed on the digital monitor within a minute. This enables the patient to get a comprehensive report of the status of the disease, which is essential in disease management. Read full research paper.

Presently, it can store one lakh patient reports, making it easier to share with doctors. With one international patent and eight in process, anuPath costs Rs. 50,000. The team is working on a cost effective model of about Rs. 5,000 – Rs. 10,000 for individual users to use it at home. Read more

Indian startup turns crop residue to usable pulp, assures farmers’ benefit

Indian startup turns crop residue to usable pulp, assures farmers’ benefit


Three graduates from the Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi, Ankur Kumar, Kanika Prajatat and Pracheer Dutta have developed a machine that can convert the hardy straw of paddy into a fibrous raw material that can be used by the pulp molding factories to prepare disposable cutlery.

In India despite a Supreme Court order, and a government scheme that offers stubble management machines at subsidized rates, farmers continue to burn crop residue after harvest, as they find it cheaper than clearing the crop residue manually or by using machines. The practice is rampant across rice-growing belts as paddy straw is neither a suitable fuel nor can be used as cattle feed. The situation is worse in Punjab and Haryana as the smoke resulting from burning the residue chokes Delhi and envelops the entire northern India with dense toxic smog for weeks.

Paddy straw is rich in silica, which slows down its rate of degradation and hence farmers choose to burn it post harvest to make the land reusable faster. The new machine, created by the trio as the first product of their startup Kriya Lab, uses an environment-friendly chemical that can strip the straw of silica, making it supple and usable. The pulp can be used as raw material for the pulp and paper industry. 

For now the machine can convert one ton of paddy straw into 500 kilograms of pulp, which can then be sold at Rs. 45 per kilogram. It holds promise for those who want to start commercially viable ventures as there is a growing demand for ecofriendly cutlery and packaging materials, particularly the ones made from biomass waste. Read more

Indian Researchers Create Sinucare, a Manual Device to Treat Chronic Sinusitis Without Invasive Surgery

Indian Researchers Create Sinucare, a Manual Device to Treat Chronic Sinusitis Without Invasive Surgery


About 9.86 crore people (8%) in India suffer from sinusitis, according to the Government of India’s Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Of these, for the chronic cases who do not benefit from medication, a team of researchers at InnAccel, Bangalore, has developed a device called SinuCare to provide long-term relief within a day.

Sinusitis is a condition in which the openings of the sinuses (the cavities in the bones in our forehead, cheeks, and the nose which form the respiratory tract from the nose into the throat) swell and clog the airflow inside them. The inflammation (swelling and redness) is caused due to infection, allergies, air pollution, or structural issues in the nose. Some of the common symptoms of sinusitis are thick nasal mucus, a plugged nose, pain in the face, fever, headaches, poor sense of smell, sore throat, and/or cough.

Why it matters

In most cases, sinusitis can be treated by medication. However, it is considered as a chronic case if the condition continues beyond three months. To chronic sinusitis patients who fail to benefit from medicines, doctors usually suggest functional endoscopic sinus surgery (FESS) to widen the sinus openings, clear any collected secretions, and to ventilate the sinuses and the nasal cavity. However, FESS is not only an expensive procedure, but is also quite invasive, as it requires surgical removal of many bony structures within the nasal cavity. It, therefore, carries a higher risk of complications and over-ventilation of the sinuses which can hamper its normal functioning.

As per a survey conducted by the InnAccel team, of the total number of sinusitis patients who visit an ENT doctor, on an average nearly 45 percent are counseled for FESS. However, most patients choose to try alternative forms of healing and avoid surgery till the extent it becomes essential. Two major reasons for this that emerged from the survey are: the cost (in India FESS cost ranges from Rs. 60,000 to Rs. 130,000) and the fear of complications or physical damage due to the operation under general anesthesia.

SinuCare

SinuCare is a minimally-invasive balloon sinuplasty device meant primarily to provide chronic sinusitis cases a cost-effective and safer alternative to FESS.

Complete kit of SinuCare
Complete kit of SinuCare

“With SinuCare we have tried to alleviate the concerns of chronic sinusitis patients. SinuCare is a simple metal device that uses a disposable double-balloon dilator, which is inserted into the blocked sinus openings through the nose. When the double-balloon dilator is inflated with saline in the blocked cavity, it expands and remodels the sinus openings, clearing the respiratory cavities by causing tiny bone fractures. Unlike FESS, balloon sinuplasty using SinuCare does not require any tissue removal, thus decreasing the risk of complications that arise from excessive removal of bony tissue and reducing the time for recovery. Moreover, an ENT doctor can operate SinuCare in his or her clinic, thereby reducing the cost of hospitalization for the patient,” explains Dr. Jagdish Chaturvedi, 33, who is a co-inventor of SinuCare.

Dr. Chaturvedi is an ENT specialist in Bangalore. In 2016, he won the MIT Technology Review’s TR35 Award for Young Innovators under 35 for one of his medical device innovations. At InnAccel, he develops new medical devices with cross-disciplinary teams and mentors young researchers and professionals in their entrepreneurial endeavors.

He is now conducting awareness sessions for ENT doctors on the use and benefits of SinuCare. “We have trained over a 100 ENT surgeons across the country and some of these doctors have started counseling and treating patients with SinuCare and the feedback from them and the patients has been very satisfying. I am also travelling to various cities to perform surgeries and train doctors on how to use SinuCare,” he adds.

Double-balloon sinuplasty with SinuCare
(L-R) Dr. Jagdish Chaturvedi gives SinuCare training to ENT doctors on a 3D model of the sinuses. On the right, he is conducting double-balloon sinuplasty using SinuCare on a patient in Kolkata.

The InnAccel team has filed a patent in India for SinuCare. They have also applied for the CE (European Union) quality certification for the device.

How it works

SinuCare comprises a navigation system through which the doctor manually inserts a soft polymer double-balloon dilator into the nose, to unclog the openings of blocked sinuses.

When the double-balloon dilator reaches the target, the doctor infuses the balloons with saline at 12 atmospheric pressure with the help of a pressure pump. As the balloons expand to their maximum diameter of six millimeters, they remodel the sinus opening and allow the mucus to drain out from the cavity, giving way to better ventilation. Finally, the dilator is removed and the device is pulled out of the patient’s nasal cavity.

The procedure is repeated for each blocked sinus. Following the complete procedure, the doctor keeps the patient under observation for an hour as a precautionary step to watch for any bleeding or dizziness. It takes about four to five hours for the entire procedure to complete, from the time the patient is given anesthesia to the clearing of the sinuses to when the patient is advised to go.

Key Differentiation

Unlike existing balloon sinuplasty devices which use a guidewire for inserting the balloon dilator into the nose till it reaches a clogged cavity, SinuCare has provisioned for ENT doctors to mount their endoscopic camera for a clear view of the sinuses and blockages. A guidewire is a polymer wire that is put alongside/inside the dilator to allow the doctor to feel the sinus blockage. However, it increases the cost of the device, the number of components it comprises, and the skill requirement to carry out the procedure.

The other key different feature of SinuCare is that its guiding system is a reusable product. The double-balloon dilator is the only disposable material in SinuCare whereas other sinuplasty devices are completely disposable. Without the dilator, SinuCare can be completely sterilized for reuse, enabling reduction of the total cost of the device for the doctors as well as that of the overall treatment.

Currently, SinuCare is being recommended and used by co-inventor Dr. Sunil Narayan Dutt, world renowned Otolaryngologist and Head of ENT at Apollo Hospitals, Bangalore and by Dr. P.S. Pradeep Kumar, Founder and Medical Director, Meenakshi ENT Specialty Hospital, Bangalore. They have been contributing feedback in the making of SinuCare.

The product is being packaged as a kit that comprises the main device, three dilators, and a pressure pump. SinuCare kit is priced at approximately Rs. 30,000 for the ENT doctors, and the treatment cost ranges between Rs. 40,000 and Rs. 60,000.

Next Step

While the guiding system of SinuCare has been designed and manufactured in India, the disposable double-balloon dilator for it, also designed in India, is being contract manufactured by Surmodics in Ireland. “We want Indian manufacturers to come forward and create good quality products for us. Under the government’s Make in India initiative, we are trying to manufacture devices in India – one for giving business within the country and second to minimize the cost. The manufacturing scope is big in the field of medical devices. However, we are yet to see innovative manufacturers who are willing to work with a development team, experiment with business models and to give the same quality as foreign suppliers,” says Pooja Kadambi, the team’s lead engineer and co-inventor who has significantly contributed in designing and manufacturing of SinuCare.

ENT doctors, patients with chronic sinusitis, and manufacturers can write to Dr. Jagdish Chaturvedi at jagdishc@innaccel.com or call 080-40923864.