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What Is a Jugaad?

B. Chisholm
B. Chisholm

The term jugaad encompasses a range of homemade Indian motor vehicles. They are mainly found in economically poor rural areas and typically consist of a cart attached to a diesel engine. They are used to transport people or goods. The word jugaad has now evolved to denote a piece of innovative technology that's made with limited resources.

A significant proportion of the Indian population, especially in the rural areas, are extremely poor. It is often necessary for these people to travel fairly large distances, and transport is needed to make a living while farming or fishing. For many people, commercial vehicles are economically out of reach. As a result, the jugaad was created as a simple but effective means of transport.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

The jugaad essentially consists of a cart to which a diesel engine, often of the type used to run a pump, is attached. The carts contain a simple steering and braking mechanism, and are generally big enough to carry up to 20 people, although it is not unheard of for more to crowd on. Due to the homemade nature of the vehicles, they often have poor braking systems and cannot go very fast, but they are an adequate means of transport in rural areas that often have poor road conditions.

In general, jugaads do not fall under Indian transport legislation and therefore do not have registration plates. They are not considered roadworthy but are the only means of transport for many people. Each jugaad is different and made up of whatever parts that can be found. The construction of a jugaad incorporates ingenuity in adversity, and in the business world, the word has evolved to refer to innovative ideas.

While concerns over the safety of jugaads has been raised time and again, the vehicles have never been pulled off the roads due to there being no affordable alternative. They are used to transport anything and everything, from sugar cane to catches of fish to schoolchildren. It is, however, not unusual for the passengers to have to jump off the cart to place bricks under the wheels in order to stop it.

In a country in which a large proportion of the population is extremely poor, India prides itself on being able to come up with resourceful ideas using very little in terms of financial resources. The jugaad is a perfect example of this. Haphazardly put-together, yet highly effective, it is often used to symbolize India's ingenuity.

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