Shortcomings of India’s jugaad mindset

3 Min
Shortcomings of India’s jugaad mindset

Hari Jaisingh

Jugaad is a term that embodies the spirit of innovative, quick-fix solutions to problems using limited resources. It is about finding unconventional and often improvised solutions to overcome challenges, reflecting a mindset of resilience and resourcefulness. Jugaad often results in surprisingly effective outcomes by using the best available resources.

In a 2011 Harvard Business Review article by Navi Radjou, Jaideep Prabhu, and Simone Ahuja, jugaad is described as an antidote to India’s complexities – a solution in a highly resource-constrained and diverse environment, inspiring innovators to create affordable, sustainable products and services.

However, while jugaad can offer immediate solutions, it is not always ideal for long-term success. What truly works is a balanced approach that incorporates the agility and creativity of jugaad along with structured, sustainable solutions. This balance combines innovation, planning, and adaptability, ensuring both short-term needs and long-term viability are met. The spirit of jugaad with structured problem-solving approaches often leads to more robust and enduring solutions.

The Yamunotri National Highway tunnel collapse on November 12 trapped 41 workers and brought them into a perilous situation that required innovative solutions for their rescue. Rescue efforts faced challenges due to machinery issues, causing concern for the workers’ safety. Yet, a six-inch pipe was successfully installed to send essential supplies to the workers, and plans for their mental well-being were outlined. Despite progress, experts voiced worries about potential trauma from prolonged confinement. Rescue strategies evolved, including drilling options and the involvement of international experts, but timelines remained uncertain.

This incident indicates India’s jugaad mindset, highlighting safety negligence and flaws in infrastructure planning. Additionally, the strategic segmentation of the Char Dham all-weather road project into 53 smaller projects, each below 100 km, appeared to sidestep the obligatory environmental impact assessment – a clear illustration of jugaad in action. The lack of emergency exits, geological surveys, and simultaneous tunnel design and construction underscores the broader deficiencies in infrastructure projects. Concerns raised by environmentalists regarding environmental impacts and the fragile terrain were overruled in favor of national security interests, reflecting a lack of holistic considerations.

The tragedy highlights the consequences of inadequate planning, negligence, and a systemic reliance on makeshift solutions rather than meticulous planning and adherence to safety standards. Ultimately, this incident highlights the urgent need for more robust, well-planned infrastructure development to prevent future disasters and ensure safety and sustainability.

Infrastructure projects in fragile environments, such as the Himalayas, must be undertaken with utmost consideration for the surrounding environment. This includes undertaking thorough environmental impact assessments, utilizing environmentally friendly construction methods, and minimizing disruption to the natural ecosystem. Respecting the delicate balance of the environment will help reduce the risk of landslides, floods, and other natural disasters that could compromise tunnel stability.

The collapse of the Silkyara Tunnel raises several moral issues, including (i) the moral obligation of safety – this includes conducting thorough geological investigations, implementing robust safety protocols, and providing clear emergency escape routes; (ii) exploitation of workers – workers involved in the project are from marginalized communities and are often subject to exploitation and unfair labor practices; (iii) prioritization of economic interests over human life – the Char Dham Mahamarg Pariyojana, the road project under which the tunnel was constructed, is a major infrastructure initiative aimed at promoting tourism and economic development in Uttarakhand. However, the focus on economic gains may have overshadowed the importance of human life, leading to the prioritization of project timelines and budgets over worker safety; and (iv) failure of regulatory oversight – authorities in charge of monitoring construction projects and enforcing safety regulations failed to adequately oversee the project. This failure allowed tunnel construction without proper safety measures, contributing to the tragedy.

The moral issues surrounding the Silkyara Tunnel collapse highlight the need for greater emphasis on safety, worker welfare, and ethical business practices in infrastructure projects. It is crucial to prioritize human life and the well-being of workers over economic interests and to ensure that regulatory oversight and accountability mechanisms are in place to prevent future disasters.

While the successful rescue of the 41 workers after 17 days of intense efforts is commendable, it shouldn’t instigate complacency or endorse makeshift solutions