Crippled after losing control of his lower limbs by bullet injuries during an incident of cross firing, Arshad Pandit, a young Kashmir innovator defeated disability. He collaborated with a local motor mechanic and customized his car control system at hand level regaining his independence. P A Mushtaq reports
Torso is what 37-year-old Arshad Pandit is able to move, while his lower limbs cannot sense anything. Like thousands of others maimed in Kashmir during the armed conflict, Pandit too was caught up in a firing incident and was hit by three bullets in 1995 that crippled him. But unlike others, Pandit decided to battle on and make it big for himself despite being paraplegic.
Pandit’s ingenuity has him now among seven innovators selected from the state by the union ministry of science and technology. It is after years of struggle that Pandit has invented wheels for himself by remodeling a car with all controls manageable by hands. All the three functions – clutch, brake and accelerator – controlled by feet in a normal car are regulated by hands. “On May 25, 1995, an accident rendered me paralysed at the age of 21. Waist down, I lost control of my lower limbs permanently. After remaining crippled for two years, I got a job in the health sector and my main concern was the personal abulation, to be able to commute between my home and the place of my work,” said Pandit, who was a graduate when bullets hit him. He looked around for a reliable means of transport but failed to zero in on one.
“I tried to find out whether I could buy a car with the requisite mechanical and other features compatible with my need and which is within my financial means and reach. However, such automatic cars came at a price that was flatly out of my reach,” he said.
The non-availability of vehicle did not let down Pandit’s spirits. Gazing at his Maruti Alto for five years, Arshad started a hunt for a local mechanic with an idea in his mind. “The idea to change my normal car friendly to my needs was in my mind for five years. It took me one year to realize my dream. The mechanism is simple but the idea made it big,” said Pandit.
Pandit says his idea was “remarkably simple”. “It could be executed by a trained motor mechanic without any need to fashion high-end sophisticated gadgetry. With the able and competent assistance of a local mechanic, the device I devised is a ‘hand-control system’ and is currently installed in my ‘Maruti Alto’ car at the ergonomic location under the steering wheel,” he said.
He has been driving the car for the last eight years with rare maintenance expenditure. “The hand control system is an assembly of few components.”
Arshad credits his inability and necessity for the innovation. “My necessity made me an innovator. I did not want to depend on others to drive me around and take me to my office,” he said.
Pandit did not allow his disability to come in the way of his growth and prosperity. After completing his master’s degree in Immunology and Molecular Medicine, he completed his doctorate thesis last year and is a consultant at Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences’ Advanced Centre for Human Genetics. “My family was the pivot and encouraged me for all the achievements. It took me one year to make prototype of the car,” said Pandit.
The innovator is no more dependent on anyone for driving him around. “It was my elder brother who would drive me to places. I was completely dependent on him but not now. It has given me independence. Now I can go anywhere I want,” he said.
Besides the family, Pandit said he was inspired by two men – a friend who suffered from similar paralysis but became a senior administrative officer and Christopher Reeve, the superman actor.
With 22 publications to his credit, Pandit was among seven innovators selected for funding by the union ministry of science and technology.
Pandit on April 6 was part of the meeting of around 12 innovators at Kashmir University organised by the National Innovation Foundation (NIF) Ahmadabad, Ministry of Science and Technology, and University Science Instrumentation Centre (USIC), Kashmir University.
“Expert has accepted Pandit’s innovation as remarkable. We have sent a complete report of his innovation to Department of Scientific Industrial Research, New Delhi, for funding,” said USIC’s technical officer Pervaiz Ahmad.
Under Grassroots Innovation & Augmentation Network (GIAN), Pandits’s innovation and the technique has been sent to the union ministry for science and technology for further promotion of the idea.