Dr. Suman Singh : The journey of changing lives

A very happy teachers day to all of you. Today we should all take a moment and commemorate our teachers like Suman Singh.  After all, they have shaped us the way we are today.

To make this day even special, we bring to you the story of a teacher who brought education out of labs and took it to farmers who needed it the most- our ‘Stubborn Warrior’ Dr. Suman Singh.

She fought against the problems that have kept our farmers from prospering for so long. She overcame many challenges and changed the lives of farmers for the better. So let’s listen to the tale right from where it all began…

Journey as a Student

Suman mam hails from an army background. That’s why she spent her childhood in MHOW (Military Headquarters of War, a cantonment near Indore, MP) from where she completed her school education.

She moved to Jodhpur for higher education after passing her boards . She prepared for pre-medical exams with the dream of becoming a doctor. However due to certain family circumstances she wasn’t allowed to appear for the exams.

Upset by the turn of events, Suman singh moved in with her elder sister’s family in Udaipur. She did her Bachelor’s from College of Home Science, Udaipur. Post that she completed her Master’s from M.S. University, Vadodara.

Being a remarkable student right from her childhood, she holds an impressive academic record. By the virtue of this she was offered the position of Assistant Professor at her alma mater- College of Home Science, Udaipur. She joined the Department of Family Resources Management (FRM), which became her second home where she worked till her retirement in the year 2019.

Dr Suman Singh
सुमन सिंह
Dr Suman Singh

The Life-Changing Research Project

Eight years into her teaching career, Suman mam was already a well-admired professor. In the year 1990, she was recruited to the All India Coordinated Research Project (AICRP) by ICAR. This project was aimed towards improving the living condition of Indian farmers.

In 1996, the objective of ‘The Ergonomic Management of Drudgery of Women Farmers’ was added to the project. Being an expert in Ergonomics (a science that deals with the compatibility of Man, Machine and Environment), Suman mam readily accepted to work on this project.

“When I stepped into rural India, the plight of women farmers was evident. They were doing back-breaking jobs everyday and yet no technology was there to aid them. I was taken aback by the scenario and decided to do something about it,” shares Suman Mam.

After conducting a number of experiments, she came up with the model of 3 A’s- Awareness, Availability & Affordability. When she commenced her research the achievability of her goal seemed uncertain, but her perseverance eventually paid off.

Conquering the Unconquered

In 2001, She became a part of the Mission Mode NATP project ‘Empowerment of Women in Agriculture’. She led the ergonomics related objectives of the project.The project reached even the smallest villages where women were empowered with better training, equipment and nutrition.

“Just replacing the traditional sickle with an improved one can enhance the efficiency by 20-25%. Chronic injuries can also be avoided. Yet these simple tools are not available to a farmer even today. Whereas, Bidi,Gutkha, Tobacco are available at their doorsteps” shares Suman Mam agitatedly.

She realised that accessibility, awareness and affordability were imperative for our farmers’ livelihoods. Her paper was selected at the triennial conference of The International Ergonomics Association in 2003. People were astounded by her account of the hardships of the Indian rural life in her presentation at the international platform.

At another conference, she learned about the Liberty Mutual Medal conferred by the International Ergonomics Association (IEA) for outstanding original research. Having dedicated her academic life to research, she met the eligibility criteria quite well. So she decided to apply, and this decision turned out to be a turning point in her career.

From Aspiration to Achievement

Facing rejection for the first time round, she did not lose hope. With her gritty determination and stubborn persistence she continued to work hard while applying for the award a second time. This time her work received the due acknowledgement and she became the first Asian woman to be awarded with the prestigious Liberty Mutual Medal by the IEA.

“I undervalued my work severely. I never thought I could win an international award for that. Little did I know what destiny had in store for me. I was taken aback when I saw the email which said I was being awarded the Liberty Mutual Medal in 2009 conference in Beijing, China,” shares the researcher with an air of excitement.

Along with the medal also came a responsibility: she was asked to create an implementation model for her research. She presented her proposal to the society, but they did not have enough funds as required. However, impressed by the proposal they made efforts and contacted the John Deere Foundation, USA for funding, who readily agreed.

After some legal and operational obstacles, the project was ready to be implemented on ground. From 2010 to 2013, Suman Mam worked in a group of villages in Rajsamand, Rajasthan and revamped the livelihood of farm women.

Aiming to conquer the world

“Training women is akin to challenging the patriarchal structure of the society. So the first step was to create awareness and bring women out of the four walls they were confined to. Then for access and affordability we set up Technology Resource Centers (TRCs). They were essentially tools and machinery stores from where tools and equipment could be rented or bought at nominal prices.” explains Suman mam.

The farmers were introduced to machines like harvesters, weeders etc. These tools and machinery revolutionized their farming practice by reducing the time taken to perform a task by hours. While the target group of the project were women, men also started taking interest in such technologies. More than 5000 women were benefited by this project.

“With a lot of hard work and love, we cultivated the project like a farmer cultivates his crop. Eventually we had a healthy crop of well-trained, confident women farmers. The smiles on their faces made every effort worth it,” said Suman mam.

While Suman mam could not continue to run the project for a further time period, she still yearns for the welfare of the people residing in those villages. The seeds that she had sown once have grown to become trees that continue to bear fruits. Her career is exemplary of a meaningful life, where her efforts will continue to benefit those whose lives were touched.

The project is still operational under the supervision of Dr. Hemu Rathore, a colleague of Suman mam.

A word from Dr. Suman Singh

“Our country lags behind in a lot of factors and we are the ones responsible for it. Educated people like us shy away from putting in the required efforts. If this continues, our farmers are never going to prosper. I hope there will come a day when I will be proven wrong,” says Suman mam.

“As the youth of the country, I base my hopes on you. Your skills, hard work and empathy can one day make India ‘सोने की चिड़िया ’ (Golden Bird) once again. So keep working hard. ” adds the stubborn warrior Dr. Suman Singh.

So guys this was the tale of the professor who chose to stand apart. Like Sidhartha (Gautam Buddha) she saw the sufferings and resolved to end them and eventually did.

Her appeal to us,’the youth’ is actually the appeal of our motherland. If we do not help our farmers prosper then who will?

On that note, we will be signing off. We will be back with another tale that will light up your passion and zeal. Till then 

Stay Passionate, Stay Stubborn!