Reviving Traditional Oil Press
Voice of The Reader

Reviving Traditional Oil Press

September 13, 2020


This refers to the valuable article on traditional oil press (SOM dated Sept. 6) and kudos to M. Kamlesh who is trying to rejuvenate a cottage industry which is almost dead. It is all the more impressive that having an M.Tech degree in his hand he decided to get into a traditional craft.

The effort of Kamlesh reminds me of an era in India around 1970s when some top scientists from Indian Institute of Science (IISc.) and also at CFTRI went into several traditional technologies to make them more efficient and productive. They were driven by a mission to improve the rural economy and rural life in general.

People like Prof. Amulya Reddy used to ask a simple question which left many people dumb. For instance he would say while bullock carts were widely used means of transport all over the country and perhaps second to the Indian Railways but if he were to ask what was the distribution of load in a bullock cart or area of friction in it, no answer would be forthcoming.

But if similar questions were to be asked about an automobile, sure any student of automobile industry would readily answer or any library would be able to provide a lot of references about it. But if he wanted to improve an efficiency of a bullock cart or make an attempt to reduce the load on bullocks he would not have any choice but either go to a village craftsmen or he should himself study the technology scientifically.

Obviously his message was that the scientists in India have not found it worthwhile to give a serious and professional look at the variety of traditional technologies which still continue to be used.

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The irony was and continues to be so that many of the technologies were economically, socially and culturally vital for the rural folks yet modern science decided to look the other way. Majority of those technologies were eco-friendly and made maximum use of the local resources. Alas, in the mad rush for modernisation and westernisation, we overlooked our own strength.

In CFTRI, a group of scientists became seriously concerned as how to raise the efficiency of rural technologies so that their income improves. Such concerns led a group at CFTRI to develop a low cost machine to make leaf cups and leaf plates which in course of time also became commercially viable.

Yes, once upon a time there were a variety of oils extracted from locally grown seeds in India for consumption as well as for ritual activities. Consequently there were different types of oil presses in India designed by local craftsmen keeping in view the local resources and traditions.

The onset of machine pressed oil not only destroyed the regional oil press technologies but also cultivation of a variety of local seeds. Looked from this angle the plunge that an M.Tech student has taken to revive the traditional oil press is to be given full support and encouragement.

While without any break we keep on singing paeans of diversity of India but in practice we continue to systematically destroy it and also overlook its vitality.

– P.K. Misra, J.P. Nagar, 10.9.2020

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