BHOPAL: The maxim that crisis fuels innovation has been proved correct by the tribal women of Madhya Pradesh.
Faced with an acute shortage of spirit (Ethanol or Ethyl Alcohol), a group of tribal women in dense forests of Madhya Pradesh’s Alirajpur district has started manufacturing organic hand sanitizers with the liquor made from Mahua flowers.
Importantly, the liquor made from the flowers is one of the most popular forms of country-made liquor in tribal Madhya Pradesh.
The Sri Hari Ajeevika, a self-help group comprising of 10 women in Dhamanda village under Udaigarh development block of tribal-dominated Alirajpur district (400 km from Bhopal) has started preparing hand sanitizer with the Mahua flower-based alcoholic drink, alum, neem leaves, and Gulab Jal.
According to Bharti, who is among the 10 forming the SHG, after the lockdown there was a crisis of spirit (ethanol) which is generally used up to 60-70% as the base of any hand sanitizer.
“Instead of getting worried due to dearth of Ethyl Alcohol, we started looking for alternatives on the youtube and found that our very own Mahua-based alcoholic drink could address the problem. We also mixed the Mahua liquor and water with natural disinfectants like fitkiri (alum) and Neem leaves, besides using Gulab Jal for fragrance,” recounted Bharti.
According to Vijay Soni, the Udaigarh block manager of the National Rural Livelihoods Mission, “The idea clicked and an out and out organic Mahua flower alcoholic drink-based hand sanitizer was churned out of out it. It was rendered to the Block Medical Officer for lab testing and following safety and quality clearance, it was put on sale in bottles priced at Rs 70, entailing just Rs 5 profit per bottle.”
Since then Mahua-based hand sanitizer is turning into a rage in Udaigarh block and other parts of Alirajpur district.
“The women SHG Sri Hari Ajeevika has so far produced 300-plus bottles of the out and out organic sanitizer, which is being used by the regional rural bank, Bank of Baroda branches, besides Udaigarh Janpad Panchayat for distribution among the MNREGA workers, some teachers and also chowkidars of village,” Soni added.
He said earlier there was the scarcity of ethanol, but now there is a scarcity of bottles for packing the organic hand sanitizer. “We tried to get the bottles from Indore, but failed. Now we’re trying to get the bottles from neighbouring Gujarat as the demand for Mahua based hand sanitizer is rising. We’re also trying to get permission from the excise department for removing the cap on storage of Mahua liquor for preparing the sanitizer,” he maintained.
Presently, as per excise department norms any tribal household cannot store Mahua liquor more than 10 litres.