Fuelling jugaad: Indian farmers’ hacks threatens demand for diesel

Surging diesel prices may be squeezing farmers across India’s vast hinterlands, but they’re also kindling the nation’s knack for improvisation.

Frugal workarounds, or hacks in modern parlance, are celebrated in Indian culture and known colloquially as jugaad. And if the innovativeness of farmers like Sarvesh Kumar Verma is anything to go by, this can-do attitude could pose a threat to demand for the nation’s most widely used petroleum product.

Frustrated over rising diesel prices, the rice and potato grower decided to hunt for an alternative. Verma found what he was looking for in his kitchen: a canister of liquefied petroleum gas used for cooking. After tinkering with the diesel-fueled pump that irrigates his fields in Uttar Pradesh state, he soon had it running smoothly on LPG, cutting his energy costs by about a third.

“The best part is that there is no smoke,” the 40-year-old farmer said. “I’m now helping some other farmers in my village to switch their pumps to LPG.”

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