Prashant Gade’s story of limitless compassion

At a time when young people work hard to score high in academics for better job opportunities and a secure life, 30-year-old Prashant Gade was failing to feel the same. He wanted to do something that could have a consequential impact on people’s lives. A few years later, he is becoming the reason behind the smile and tears of joy of those who do not have hands.

Laying the foundation

Prashant was very close to his grandfather who would tell him how engineers contribute to the innovations in technology. One day he lost his grandfather. He saw that although his grandfather worked hard as a driver, he passed away leaving everything behind. Describing this incident, Prashant said, “When I asked my mother about this, she replied that It is not what we take, but what we give to others that goes with us. I was very young then but I understood that materialistic life is not as important as people value it.”

The decision to drop out

Prashant finished his college in Madhya Pradesh as he belonged to Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh and moved to Pune for engineering. Even here, he continued to remember his conversation with his grandfather on how engineers make an impact in the world and technology. “Contrast to what my grandfather used to say, I saw that everyone else in my college was striving for better marks in exams and desired better jobs for a better living. Nobody was talking about innovations and making an impact. I was not happy with such a mindset, so I dropped out of engineering in the third year,” told Prashant.

He began looking for a job in Pune and eventually, he found one in Fab Labs earning a monthly salary of Rs. 5000 in 2015. “I used to work on biomedical devices. It was a learning experience for me. I liked the job very much,” told Prashant. He also pursued a distance course from Fab Academy which was six months long by the Center for Bits and Atoms of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – MIT.

Genesis of the idea

“To complete the course, I needed to present a project to the academy. While I was figuring out what would be my project, I came to know about Nicolas Huchet who lost his one arm and then made a bionic arm for himself. I got the inspiration after reading about him,” said Prashant. He began making bionic arms to present as a project in the academy.

During that time, he also came to know a 7-year-old girl child who was born with no arms. “I was shocked to know that. Such people are not respected in society. After knowing about her disability, I was determined to do something for her. I spoke to many hospitals for prosthetic limbs for her,” told Prashant. He found that a pair of prosthetic limbs were for Rs. 24 lakhs, which was unaffordable for her.

Prashant started his research on statistics about people without limbs and he wanted to help them. He found that there are about 24,000 people who lose their upper or lower limbs every year. This adds up to four lakh existing people without limbs. He also found that about 85 percent of them cannot do anything about their limbs due to the lack of financial resources.

Prashant Gade

“Buying limbs can be very expensive for most of them. I wanted to do something about it. Hence, I started working on affordable prosthetic limbs. I approached several non-profit organisations for financial support. Thankfully, one NGO from Jaipur sponsored me with Rs. 50,000,” told Prashant.

Prashant went to Jaipur and took about six months to come up with a prosthetic arm that can cost only about Rs. 25,000 as compared to the existing arm available in the market which costs Rs. 90 lakhs. However, the NGO wanted to make a limb that could cost a maximum of Rs. 8000.

A determined Prashant came up with a limb after a few months that would cost him only around Rs. 5000. “I failed to get any further financial help from the NGO and I had very little money left. I could only afford one of two things – either house rent where I was living or food twice a day. It was a tough situation but I was determined to achieve my purpose. Moreover, I could not seek any help from my family as my parents were against my decision of dropping out of college,” said Prashant.

Establishing Inali Foundation

Inali Foundation

Prashant published a video of the limb he made on YouTube which got viral and luckily a professor from the United States approached him and sponsored his trip, food and stay to showcase his prosthetic limb innovation at a biomedical conference.  “People were impressed by the limb and sponsored some machines and equipment which helped me to produce more prosthetic limbs,” said Prashant. He came back to Pune and established his non-profit organisation called ‘Inali Foundation’ in 2015.

Prashant has made significant progress in his journey. He developed three different types of upper limb devices. The first one enables the opening and closing of the palm by simply pressing a button, aiding in basic functions like drinking water and writing. The second device utilises sensors to detect brain signals and directs the motors inside the arm to move accordingly. The third device connects to the ankle, with the receiver connecting to the arm.

Prashant managed to provide prosthetic limbs (arms) to about 5000 people across India till now. “Although it costs us money to manufacture these limbs, we provide them to people for free, especially those who can’t afford them. We customise these limbs (arms) based on the order or requirements of individuals,” informed Prashant. He shared about the funds and said that apart from crowdfunding through a website called Milap, some corporates and individuals help the Inali Foundation. Currently, the non-profit has 29 people working in it.

Prashant recalled an incident when a woman who received a prosthetic limb from Inali Foundation approached him and cried. When Prashant asked her the reason for crying, the woman said that she could finally comb her daughter’s hair because of the limb. “This is the biggest satisfaction for me in life. Although there is a long way to go, these moments make me feel satisfied with the work that I do,” said Prashant.

prashant gade giving out limbs

The path forward

Prashant stays in a 2bhk house in Pune. Here, he lives with a kitten that he likes the most. However, he spends most of his time in the Inali Foundation office. When asked if he cares about materialistic things in life, he said, “There is a difference between need and greed. I believe need is an important thing in life. Greed never ends.” Initially, his parents were not happy with his decision of dropping out of college, but now they are happy. However, they are still concerned about his financial security.

Prashant said that prosthetic limbs are so expensive in India because they are imported from foreign countries that add up some extra costs such as taxes and middlemen. “I want the Inali Foundation and India to be known for prosthetic limbs in future. I want everyone to have limbs whether they lost them during an accident or were born without one,” Prashant shared his vision.

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