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Jain entrepreneurs innovate for ahimsa

AHMEDABAD: Technology is moving at a crazy pace and creating ever more complicated products for human consumption. This often overrides the fact that most are animal tested and harm the environment. While the world rushes ahead with advances in lifestyle products, a few people with spiritual inclinations are bent on doing the right thing; for not just humans but animals too.

In the city, the dengue mosquito density currently stands at 0.89 mosquitoes per room, according to AMC. Diseases caused by it have attained epidemic proportions yet a Gujarati Jain has taken it upon himself to deliver the people from this menace but in his own unique, spiritual way. He has developed a 'Jivdaya' insect repellant that will not kill insects like mosquitoes but drive them out of people's homes.

Also calling it an 'ahinsak spray', Priyank Shah, 36, a businessman staying in Sabarmati has researched on effective ways of chasing out insects, not killing them. Priyank was a dealer of a well known international insect repellant brand till a few years back, but that clashed with his ideologies. "Jains believe in equal compassion towards all beings - it is called jivdaya. While I was selling these repellants, I was unhappy because insects die due to it. It was at a spiritual discourse with Jain monk Yashovarma Sureshwarji maharaj that I vowed to put my resources at work to develop a concoction that would not kill insects."

The answer came in pine tree oil. "It has a scent that drives insects like mosquitoes, spiders, ants, cockroaches and even lizards away. It has an oily base, so it must be sprayed on the floor," he explained. The effect is such that the insects rush out of the vicinity.

After one and a half years of research, Priyank created his signature repellant and gave sample bottles to friends and relatives. "I even gave it to many city derasars like Hutheesing Temple and Tapovan. Everyone has found it effective and fragrant too," he said. In the last three months, he has produced 2000 bottles of 500 ml each that have been delivered to Mumbai and Rajkot as well.

"The thought of killing insects used to gnaw at us but not anymore. We feel Priyank has done the Jain community proud by creating this spray. Even our monks are using it," said Amrish Parikh, a neighbour and friend of Priyank.

Another Jainism follower, Shripal Shah, 33, founded his store Asal to revive Indian traditional practices and promote vedic living. He produces matka silk, made by non violent methods. "Commercially, the silkworm inside the cocoon is boiled alive while making silk. Instead, we wait for the butterfly to fly out of the cocoon after which we let it dry for a few days on a mud base. Only then, the silk is produced," said Shripal, who brings the mulberry silk from Karnataka, gets it weaved in West Bengal and finally, gets it dyed and painted in Gujarat.

Shirpal also produces heeng or asafetida, a staple of many Jains, sans atta or flour. The ghee manufactured in his store is by boiling chaas and butter together. "The ghee in the market is made from heating the cream and organisms thrive in it once cooled," he said. His store also has chemical-free sugar, jaggery and copper utensils.

Vimal Bachhawat has been creating soaps and detergents that are 100% vegetarian for over 12 years now. Vimal along with his two sons, has been producing soaps from pure vegetable oils like olive oil, almond oil and kesar so that even the monks can use it without any trouble. "We don't test on animals either. As Jains, we are making products that we would want to use ourselves," he said.

Jain International Trade Organization (JITO), an important trade organization, promotes such endeavours. "We are soon starting venture capitalism and coming up with soft loans with subsidized interests for entrepreneurs who need help. Also, we help conduct business meets and promote such products at exhibitions at various places. Products based on this philosophy will have a great future," said Utkarsh Shah from JITO.

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