Hackathon 2017: A platform to create opportunities for problem solvers in Ranchi

“What we realized is that people have confused social startups and community building in a big way so we have kept things very simple for people this time with Hackathon 2017. If you talk to women entrepreneurs locally, setting up a selai kadai (tailoring & embroidery) centre is what entrepreneurship is all about. Since they get empowered by doing what they do, that seems to be the only way to solve the issues that they have, which may not completely be correct. There are many options and ways and there are lots of organisations doing lots of good work but there is a lack of co-ordination among them. Hackathon 2017 is an avenue where we are trying to bring all of them together,” says Amitesh Anand, (member Random Hacks of Kindness Ranchi and Co-Founder of 99Leap) speaking from his experience of working with the Jharkhand Open Coffee Club in three cities of Jharkhand namely Ranchi, Jamshedpur and Bokaro.

Hackathon 2017

Launched in 2015, Hackathon is going into its second edition with Hackathon 2017 to be held on July 8 and 9, 2017 in the capital city of Jharkhand, Ranchi. Organised by the STPI, 99 Leap and co-hosted by Random Hacks of Kindness (RHOK), Hackathon 2017 is a two-day hackathon that is supported by the Government of Jharkhand, 10000 Startups, KIIT TBI, Nath Corp and Point Blank 7. The community outreach partners for this event include Jharkhand Open Coffee Club, and Rise Up. It is worth noting that this RHOK’s second hackathon for this year. The first hackathon was conducted in Bangalore in June 2017.

Three problem statements have been set for this hackathon for the participants to choose from, namely road safety, digital blood bank and fake facts. With respect to road safety, teams are expected to create a digitized means to immediate responseinfrastructure to save lives. Similarly, teams working on digital blood banks are expected to create a digital framework to bridge the gap between blood bank, donors and recipients. Interestingly, the third problem statement tries to tackle the problem of fake news and rumours on the Internet.

Rise Up will mentor the participants working on road safety while Life Savers will mentor the participants working on digital blood bank and Point Blank 7, a media company and 99Leap will work with teams on fake facts. Participants are expected to take on a problem and build a solution within 36 hours. During the course of the hackathon, several short talks will also be conducted on the different problem statements to help the participants. Any person enthusiastic about solving the above mentioned problems could sign up for this hackathon. A background in technology is not a prerequisite to participate. Registrations for the hackathon will be open till July 7, 2017.

Winners of the hackathon will get prize money. Amount is yet to be announced. However, the winners of the B-plan competition will get prize money of Rs.50,000, Rs.15,000 and Rs.10,000 for the first, second and third prizes respectively. Apart from this, the website says that these ideas will also get a chance to be incubated by KIIT TBI’s social incubation program – INVENT. Apart from 99Leap and INVENT, several other incubators will also be present at the hackathon.

Inclusive of women? 

When asked about women’s participation in the hackathon, in technological and entrepreneurial spaces in Ranchi,

Anand says, “Honestly, we are trying to work with many local organisations working on women empowerment. But they don’t working on technology and women empowerment together. We are trying to create that awareness. We want to first initiate a platform and then get more interested people on to it. As of now, we have not kept any specific focus on getting women in tech to also join us.”

What really stops women from participating in these spaces in Jharkhand? Turns out that there could be more to it going beyond gender inequality.

“The issue isn’t specific to men or women here right now. People study here and then move. They have their family here but they move out to either work or study. They never come back. The problem here is at a different level. We are trying to create local opportunities so that people understand the opportunities that technology has to offer. We are far behind other states in those terms,” says Anand. As for women participation in this year’s hackathon, so far the registration stands at a total of 40 people, out of which, 15 or 16 are women.

Startup Pitch competition

Along with this hackathon, there is also a startup pitch competition that is happening on the same dates. Interested teams may apply for the startup pitch competition. Audrey House Ranchi, an art museum is the venue of the event. Though the INVENT calls itself a social incubation program, the program has been made open to other applications beyond social enterprise as well, says Raaj. So far, there are around 24 teams for business pitches. The participants of the hackathon will be pitching their product created during the hackathon independent of this startup pitch competition. The hackers have the choice of building their product built during this hackathon into a for-profit or not-for-profit business.

Understanding the idea of hackathon and social issues

“Social issues have been introduced to also include participants from the social sector.Today people think that technology is about making money and not solving issues. This is going to change with time where communities like Random Hacks of Kindness have a very important role to play. I wish that many other communities explore, volunteer and take things forward. We are trying to create a platform for people from corporates, government, technologists and people from other backgrounds to come together and work together and create an impact. We want to get those dialogues happening,” says Anand.

But will building a platform to engage the community on a social level be done with one hackathon? What will ensure the success of this engagement?

“Since the government is also pushing startups with the new Startup Policy, this year’s hackathon will be a series of hackathons. There will be a hackathon happening every 45 days in Ranchi to build a culture of innovation. The startup ecosystem in Jharkhand is still at an immature stage,” explains Raghu Raaj, Co-Founder 99Leap.

The next hackathon will be on agriculture followed by a hackathon on block chain apps. RHOK will be partnering with all these hackathons. These hackathons will be organized by 99Leap, the incubator that incubates startups from Jharkhand and co-hosted by Random Hacks of Kindness.

However, Anand says, “Honestly I’m not expecting lot of success to come with our way in this hackathon or the next hackathon. Our success would be in continuing this in a very big way for at least for next one year. Then it will start impacting the community and then we can start doing what we intend to do.”

Disclaimer: Hidden Pockets is a media partner of Random Hacks of Kindness

Coaching Centres in Ranchi: the transformation and transgression #makeyourcityinclusive

“With the increase in student crowd in the city, a need for better administration hasn’t been achieved. This has led to increase in accidents due to lack of regulations. Also the residential areas are turning into commercial areas, for example Lalpur, and still there is no parking space. These places have become unsafe for girls,” observes a local resident.

That stretch of road in Lalpur, especially in the evenings, is always busy, always chirpy, and full of young people. The area is an administrative nightmare. Local residents express their displeasure and concerns rising out of the sudden mushrooming of coaching centres. With the State Government lobbying to establish Ranchi as an educational hub, one wonders what attracts coaching centres and students to the city.

Why coaching centres in Ranchi?

Crediting it to the small town mentality, the local residents who have both studied and taught for several years in Ranchi, say that schooling has always been at par if not better than the metros of the country. “For parents who don’t have enough time, sending their child to a coaching institute where the student is taught all the subjects under one roof is convenient,” laments a secondary school teacher who chose to stay anonymous. To him, with the advent of mobile phones, television, and working mothers, the city has seen a decline in the quality of students; and the coaching centres are taking an advantage of the lifestyle change.

Mrs. Supriya, whose son recently joined a private engineering college after attending coaching classes, shares that there are many mothers in her residential building who have moved to Ranchi with their children to avail the provisions of schools and coaching institutes. There are many students from nearby cities and towns, like Bokaro, Dhanbad, Purulia et al, who move for more opportunities.

Riya*, a resident of Bokaro has been preparing for Banking exams for over two years while living in a apartment-turned hostel. Her decision to come to Ranchi was because Ranchi is cheaper than Patna. Incidentally, her career choice is heavily influenced by her location as a girl from a lower middle class family. She coyly adds that the only negative in the city is that they have to adhere to the rules that the hostel owners deem fit. They forcefully fit in four in a room meant for two people, adding to the ‘they are in it for the money’ discourse. While students are policed, very rarely are these places questioned about their quality of the service.


Is there a market for education? Is it inclusive?

Managing Director of an established coaching institute with nationwide presence claims that most institutes haven’t established themselves in vacuum. With Ranchi becoming a capital, more students have been applying from this city. Talking about the culture of these institutes, a student of Class 11 says, “They will do everything in their power to get you to enrol; and after that you are on your own. They only care about IIT, Medical students.” Most of the girls join these classes together as parents would otherwise not allow them to go out in the evenings. The basis for choosing the institute was the fact that it provided bus service to their students who paid extra. A battle between gender and class?

Reminisce of a ‘selfless’ time where the teacher shared a warm relation with their student, the teachers we spoke to constantly reiterated their concerns about working mothers considering that the student is only a boy! Are coaching classes banking on people who never had the opportunity in schools or with traditional tutors because of inherent biases? These are the voices that get left out when talking about making education accessible and inclusive, about meritocracy.


Ranchi – an educational hub?

Along with coaching centres , there is a sudden growth in the number of colleges offering varied courses in Ranchi. Students whose cities offer fewer options for further studies choose these colleges, but it may not be the first priority for local students with the privilege of choice. Farah chose to pursue her post-graduation in a premier institute in Ranchi because of its brand and a welcome change to the orthodox culture of her city. Mrs. Supriya observes that in her circle of friends, students whose families are based in Ranchi aspire to leave town for their higher studies. One wonders if this is a case of upward mobility and better opportunities. Having said that, little changes in the city are hopeful – Chandni, a Class 11 student sums it up the best, “I feel liberated when I drive my scootie on the streets as late as 8 in the evening. I can do that because there are so many of us now.

*name changed on request of the individual

Are we ready to talk about Mental health in our cities?

Tumhara gaon kahan hai?” (Where is your hometown?)


Arey, wahan toh paagal khana hai, tabhi tum aisi ho. Haha!” (There is a famous mental asylum there, that explains why you are the way you are. Haha!)

Before there was Jharkhand, and before Dhoni became synonymous to Ranchi, the few people who had heard of ‘my’ city would often use this as a jibe against me. The people of Agra might relate to this. I already didn’t relate to the city, and the ‘Paagal Khana’ reference made me want to distance myself further – “Jodhpur is my birthplace”, I would protest. My experience of the city was limited to being pampered by my grandparents – my Didun-Dada and Tham-Tham every summer. I ‘saw’ the city by accompanying my zealous Dada to his favourite areas of the city – this we did up until he started becoming forgetful.

We recently lost Dada after he battled Alzheimer’s for over a decade. Despite the generation gap, nostalgia was the coping mechanism for everyone. Titbits about the older generation as youngsters are guilty pleasures – glimpsing into their faltering moments, the tables seem to turn. These stories made me feel inquisitive and indulgent and I started pestering Didun about her life before us – her experiences of the partition, the famous people she’s met, her first job – the list is endless and the stories are so rich.

A history that is three centuries old

During our regular sessions, Didun revealed that her father had briefly worked at the Lunatic Asylum. While its history dates back to 1725 AD, the institution was shifted to Kanke (where it is located presently) in the year 1925, and renamed Indian Mental Hospital. Didun’s recalls this was post independence and before its nomenclature was again altered to Ranchi Mansik Arogyashala (RMA) in 1958. Being a family member of the Staff, she had more access than the general public. I grew up having a Bollywood imagination of that space and was visibly taken aback – to which Didun said that in the 50s, Ranchi was a favourable holiday destination, and this was one of the tourist spots!

RINPAS main gate


Having the privilege of learning my inherent biases around mental health, this act of voyeurism made me very agitated. Immune to such outbursts, Didun continued to narrate snapshots of her experience. There were two wings – the European wing treated English patients and Indian royalty while the Indian wing housed poorer patients and sounded less charming. Every Thursday, Didun and her sister would attend a social in the European Wing – they were briefed to not refuse any patient for a dance. I pictured an Enid Blyton boarding school scenario and devoured these stories with rapt attention.

Baseless taboo around mental illness

I asked her if that space was a taboo for people around her and she shared that when the hospital bus would come to the city for special occasions, there was discomfort among the general public. She remembers a patient confronting this, “To you we are abnormal, and to us, you are!” It seemed like she wanted to pass this memory on as learning for me. Soon after, she chuckled remembering a man who taunted her saying, “Bhishon rodhh lagche? Nehru ke bolun chhata debe!” (Is it too sunny for your liking? Tell Jawaharlal Nehru to get you an umbrella) She kept reiterating that these were not ‘violent’ patients, and many recovered and later lead ‘normal’ lives. My friend, a mental health professional, had revealed this to be the strongest bias, ultimately leading to fear of such spaces.

Upon hearing Didun’s experience, I wanted to visit the place and give shape to my imaginations. I mentally reprimanded myself for toeing the ‘50s tourist’s line! There was an instant sense of pride when Didun told me that the famous poet of undivided Bengal, Kazi Nazrul Islam, was briefly treated here. Didun was in college and remembers the excitement it had caused in the city – especially among students who revered him. The romantics in us rejoiced upon hearing the legend of his illness – it is said that he could not cope with Tagore’s death! This reminded me that we had to consciously stop ourselves from romanticizing Didun’s bout of depression after Dada passed away.

Pride of the city!

I genuinely believed that I had overcome my childhood conservatism that made me take offence of being from a city that houses one of the largest Mental Health Institutions of Asia, but it is clear that I will have to keep checking myself – I have a biased imagination of the perfect mental health patient.

At present, Ranchi Institute of Neuro-Psychiatry & Allied Sciences, RINPAS is a premier mental health institution; and according to the limited news articles I found, it is not a perfect paradise. In a way, it is indicative of our priorities as a city defined by the discourses around mental health. Hopefully, someday when (if) a kid is teased for having a ‘Paagal Khana’ in their city, this would be a thing of pride for them!

(Photo Credit: http://rinpas.nic.in/history.html)