Ideas and Action for a Better India
India and China together are poised to lead the world into the 21st Century, just as the Western powers shaped the global agenda in the 19th and the 20th Centuries. However, in spite of the remarkable progress made by the two countries in recent decades, both countries face similar challenges. Socioeconomic equality and protection of the environment are some of the biggest challenges that confront not only India and China, but most of the world’s emerging nations.
The key speakers at this event were Mr. Wang Lujun, CEO, SEPCOIII Electric Power Construction Corporation, Qingdai (Shandong Province) China, and Mr. Shivaji Dam, Director, Kotak Foundation. Dr. Praful Barvalia of the M. B. Barvalia Foundation and Mr. Dayanand Jadhav of the Triratna Prerna Mandal – two of Mumbai’s leading NGOs which were felicitated on this occasion by SEPCOIII – also made presentations about their selfless social service on the occasion. The chief guest was Mr. Sanjay Dina Patil, a Lok Sabha MP from Mumbai.
This newsletter, while trying to capture the essence of the role of CSR in both countries, mainly elaborates on the yeoman service rendered by the Barvalia Foundation and Triratna Prerna Mandal in their respective areas of work.
The event began with the rendition of a melodious devotional song by the children of a spontaneous poignant chord with audience.
M. B. Barvalia Foundation
After brief welcome and introductory remarks by Ms. Radha Viswanathan of ORF, Dr. Praful Barvalia explained in detail the journey of the M. B. Barvalia Foundation since 1997, when it began its services with a focus on holistic health and value-based education to the needy children in some of Mumbai’s largest slums in the eastern suburbs of Ghatkopar, Mankhurd and Govandi. Integrating homeopathy and yoga with its therapeutic approaches, the foundation applied itself to the task of evolving a multidisciplinary medical intervention structure for the treatment and care of slum children suffering from physical and mental disabilities like autism. As it progressed, the foundation also opened special schools imparting vocational education to these children. Today, thanks to the foundation’s relentless efforts, many special children are being successfully rehabilitated into the social mainstream.
Over the years, with the objective of maximising its outreach among children suffering from mental impairment, the foundation has approached mainstream schools in the vicinity of these slums. A survey conducted among a sample of 3,213 children in these schools identified 778 children with varying degrees of impairment at cognitive or intellectual level. “Realizing the gravity of the matter, we decided to tackle this problem in a structured manner. We treated these children with homeopathy, counseling and other psycho-educational methods. We have also helped some of these schools start ‘Remedial Teaching’ courses for improvement of children with atypical cognitive problems and learning disorders,” Dr. Barvalia explained. The foundation has so far helped impart special training to 1200 teachers, and remarkably, principals of many schools have confirmed improved academic progress of their students after the medical and therapeutic intervention.
Besides, the foundation is also actively working on the issue of teenage suicides and children with extreme emotive tendencies, as well as other – more common – medical aspects like malaria, malnutrition and anemia. “Our doctors and other paramedic staff conduct extensive psychological screenings of these slum children and we have come across many children with definite depressive features and a high vulnerability to depression traits. Such screenings have helped us treat not only such children suffering from depressive traits, but also many other children suffering from various medical anomalies and disorders, who would otherwise have never had been shown to a doctor,” Dr. Barvalia pointed out. Over the years, social workers and community development workers of government hospitals have helped the Foundation to build a strong community network. It has also collaborated with other child care organizations and the state government for various activities.
Currently, Dr. Barvali has embarked on an ambitious project to establish the ‘Deonar Mother Child Hospital’; a comprehensive rehabilitation centre, on a 32,000 sq ft plot allotted by the municipal corporation. This hospital will cater to diverse geographical area and offer holistic medical services for multiple types of disabilities. Besides being the first public hospital providing neonatal intensive care in the entire Deonar area, it will also offer integrated multidisciplinary healthcare to children from distant areas across Maharashtra. This facility will be designed to cover the entire spectrum of disability under one roof, including having an ultramodern centre for autistic children. The government’s AYUSH (ayurveda, yoga & naturopathy, unani, siddha and homoeopathy) department has already considered this facility as a ‘centre of excellence’ and sanctioned Rs. 1 crore for establishment of an R&D centre to be set up here.
Triratna Prerana Mandal
Mr. Dayanand Jadhav of Triratna Prerana Mandal narrated inspirational journey of the organisation from its origins in a small slum of Khotwadi at Santacruz (West) in suburban Mumbai. The Mandal, formed with the primary objective of improving conditions of local sanitation, started off by maintaining the slum’s public toilets. From maintaining public toilets, the Triratna Prerna Mandal today has become the medium for an extraordinary socio-economic and environmental revolution in the entire area.
As the work began, several community issues started surfacing. Public health turned out to be a serious issue in the area. The Mandal expanded its focus to controlling ailments caused mainly due to years of lack of proper sanitation. They also started ‘Garbage Collection and Segregation Centre’ to check ailments spreading from the garbage that littered the area. This centre provided permanent employment to rag-pickers around the slum area. Even the project of compost production from waste took off in a modest way.
A survey conducted by the Mandal revealed the inability of local children to pay fees to learn computers. To overcome this issue, the Mandal started the ‘Triratna Computer Centre’ on the roof of the public toilet to provide computer education at lower fees, which has resulted into increased employment potential of the slum youth. Inspired by the success of the computer cenre, the Mandal has also embarked on several educational activities for the slum children at the pre-primary and nursery levels.
Financial hardship of domestic women was another area of concern. The Mandal started a Mid-day Meal scheme by giving self-employment to hard-pressed women, who provided nutritious snacks and lunches to the children of the municipal schools in the area. Besides, the Mandal also incorporated tailoring and English speaking classes as part of its ongoing and ever-growing activities.
The relentless determination in bringing about a silent revolution for the residents of the slum was rewarded in 2007 when the Triratna Prerna Mandal won the prestigious Urban Age Award instituted by the Deutsche Bank which recognises projects that improve the physical conditions of communities and the lives of their residents, establishing a network of urban initiatives at the grassroots level.
Today, with support from the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, the Mandal has adopted a playground and developed a community centre in the area. This centre offers vocational training courses for women, includes a sports centre and a gymnasium for youth. Around 275 youngsters from the slum area are involved in the various activities of this centre. Working zealously for these youngsters has become motto of the Mandal. The centre has also started rain water harvesting and tree plantation to rejuvenate the local environment. An artificial pond for Ganpati immersion, set up by the Mandal each Ganeshotsav has motivated local people to celebrate eco-friendly Ganesh festival for the last three years.
The Mandal has now planned to set up a solar power plant atop the public toilet, for which it has obtained financial grants from the Maharashtra government.
Concluding his awe inspiring presentation, Mr. Dayanand Jadhav assured the Chinese consulates and SEPCOIII for judicious utilisation of funds. He said that the funds would be utilised to make women self-reliant, to create sports and educational activities for youth and several other noble tasks. He considered the act of benevolence by SEPCOIII as a great responsibility and assured complete integrity and transparency in all its activities.
Mr. Wang Lujun, CEO of SEPCOIII expressed his happiness to be a part of this, what he described as a “memorable event”. He said that SEPCOIII has made annual CSR plans for various social activities across its global plant locations.
He praised both M B Barvalia Foundation and Triratna Prerana Mandal for their moving work having direct bearing on human destiny. He said that besides its CSR programmes in China, SEPCOIII is committed for the improvement of economic development of local communities in all the global locations they are present in. Mr. Lujun also said that in the future SEPCOIII would desire to furnish necessary infrastructure to advance living standards of local people in India.
Currently, SEPCOIII is present in Gujarat, Haryana and Orissa, where it is committed to the cause of skill-enhancement of its employees, giving more employment opportunities to Indians and developing regional economy in the process. Mr. Wang explained that these initiatives are reflected in the mission of SEPCOIII, viz., creating excellent product and satisfaction of customers. He urged ORF to initiate more welfare practices and to contribute to the well-being of Indian people. He hoped that both the countries would develop much deeper and closer cooperation in future.
In an informative discourse on CSR, Mr. Shivaji Dam of Kotak Foundation highlighted the growing importance of the role of CSR for community development. Rattling off eye-opening statistics, he explained that there is direct correlation between below poverty line (BPL) families and lack of school education. He explained the concept of generational poverty interlinked with lack of literacy. In 2007, ‘Kotak Education Foundation’ began its activities in the areas of education and livelihood. School dropouts from BPL families between the age group of 18 to 25 were chosen by the Foundation for a three month’s vocational training. After the training they were linked with various employers for jobs with remuneration of Rs. 6,000 rupees per month. Continuing this programme till date, the Kotak Foundation has trained around three thousand youth and intends to bring many in its fold.
The Kotak Foundation is also working closely with several schools for catering to the needs of 20,000 children from BPL families, who, otherwise, would have been forced to drop-out because of various socioeconomic constraints. “At Kotak Foundation attempts are made to inculcate positive thoughts and employable skill sets in these children. Besides, we is also conduct programmes to instill managerial skills in the principals of partner schools. The Foundation also works closely with 2,000 parents to seek their involvement in their child’s education. This helps us not only work in the area of education, but also in the area of healthcare such as eye problems, malnutrition etc.,” Mr. Dam said.
Mr. Dam lamented the fact that concept of CSR is not yet fully understood by India Inc. He also expressed disappointment over less allocation of funds for CSR activities. He pointed out that many corporates ran CSR programmes just for the sake of it, often delegating such work to be supervised by a junior ranking officer or by its HR department. On the other hand, the NGO’s, who are the chief beneficiaries of the funds, lack management expertise due to shortage of quality people. “We must realise that CSR is not just giving the money away, but by ensuring that we partner the NGOs and other beneficiaries to ideate, build strategies and to impart managerial skill-sets,” he said. He expressed that organisations like ORF can play very important role in streamlining fund transfer processes between corporates and NGO’s.
Mr. Niu Qingbao, Consul General of People’s Republic of China in Mumbai said that both Chinese and Indian people have always carried traditional virtues of caring for needy people. Quoting the great philosopher Confucius, he said that CSR was relevant now than ever before. “I am happy that the teachings of Confucius are being implemented by SEPCOIII,” he said, thanking ORF for the pivotal role played “in making this happen”.
Mr. Sanjay Dina Patil, Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha) expressed that the government of India is trying best to coordinate corporate efforts in the CSR field. He praised ORF for creating awareness of CSR initiatives through its committed engagement with the issue. He said that interaction with Chinese people would help to know CSR activities in China. Mr. Patil assured cooperation from the government to both Indian and Chinese companies to facilitate their CSR initiatives. He also expressed the need for the government to constantly interact with the corporate sector to not just arouse them for social commitment, but to also learn from their CSR initiatives.
In his concluding remarks Mr. Sudheendra Kulkarni, Chairman of ORF Mumbai, expressed severe disappointment over section of Indians harboring prejudice and misconception about China. He explained that generosity of SEPCOIII has proved them futile and baseless. “This event should be an eye opener for everyone,” he remarked, quoting the celebrated poet Khalil Gibran’s words: “You give but little when you give of your possessions. When you give of yourself, it is then you truly give”.
Mr. Kulkarni said that people from SEPCOII and Chinese Consulate spent hours with the two NGO’s to understand their activities and empathize with the beneficiaries. He said that they were not only giving money, but something of themselves also. Mr. Kulkarni called this as the true spirit of CSR. “Even though SEPCOIII has no business in Mumbai, still they have decided to touch lives of people in the city,” he said, expressing optimism that such interactions would build enduring relationships between both countries.
The meeting ended with representatives of SEPCOIII signing Memorandums of Understanding with both NGOs and handing over donations amidst cheerful applause.