Inclusive Society Ensures a Dignified Role for All Citizens

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By Suresh Kr Pramar

What is an inclusive society? According to the Expert Group on Promoting Social Integration, “An inclusive society is one that over-rides differences of race, gender, class, generation, and geography, and ensures inclusion, equality of opportunity for all members of the society to determine an agreed set of social institutions that govern social interaction.” The World Summit for Social Development (Copenhagen 1995) defines it as a “society for all in which every individual, each with rights and responsibilities, has an active role to play”.

India has still a long way to go to qualify as a really inclusive society. While the country has made outstanding economic progress and the number of super rich have increased, the gap between the rich and the poor has increased. According to latest figures the number of  those living under the poverty line is estimated at 37 percent of the total population of the country. The strains of a non inclusive society are all too evident in the newspaper headlines every morning In last two decades income inequality has doubled in India according to a report by the Paris based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). In 1990s the top 10 percent of wage earners used to earn 6 times more than the bottom 10 percent, which has now doubled and become 12 times. The top 10 percent of earners make almost

five times more than the median 10 percent, but this median 10 percent makes just 0.4 times more than the bottom 10 percent. This rise of fiscal inequality has a relative rise in the rewards to well-educated individuals who have benefited from the advance of new technologies. The report found that this technological progress made in the manufacturing and service sectors, has mostly benefited highly – skilled workers, and left behind the little educated or trained Gandhiji was perhaps the first Indian leader to call for creating an inclusive society   through his concept of Trusteeship. “Earn your crores but understand that your wealth is not yours; it belongs to society. Take what you require for your legitimate needs and use the remainder for society.” Mahatma Gandhi said while earning profit was right the businessman needs to show concern towards his less fortunate fellow beings

Over the past two decades, Corporate Social Responsibility has found strong support among Indian business houses. According to The World Business Council For Sustainable Development, CSR is “the continuing commitment by business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the work force and their families as well as of the local community and society at large.” CSR within companies can become an important driver of inclusive development.

The present socio-economic environment necessitates that industry plays a more constructive role for achieving inclusiveness and complementing the ongoing efforts of Government and civil society in enhancing social equity. Poverty, employment and sustainable development are the challenges facing the creation of an inclusive society. When we talk of industry’s efforts to promote inclusive evelopment we refer mainly to the responsibility of business towards the community/society. Every business house which claims to practice CSR is involved in community beneficial projects. Studies indicates that a majority of these community investments are in the area of education, health and livelihood creation.

There are several critical areas wherein industry/business can play a role in creating an inclusive society. I will take up only five which I feel are very important. These are Poverty Eradication, Education, Health, Livelihoods and tribal development. These are not the only issues which require attention but for want of space I will take up only these at present.

Poverty is the key challenge. It limits the access of people to the most basic levels of social inclusion, in the form of material deprivation, such as the inability to afford shelter and buy food. The poor often lack the will and capacity to act, are psychologically disempowered, as they feel excluded from the greater society, and discouraged from becoming visible, participating and contributing.

Industry/business can help fight poverty by providing increased employment.In his address to the CII National Conference a few years ago Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, stressed on the need to generate increased employment. He said “Employment generation is one important pillar of any strategy of inclusive growth we must focus on creating far more jobs in manufacturing.  It is imperative that we rapidly expand the creation of jobs in the manufacturing sector which alone can absorb the large surplus manpower in our rural areas. This is an axiom which all political leaders and opinion makers must realise if we have to provide a decent livelihood to all our people.”

Industry can create opportunities for vocational training to enable job seekers acquire skills in different trades thereby making them employable. The common refrain among industries in new locations is that they do not get the right types of skills in the local community.

Manufacturing units need to set up training programmes to train local youth to man some of the positions in the organization. Many organizations have started such training centres where different trades are being taught.

GMR Foundation has a Training Centre located near the new Hyderabad Airport. The Centre offers short term training facilities in various trades. Called the Empowerment/Livelihoods it is designed to make youth employable and facilitate livelihood. In addition to providing in house training the project offers Educational loans, scholarships to professional courses. Running courses with industry and academic partners like Voltas, NAC, VLCC, Jain Irrigation, etc. Those trained at the Centre secure direct job opportunities with airport concessionaires. More than 800 youth from around the area placed at airport including candidates trained at the Centre. In addition, 60 youth trained for driving for their own enterprise.

Education: Education can play a very important role in the fight against poverty. It can empower those who are marginalized or excluded from participating in discussions and decision-making. Our literacy rate is about 61 percent. There are almost 50 million children still out of school. A majority of these are located in urban slums and our villages. All these children need to be given equal educational opportunity as well as an education of acceptable quality.

A majority of companies involved in CSR are investing in education. These interventions are mainly in the area of constructions of school buildings or classrooms, providing teaching material, organizing sports and cultural activities. While these are necessary and welcome  there is an urgent need to look into the real requirements of the village and poor children.

There is need to make education more interesting and closer to their needs. Some business houses, like the Premji Foundation, have started thinking out of the box and are bringing in new ideas and systems.

They have begun to look at education in its totality from the curriculum, the training of teachers to increase their motivation.

Child Friendly schools, drawn up by the Azim Premji Foundation, as a concept fosters democratisation of education. It promotes classroom activities and behaviour results in effective learning. It positively incorporates the involvement of children, families and communities in their children’s schooling CFS deals with issues both within the classroom and school, as well as the community. In-school intervention provides support to curriculum implementation, the teacher, teaching learning process and improvement of the school and classroom environment.

The programme also supports positive school-community interface to ensure effective involvement and participation of the community. This concept has resulted in a marked difference in the punctuality of the teachers. The teachers attend school regularly and come on time. This helps create an atmosphere of seriousness and helps in children being engaged right from the morning. Children attend school eagerly and get engaged in learning activities at home.

There are several similar interventions which are proving very successful and are helping rural and poor children to access education. Health care available to a vast majority of people in India is still of a very poor quality. There is still a Lack of quality healthcare services, Inaccessibility, and Affordability. 73% of population lives in rural India, whereas around 27% live in urban areas. 75% of health infrastructure, medical HR are concentrated in urban areas. Water borne & Tropical diseases are the commonest causes of morbidity and mortality in rural settings, mostly preventable and treatable.

One million newborns die within the first 28 days of life, of these 90% are preventable, 2.1 million children die annually before reaching their fifth birthday, One infant dies every 15 seconds. One woman dies every seven minutes due to pregnancy related complications, most of them preventable. All this is because for a vast majority of people particularly those living in the rural inaccessible areas and the urban poor quality health care is still not available.

Health Care: Several corporates have started providing health care facilities. These are mainly in the area of sending mobile health units with the necessary medical staff to the villages. These provide medical care and medicines. In serious cases many offer to admit such patients in hospitals in the urban areas.

While curing diseases is essential and the health services offered by the corporates/business are noteworthy there is serious need to rethink these activities. More attention needs to be paid on the preventative aspects as well. Most of the medical problems faced by the rural population are the result of unsanitary living conditions and uncontaminated drinking water. There is need to take up projects which will tackle these issues.

The Nice Foundation, Hyderabad has take up a programme to ensure comprehensive healthcare for children accessing government schools, covering common cold to cardiac surgery. It is very effectively using health care as a tool to promote schooling. The objective of this programme which is in operation in Andhra Pradesh and 40 centres in Rajasthan is to reduce absenteeism and increase retention amongst government school going child due to health related reasons. Using the slogan Not well come to School the project offers  preventive, promotive, curative services.

Tribals: Today the section of the Indian population which feels most neglected are the tribals. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has conceded that the Indian state and establishment have abused and exploited the country’s more than 80 million tribal people.“There has been a systemic failure in giving the tribals a stake in the modern economic processes that inexorably intrude into their living spaces,” According to the 1991 Census about 68 million. The present spate of violence and killing in most of the tribal populated states is an indication of the strong feeling of exclusiveness felt by the tribal population. Reservation in academic institutions and government jobs has not helped very much. It has made these communities more isolated from the mainstream.

One way to help tribal communities to shed their isolation would be by giving them necessary social and economic skills. This could be possible with the provision of special schools tailored to their needs where they could be taught not merely the three R’s but also vocational trades.

Many tribal schools are plagued by high dropout rates. Children attend for the first three to four years of primary school and gain a smattering of knowledge, only to lapse into illiteracy later. Few who enter continue up to the tenth grade; of those who do, few manage to finish high school. Therefore, very few are eligible to attend institutions of higher education, where the high rate of attrition continues.

The Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences, Bhubaneswar,a  sister concern of  The Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology, was set up in 1993 to provide a natural ambience for educating the tribal children. The school has adopted the mission “To build up KISS as a preferred centre of learning for the poorest of the poor tribal children of the society with a focus on formal and livelihood education and scope for all-round development”.

The school has been developed in a way similar to that of their own habitations to make them comfortable in the new environment and imbibe them with self confidence and sense of true dedication for the realization of larger goals in life. The school provides free and good quality education and accommodation to tribal children of Orissa.  It covers 60 tribal groups from the 30 districts of Orissa which includes 13 primitive  tribal groups.

This residential campus has natural leisurely ambience with a humane touch of affection and care for the little inmates. The concept of a ‘home away from home’ finds true expression in this campus. Tribal culture, heritage and tradition have always been given precedence over the academic curriculum. In the last year (2007) in KISS the pass percentage in High School Certificate Examination has been 100% which include 8 students in first division.

The students of KISS have also performed well in State Children Science Congress (SCSC). One of the +2 Science student from KISS stood first in project preparation competition of SCSC and participated in National Children Science Congress held at Maharastra in 2007. Another student also bagged second prize in poster competition in the same SCSC programme. Another student of class 9 of KISS participated in Indian Science Congress held at Vishakapatnam in 2007. The year is also marked by great achievements in sports. The Under -14 rugby team of KISS   won the Rugby World Cup held in England beating South Africa in final.

Industry/business and particularly those operating in tribal areas should set up such institutions for the benefit of tribal children. Children educated in such institutions will not need the clutch of reservation to find their place in society and the employment market. Students of the KISS have done the country proud by winning international prizes in rugby and other sports.

Inclusion is the realization that everyone has essential dignity and everyone has something to contribute. Social inclusion can be described as a “multidimensional process aimed at lowering economic, social and cultural boundaries between those who are included and excluded, and making these boundaries more permeable”.

No one becomes included by receiving handouts, even if these handouts are given by public bodies and with public resources. No one becomes included by being treated by a program in which they are no more than a number or a statistic. Inclusion is connection to the network of community development, it is to become more than a  speck of dust, to have a forename and surname, with one’s own distinctive features, skills and abilities, able to receive and give stimulus, to imitate and be imitated, to participate in a process of changing one’s own life and collective life.

(Suresh Kr Pramar, Speaker, Trainer, Writer,  CSR Consultant and the Executive Director, Centre for Training & Research in Responsible Business is a veteran journalist presently actively involved in promoting CSR through workshops on Corporate Social Responsibility.  He is regular contributor to INDIACSR. He can be reached at suresh.pramar@gmail.com,sureshpramar@outlook.com )

(www.indiacsr.in)

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