Srinivas Reddy Vudumula, Chief People Officer & Head-CSR, BFIL talked to India CSR on recent CSR development. Excerpts of an interview:
Briefly share the CSR projects undertaken by BFIL
BFIL’s key thematic areas of intervention have been Livelihood, Healthcare, Environment and Education. The Company’s niche in CSR has been in addressing social needs that remain unaddressed in the rural parts of the Country. Our impact initiatives are mostly – home grown and designed to converge with the existing Government resources aiming to tap a multi-fold reach-out, impact and sustainability. We have two key projects currently: Bharat Sanjeevani and Pragat.
Bharat Sanjeevani is our flagship initiative, aiding livelihood of rural livestock owners by reducing their financial and related stress in availing quality livestock care. 85% of small and marginal farmers in India own livestock as a primary or secondary source of income. But the challenges they face in availing quality care in terms of treatment, emergency or nutrition guidance for animal productivity are immense. One, they travel distances and spend on the transport of the large animal and forego the day’s labour. Two, the quality treatment (by a qualified Vet) and medicines are not assured despite making the effort. Three, in doing all this a huge time is elapsed which gradually deteriorates the animal health and it’s productivity, impacting their income too – beyond the long-term health impact on the animal.
What we have done at Sanjeevani is simply connected the farmer and the doctors through technology, Telemedicine system and a helpline. This has streamlined the service delivery such that farmer need not be at the mercy of anybody and avail services within defined timeframes at his doorstep, at nominal charges. The initiative has served over 14.39 Lakh Farmers in a span of four years and credited with around 13.64 Lakh Livestock treatments. The project is also a recipient of the National CSR Award in “Challenging Circumstances, East” in 2019.
BFIL’s other CSR initiative, Pragat is a holistic village project with initiatives to enhance access and empower communities in the areas of Watershed, Drinking Water, Healthcare, and School Education. The approach taken here was to make a concentrated effort to positively impact the community in multiple areas of basic need which are fundamental for progress. The project is being implemented across 12 villages of the Kalaburgi district, Karnataka with a population of 65,000. We are in the second year of the initiative and the collaboration we are able achieve in all projects from the public stakeholders is quite huge & a record or sorts. For instance, in the watershed project we were able to converge more than 80% funds from the Government schemes. During Covid, we could make significant impact in providing livelihood to hundreds of people through MNREGA scheme put to use through our watershed projects in multiple villages. Similarly, in the Drinking Water project, each village has many defunct RO plants. We decided to revive these defunct plants and ensure the community is trained to run these plants effectively. Our initiative has become a role model and we have received requests to replicate in other villages across the district.
This approach to collaborate with the public resources is also adopted in Education and Healthcare too. We are working with 35 Government Kannada medium schools and supporting the students to reduce their numeracy, literacy gaps, train the teachers to adopt new way teaching methodologies and distributed the required Teaching Learning Materials to bring the schools on par with any private schools. In healthcare we will aspire to provide quality primary healthcare at 12 Government Sub-centres through telemedicine with qualified doctors and specialists. We also ensure that there is basic screening for each walk-in and promote preventive care through NCD screenings and community awareness drives.
Why did BFIL choose to focus its CSR initiatives on empowering rural communities, especially farmers?
BFIL believes that Bharat lives in rural India. We have been a rural-centric company and having had operations in financial inclusion and banking across remote parts of 23 states and presence in over 1 lakh villages, we have the advantage of understanding this milieu and being aware of the challenges. In fact, the insights from our vast operations have helped us identify the gaps and build social impact projects accordingly. Our philosophy has always been to uplift the rural communities by bringing access to the right product and right service at their doorstep and we have adopted a similar approach in CSR as well.
What has been the impact seen through the initiatives?
The direct impact of Sanjeevani has been that it has served more than 15 Lakh farmers. We facilitate a host of livestock services like disease treatment, vaccination, artificial insemination and nutrition support. Apart from the number of treatments made, what we also measure is the number of critical cases we treated on-time, or the livestock lives we saved from critical medical conditions and its financial effect. We measure our impact by calculating the likely lives saved and the cost of the animal – and in other critical cases the productivity loss reduced with on-time and quality treatment. We estimate the notional financial loss avoided in treating 6 Lakh critical cases to be over Rs 3000 Cr. The farmers that we serviced & surveyed have expressed a 99% customer satisfaction in Jharkhand and 86% in Madhya Pradesh.
At Pragat too, we oversaw 5367 million litres of groundwater being enhanced across 3000 hectares, over 20,000 trees planted while each village now has a village watershed committee. The project is continuing in phases with intervention in supply-side as well demand-side water conservation.
For Drinking water, we have facilitated formation of 11 committees, who now own the operations of the RO trained plant. Local youth were identified and given technical training for working as operators. The committees now charges for annual memberships and runs their plants on the funds generated from it. 16.20 million litres water has been dispensed since last year..
Similarly, in Education we saw that 61% of the students identified with learning gaps in the baseline survey have moved one grade up in the Learning Enhancement and Practice sessions as conducted by our implementing agency. This year, we will also commence with our health care services.
What is your approach for the sustainability of projects?
In each of the projects that we work upon we have identified strong partnerships with public stakeholders and the community. Through our project implementation we put immense efforts in handholding and empowering all the stakeholders such that our exit would not impact the sustainability of the social initiatives.
Sanjeevani for instance, has joined hands with the Animal Husbandry Department of Madhya Pradesh Government since 2018 and aids them in smooth facilitation of veterinary services across the state. The platform in terms of the technology, Mobile App and Helpline can be leveraged by the government independently in the long run. Each of our projects has been a collaborative partnership with public stakeholders as well as community for sustainable impact.
What is the way forward in terms of BFIL’s CSR strategy and vision?
In terms of way forward, our goal remains to explore and identify social problems which need to be addressed, especially where we can bring our own expertise to the table. We will continue to look for areas where we can partner with local communities and government machinery and try to act as a multiplier to the resources being deployed. BFIL will deploy technological solutions, wherever possible, to reach the last mile and bridge the digital divide.