Interview: Sita Ram Gupta on Lupin’s CSR Impact

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BHARTPUR (Rajasthan): Lupin Foundation has its focus on developing and implementing a variety of sustainable rural development programmes, with special emphasis on economic development programmes for the poorest of the poor, marginalized sections of the society, youth and women. In a conversation with Rusen Kumar, Editor, India CSR Network; Sita Ram Gupta, Executive Director of Lupin Human Welfare & Research Foundation (LHWRF), elaborates on the Foundation’s integrated and holistic rural development activities across nine states.

What does CSR mean for Lupin?

Corporate Social Obligation (CSO), as we refer to it in Lupin, is ingrained within the DNA of our organization. Lupin’s CSO vision is centred on instituting well-planned, sustainable, and integrated rural development initiatives that allow the Foundation to become a proactive partner in the process of nation building. This involves a continual focus on enhancing productivity, diversification and technology infusion in agriculture, animal husbandry and the non-farm sector to upgrade economically-backward households in our area of operation.

We believe that operations, scalability and sustainability are vital to the success of our projects and therefore work closely with Central or State Government departments as well as international organizations to achieve these objectives. Our CSO strategy therefore hinges around convergences and collaborations.

What prompted the establishment of the Lupin Foundation, and why was it initially focused on Bharatpur?

Our founder, Dr. Desh Bandhu Gupta, has always believed that poverty can be eradicated by developing sustainable and replicable models of economic activity. He had enormous empathy for the poor and downtrodden, and so endeavoured, throughout his life, to combat the scourge of poverty and serve the underserved.

Bharatpur can be considered the ‘home’ of Lupin Foundation, due to its status as the Foundation’s first centre, founded on 2nd October, 1988. It was chosen as Lupin had no business interests in Bharatpur, with the objective of setting-up operations centred exclusively on the enhancement of the socio-economic state of the district. We achieve this through the implementation of innovative solutions and evolution of a sustainable and dynamic district development model.

Could you tell us about the primary areas of intervention for the Foundation and the extent of its interventions?

From its inception in Bharatpur, Rajasthan, and its first year of operation covering 33 villages, the region has grown to be the biggest in terms of outreach covering 1,836 villages across 14 blocks and 5 districts.

Nationally, the Lupin Foundation positively impacts the lives of 2.8 million people living in over 3,500 villages spread across 9 states – Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Goa, Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Jammu, Andhra Pradesh, and Sikkim.

What are some of the key programs initiated by the Foundation?

Lupin Foundation focuses on a number of key programs that seek to address economic backwardness and turn villages into self-sufficient, economically productive hubs of entrepreneurial activity. We institute programs centred around social development through the upliftment of human capital  – by promoting financial inclusion, women’s empowerment, health, and education; economic development – through the cultivation of businesses such as animal husbandry and agriculture; and the upgradation of rural infrastructure – such as civic amenities and economic housing.

Expand upon the ‘Resurgent Village’ model adopted by the Foundation.

The ‘Resurgent Village’ concept of sustainable development facilitates the creation of a tier of settlements that lie between a village and a town, which have town-like amenities while also providing opportunities for non-farm employment. One such initiative is in Rarah village in the Kumher block, which has been developed adopting this theme. The Foundation has also developed Multi-Skill Training Centres have been established in all the 14 blocks in Bharatpur which combined with Gramin Haats (rural markets) complete an ecosystem for self-employment.

How does the Lupin Foundation measure its success?

The ultimate aim of Lupin Foundation is to aid the eradication of poverty in rural India through the development of villages into self-sustainable hubs of economic activity and growth. While the task is gargantuan, the Foundation has seen its reach grow steadily from its inception, spreading to 9 states and affecting the lives of close to 3 million individuals. Each individual tale of success is a testament to this vision, and serves to fuel Lupin’s determination to achieve its ultimate goal.

What is Lupin’s vision for rural development in Bharatpur, and from a broader perspective, India?

Lupin Foundation is dedicated to the cause of sustainable development that starts from a grassroots level. Our vision of rural development focuses on holistic development programmes that systematically create opportunities and infrastructure, while empowering people in rural areas, to bring about a socio-economic change and ensure the inclusion of rural communities in the nation’s economic progress. Ultimately, we aim to turn some of the poorest regions of India into a sustainable, environmentally sound, growth-oriented model of rural development.

How has the Lupin Foundation encouraged skill-development amongst vulnerable segments of rural society, such as women and the youth?

The Foundation has sought to secure the position of vulnerable segments of society in its vision of society through training and development programs, designed to revive traditional economic activities and introduce new professions. This serves to provide an additional source of income to disadvantaged families and empower these individuals as economic contributors to the welfare of the family.

This includes professions such as beekeeping, introduced in 1992 and an unheard of profession in Rajasthan up to that point. In the nearly 25 years since its introduction, Bharatpur has emerged as a major honey producing region in the country, accounting for 1785 tonnes of honey in 2016. We have also introduced ‘tulsi mala’ making as a vocation, which are in great demand in regions of religious importance such as Mathura, Vrindavan, and Govardhan. Once trained, the Foundation also assisted in providing loans to entrepreneurial women who were interested in buying machines and/or raw materials and set up their own unit.

Disclaimer: The views expressed by the interviewee in this feature are entirely his own and does not necessarily reflect the views of India CSR Network and its Editor.

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