It is Time We Start Caring for Deprived Children: Pavan Kaushik

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By Rusen Kumar

UDAIPUR: “VEDANTA KHUSHI” is probably first of its kind campaign launched to sensitize people with similar minds towards care for the deprived and underprivileged children. The campaign’s focus is to inform people about the need for Nutrition – Education – Health and overall development of the deprived children who are about 50% of the total child population in India.

The Anchor of the “Vedanta Khushi” campaign, Pavan Kaushik who is the Head of Corporate Communication in Vedanta Group spoke to Rusen Kumar, Editor, India CSR Network on the project and how this campaign has been able to spread mass awareness:

Why “Khushi” Project? What is the motivation behind this campaign?

India is passing through a challenging phase where almost 50% of the country’s population is in the age group of 0-25 years. Challenge is even larger when we know India houses the maximum number of children in the world, much more than China. But sad part is, every third malnourished child in the world lives in India. India also happens to be a country of maximum child-deaths, almost 20% of global child deaths. Surprisingly India also has about 2.8 million street children.  In the given circumstances it is essential to look after the well being of these deprived children or India looses out of this massive natural human resource.  If we do not take care of them now, these children will have no future.  Lack of good health, education and growth has already deprived these children of a natural childhood.

With an objective to spread awareness towards these underprivileged children, on April 10, 2012, Vedanta Group launched its first social media campaign “KHUSHI”. The campaign has been launched with a thought that Government, companies or NGOs cannot do it alone and individuals need to come forward and participate towards this serious national issue.

It is not that our efforts in the past never brought changes; it is just that we need to spread a stronger message around.

How is community reacting to “KHUSHI” ?

“KHUSHI is a campaign that connects people of similar minds and thoughts. People who are genuinely connected with the development and growth of country and willing to put that extra bit to either churn out new strategies or bring the cause to the notice of common people and policy makers.

Important is “KHUSHI” is a non-funding campaign that encourages people to come forward and understand the problem and take individual steps for the probable solutions. We even decided to develop the blog, maintain and operate it in-house. Many members have come forward with donations but KHUSHI encourages them to take direct steps. This has brought belongingness towards the campaign.

First change that KHUSHI has been able to cultivate is that of change in temperament of people towards the deprived children. “Be polite with the poor children as they are not deprived by choice but by chance”, the message has gone down quite well.

Some are sponsoring education of children of the people who work in their house, some members have employed parents of children who beg on the streets or traffic-lights, some have gone ahead for adoption, some are providing education to the street children on regular basis, some are engaged in organizing creative workshops for them, and some are collectively taking extra classes in rural schools. The members have pledged not to allow child labour or encourage child beggary.

These changes have been possible due to continuous discussion and deliberations on KHUSHI platform.

‘Khushi’ completed successfully one year. What are your plans for the year 2013-14?

The campaign started with only 7 people those were also in-house.  But look at the response. The campaign on Facebook group has over 25,000 members and the blog that uploads the success stories is touching 60,000 page views.  We are very proud to have people from different professions like professors, teachers, students, doctors, engineers, entrepreneurs, management graduates, journalists, social workers, writers, NGOs, etc. as part of the KHUSHI group, who are taking the campaign forward.

KHUSHI is platform that provides a message and we propose to further increase our base.

How can other people join KHUSHI campaign and contribute?

People can join the campaign by sending a request at www.facebook.com/groups/vedantakhushi. They can participate in various on-line discussions and debates and choose what they wish to do.

When they visit the KHUSHI blog at www.khushi-creatinghappiness.blogspot.in they would also know what kind of work members or non-members are doing. The online discussions also bring out some very positive solutions which individuals and companies can adopt. As I said, “KHUSHI” is a non-funding campaign and thus no financial transactions are required or executed.

Members in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Punjab, Goa and Karnataka etc. are planning to conduct various workshops and events to promote the cause.

Tell us about the Vedanta’s initiatives towards Child Care?

As a corporate, Vedanta is contributing in its own way.  The company is already looking after over 180,000 deprived children of over 5,000 child care centres (Anganwadi Centres) in Rajasthan, Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Karnataka by way of providing supplementary diet, regular health check-ups to these children.  Teaching methodology is also different. These children are being taught through play-way method to keep the interests alive.

There has been a considerable change in their health, weight and knowledge now. Recently, 9,000 such children have been sent to formal schools and 100 tribal children have also been graduated to formal schools, which was a dream for them. Keeping the problem of children of migratory parents, Vedanta got associated with a local NGO in Tamil Nadu and was able to provide help to 700 children of migratory parents who have come for work in Nilgiri area.

“KHUSHI” also tied up for the free lip cleft and palate operations for 2500 children with ‘Smile Train’ organization of US and ‘American GBH Hospital’ in Udaipur. The average spent by a patient on such operation is about Rs. 12-15,000, which is now being done free of cost.

The company has constructed 8 hi-tech mid-day mean kitchens – 6 in Rajasthan, 1 in Chhattisgarh and 1 in Orissa which are being run in association with State Governments and are providing hot mid-day meal to about 250,000 rural poor children on daily basis, covering about 2700 schools.

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