By Rusen Kumar
Rural areas are in prime focuses for Corporate India under their Corporate Social Responsibility programmes. Corporate are selecting deep rural villages in various states to bring social change in villages. This week, Sahara India Pariwar has also announced for adoption of 1000 villages in 7 states for holistic development for the people.
Billionaire Mukesh Ambani- run Reliance Foundation has undertaken a CSR initiative on rural transformation, which covers 24 of the poorest pockets across 10 states, engaging 20,000 farming households from 250 villages. For the initial phase, 24 pockets across Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu were selected.
Sahara India Pariwar Chairman Subrata Roy Sahara has said, We are fully and emotionally adopting 1000 villages covering 4.5 lakh rural household touching the lives of over 25 lakh people in 7 states. We are making 20 clusters of 50 villages each. There shall be a Central Point Village in each cluster with central Medical Center and an Employment Center along with other services for overall operation, caring and helping the villagers of these 50 villages.
Last month, Reliance Foundation chairperson Nita Ambani made an important announcement in Selarpur, Gujrat during his visit to Selarpur. She said that, Reliance Foundation programme covers 24 of the poorest pockets across 10 states, engaging 20,000 farming households from 250 villages. After reaching this tribal village with population of 1,357, Ambani interacted with women. She was offered a ride on a bullock-cart, driven by 70-year old Kumiben Chaudhary. He interacted with local farmers there. In her interactions with the community, she shared the long term objectives of the progamme and how the self -sustaining model of the programme will be beneficial and helpful for them on a long term basis.
She educated the local people about the Reliance Foundation Initiatives. She said, the ‘Bharat India Jodo’ initiative’s endeavour is to bridge the divide between rural and urban India, through holistic transformation of the communities. So far the programme has benefits over 100,000 people from 20,000 marginal households from about 250 villages.
It is worth mentioning that , in October 2010, Reliance Foundation launched Mission BIJ, its flagship program focusing on supporting smallholder farmers. BIJ, which stands for ‘Bharat India Jodo’ (BIJ) aims to bridge the gap between rural and urban areas. Its overall goal is to make farming a profession of first choice by empowering smallholder farmers. Spread across 10 states, Mission BIJ provides support to smallholder farmers along the supply chain through input support, technical assistance, post harvest and marketing support. Initially envisaged as an agricultural focused program, Mission BIJ focuses on eventually work with farmers and communities on a comprehensive rural development strategy, including education, health, and infrastructure and community development.
“Rural transformation can be achieved through self sustained agriculture, and that will help bridge the divide between rural and urban India,” Neeta Ambani said, talking to media during her visit to Selarpur village in Mangrol tehsil of Surat district (Gujrat) on March 13, 2013.
Selapur is a part of the Netrang Cluster, one of the 24 clusters across 24 agro-ecological zones in ten states where Foundation is implementing its ‘Bharat India Jodo’ (BIJ) initiative.
“Urban India is growing with such a fast pace and 70 per cent of India is living in rural India. Our concern is how that India can be brought into the pace of development,” she added.
Ambani said, “A modest beginning was made by engaging almost 20,000 farming households across 200-odd villages. Over 15,000 hectares of land owned by the marginal farmers there has already been brought back into productivity”.
“One year ago there was widespread malnutrition here. In their staple diet there was no nutritional food. They were only growing jowar and lentils…today they are growing 62 vegetables in Reliance Nutritional Gardens (RNG) and even supplying it to the local schools for children,” Ambani said.
The programme also focuses on building institutions owned, controlled and run by the community, and specific interventions like water harvesting, mixed farming, marketing, etc.
Under BIJ, local youths were given 55-day training on how to revive the local water resources. “Though last year we received only 600 mm of rain against the average 1000 mm, we succeeded in taking two crops,” said 27-year old Jasubhai Chaudhary.
“The whole thing is about making them agro-sustainable,” Ambani said, when asked about future plans of the BIJ.
Reliance Foundation, envisaged to become one of the foremost professional philanthropic organizations in the world, was incorporated in 2010. The Foundation focuses on five core pillars: education, health, rural development, urban renewal, and promotion and protection of India’s art and culture. The Foundation embodies corporate systems and processes driven organization operating on a not for profit basis, with the overall aim to create and support meaningful and innovative activities that will address some of India’s most pressing development challenges.
Reliance Foundation has also started an initiative to set up a world-class multidisciplinary university in Maharashtra as well as revamping and creating a world class tertiary care hospital in Mumbai. According to the information available in the Reliance Industries website, Reliance Foundation is also planning interventions in the space of education and health services that aim to address the service delivery challenges on the ground in rural India.
Rusen Kumar is the Editor at INDIACSR. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org