From the desk of Editor- in -Chief

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CSR has been taken more seriously in India after the Corporate Social Responsibility bill came into effect in April 2014. Propelled by this impetus, a lot of good work for social causes is being done by Corporate India with the CSR finding a permanent place in company boardrooms. However, there is still lack of awareness of CSR guidelines among many corporate. There are several companies, including the State-run PSUs, that have been non-compliant to the CSR Act. A common explanation cited for non-compliance is the delay in identification of projects. The flip side of the scenario is that the provision in the CSR law has led to a boom in the number of NGOs in India resulting in credibility crisis while collaborating with NGOs.
The Bridge India endeavours to fill this gap by building an effective platform, created on the bedrock of mutual trust to bring together interested companies with capable NGOs that are well experienced in the social sector. The debut edition of the e-magazine, The Bridge India India, is a step towards our vision. This edition brings to its readers the gaps in the CSR activities in India while highlighting the extraordinary social tasks performed by some corporate and NGOs which are bringing smiles to the faces of thousands of underprivileged people. The edition also highlights the efforts of the Government in bringing a social renaissance in the country.

Happy reading!

Social Sector, CSR and the Challenges

By Lakshmi Singh

Giving back to the society has turned integral to the core philosophy of some Indian companies in the form of Companies Social Responsibilities or CSR, wherein leading corporate houses are successfully implementing their programmes. However, as the companies strive to contribute towards bringing about a change in the social sector, the on ground challenges faced by the mare manifold.

About 400 million people in India live in poverty.Faced by dismal living conditions, a huge populace here suffers due to issues like malnutrition, sanitation/healthcare facilities, gender inequality, domestic violence to name a few. Looking at the vastness of the areas, the battle begins right from the identification of the focus area of intervention to getting the right partner, to the understanding of project development and implementation.

Identifying the right partner

While identifying the right partner to carry out the tasks is a challenge for many companies, there are corporate with communities around aviation sector who believe that their in-house teams are well-trained and sufficient to meet their targets full-fledged as transparency makes things easier.

“In line with our CSR philosophy, our company undertook several community development initiatives over the years in the field of water, sanitation, education and women empowerment. As the company’s focus is on the farming communities, we are dealing with sustainable agriculture too,” says Vijay Kumar Singh, CSR head, PI Industries.

“The CSR initiative is focused to enable these communities to enjoy the benefits of science led innovations in the form of ensuring economic growth which is socially and environmentally sustainable. In Raichur, Karnataka the training of farmers on water conservation in rice production through change in method of cultivation has been a huge success,” he adds.

Though we are running “successful programmes around the farming communities, we are faced with challenges in implementing effective CSR strategies”. This challenge comes in the form of identifying the right partner to carry out our programmes at the rural level.

As the corporate are fighting challenges in the form of identifying right partners and transparency, committed NGOs on the other hand face other challenges.

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Access to appropriate donors and funding

For Hope Foundation, an international organization that runs an orphanage, gaining access to appropriate donors is a major component. Usually infants are abandoned at their doorstep.

According to Jolly Geevarghese, Head, Asharan orphanage, “Many a times these children grow up to face a lot of health challenges as they were deprived of mother’s milk. As in our country, milk banks are a great necessity, we have to run from pillar to post to access mother’s milk each time there is an emergency.”

“Since we have limited resource mobilisation skills locally, so instead we wait for international donors to approach. Sadly, the whole process and paperwork itself is so cumbersome that many of the kids grew up with cerebral palsy to malnutrition ,”she adds.

“Current donors in India may shift priorities and withdraw funding. Thus our foundation suffers from financial stability. So just by having the will to save the abandoned children alone is not sufficient, there needs to be organizational stability and funds to run an orphanage,” he adds.

Breaking the taboos

While the major cloth chain fabindia was promoting handicrafts made by rural women, the women working for the company were illiterate and sending a girl child to school was a taboo with them. William Bissel, Managing Director and Co-founder of Fabindia Schools says, “our aim was to create livelihood for women from the rural areas by making them artisans. But soon we realised that these women were not educated nor there was school in the remote areas 0f Bali, Pali district, Rajasthan. So we began the Fabindia School. The greatest challenge we faced here was the women were reluctant to send their girl child to school. We had to visit them personally to make them understand how education could transform their lives.” Bissell’s idea was to create a prototype school, empowering girls of diverse backgrounds from the poor districts to shape their lives and transform them.

“Our implementing partner is Bhadrajun Artisans Trust, which manages the Fabindia School in Bali village. With nearly 45 per cent of students being girls, the school claims to provide high-quality education to the rural children from poor backgrounds,” Bissell shares.

Understanding of project development

According to AmodKanth, founder of Prayas, a senior police officer- turned-social activist, whose NGO shelters abused women, children and migrants living in tough conditions, Understanding of Project Development still remains a challenge with corporate.”

“Giving shelter alone is not the solution for these kind of women and children. Creating livelihood through skill development can make them financially independent,” he says.

“The needs of these children are different as they don’t know the local language. Moreover, they are also subjected to harassment by their employer. There is definitely a lacuna in the law where there is no transparency in the living conditions of such women who are employed as maid servants through agencies,” says Kanth.

The NGOs, in a way, suffer from incompleteness in their projects.Though the companies believe that the project must definitely have distinct baselines, defined activities, monitorable targets and transparency, understanding of Project Development still remains a challenge on the corporate side. “Most of the times they believe in numbers,”adds Kanth.

More govt schemes can facilitate CSR

According to Rakesh Jinsi, President, Khushboo, the school for children with special needs, “One model may not suit all. In our case, we started with meager infrastructure. When we started our organization for these kids, our infrastructure was meager and we wanted space to accommodate these kids. It was only after a while that we could acquire land for setting up Khushboo through a government scheme under Haryana government.”

“The children who come to Khushboo are not the normal kids like in the other NGOs.We have adolescent kids for whom special learning interventions and therapeutic programmes are conducted. There is not much that the government has done in this area. The one and only thing that deserves appreciation is that the  Indian Parliament passed its first update of the country’s corporate law the Companies Act 2013 which clearly says that the Act requires that companies set up a CSR board committee which made India the first country to mandate CSR.”

“Indian law requires companies to give 2% of profits to charity. Therefore, more corporate money is going to charities which has been helpful,” says Jinsi.

The government should come up with more schemes for these special children with special needs and also for the NGOs which works around them, adds Jinsi.

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Sheltering the abandoned and dejected with ‘Prayas’

It is not usual to see police officers known for their grit and gumption to be found focused on the lives of poor children and weaker sections of society. Amod Kanth, the former Director General of Police, has turned the perspective around as he took on to the role of a social activist as the founder of NGO ‘Prayas’.
Having worked in the social sector for long, the former police officer shares the lacunae in the sector and challenges being faced by NGOs in the present scenario. Lakshmi Singh of The Bridge India India speaks to him at length:

TBI: Having had an illustrious career as a policeman, what inspired you to launch ‘Prayas’?

AK: Even as a policeman, I always tried to bring my men in uniform to serve the community. Prayas is a product of necessity. In 1988, serving as the Deputy Commissioner of Crime, I started this NGO Prayas.

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During that time, there was a ‘Missing Children Wing in police, where many missing children and women reached the police station as missing or abandoned. That was the time I realized that the police station could not accommodate these children. As a policeman, I felt that some facilities were required to look after these kids. At the same time, a slum cluster in Jahangirpuri caught fire and many slum kids turned homeless. All these reasons prompted me to start something to facilitate such displaced kids. A Juvenile Aid Centre was the need of the hour. That’s when ‘Prayas’ came into existence. Prayas works amongst the underprivileged, particularly the abused, abandoned and exploited children. I have literally picked them from the streets and slums and brought them to the confines of a children’s home and juvenile justice centre that Prayas runs.

TBI: What programmes are run in Prayas for these children?

AK: Having launched with 25 children in 1988, Prayas is today a home for more than 50,000 neglected children with 200 centres spread across 9 States. My NGO and I have been working since 1988. Prayas has 47 centres in Delhi’s Sangam Vihar alone. We are running many health programmes for these children. Our team is running primary health centres in Bihar and Arunachal Pradesh also. We undertook lot of programmes when Tsunami struck in South India. Our team worked endlessly during the disastrous earthquake which affected Gujarat. To carry out all these programmes, more than 800 professionals work with Prayas.
TBI: Usually kidnapping or trafficking of children and women take place during calamities. Are there any measures to tackle this?
AK: Prayas works deep into legal issues. Since I have the experience of dealing with juvenile crimes, we have homes for juveniles. One of our homes in Delhi in Feroz ShahKotla near ITO is a home to 14,000 juveniles. No other organisation runs home for juveniles. We are running country’s first Crisis Intervention Centre.

TBI: From juvenile justice, what prompted you to venture into skill development of domestic workers?

AK: In India, about 25 million men and women are working as domestic workers across urban and rural India. The job market for domestic work is growing rapidly. The domestic workforce in the country is estimated to have increased from 6 million in 2013 to 7.79 million in 2017 and is projected to go up to 10.88 million in 2022. Domestic help is a highly feminised sector in India today and has been growing in large proportions. The sector skill council for domestic workers was set up in 2016. As the Chairman of Domestic sector skill council, I am trying to professionalize domestic workers by giving them skill training in various fields. The primary role of the council is to fix national standards for domestic work, work out a curriculum and give certification.The objective of the course for domestic workers is to give them a sense of dignity in what they do. It involves giving them a deeper understanding of their role. The course is divided into study of four key roles – general housekeeper, housekeeper-cum-cook, child caretaker and elderly caregiver.
Nearly a thousand people have been trained in Delhi over the past six months and four thousand more across the country. In Delhi, Prayas had undertaken training at different locations like Jahangirpuri, Tughlakabad and Moti Bagh.

TBI:What are the challenges you come across while dealing with their training?

AK: The challenges are mobilising migrant workers who belong to tribal areas of Jharkhand and West Bengal. They come through agents or agencies who exploit them. Not knowing the local Hindi language, they are trapped and they often don’t know how to return to their homes. They are also unfamiliar with the modern gadgets used in urban households. They also undergo a lot of employer harassment.There were some participants who had never done such work before but were attending the course because they needed money. A few days ago, a woman approached Prayas as her husband is a salesman but his income is not enough to make both ends meet. She enrolled for the course when one of the trainers from Prayas apprised her about it in Sangam Vihar.
Prayas team visits the community and encourages people to take up free courses being run for their welfare. There were young girls too in this group of learners. For example there was an 18-year-old class VIII student who could not afford to study further due to her family circumstances. She joined the skill training course which she can use along with a certificate. There are girls, who are trained as child caregiver and are pursuing their graduation side by side. Here, at Prayas, they undergo skill training which empowers them in a very big way.

TBI: What do you think of the NGO sector in India? Has it come of age?

AK: In India, five million children need protection. Poverty, unemployment and exploitation are rampant in our country. Children are harassed and exploited. These are the areas where the voluntary sectors need to contribute to its fullest and act. Unfortunately, the NGO sector is yet to perform up to its mark. When the NGO sector came into being, many great leaders were contributing in a big way for its growth. Many of the activists involved made a mark by fighting for the cause, thus bringing in new laws viz  RTI. Only a handful of the voluntary organizations have made substantial impact.  Education, poverty alleviation, health, children and elderly are the areas where the social sector activities and voluntary organizations have to come together more strongly to achieve the best results. In spite of working together, the voluntary organizations are yet to establish themselves fully.

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Social innovation is changing the landscape of education in India

The unfortunate sight of children sitting on rugs and on the floor due to lack of desks in Government schools across India is nothing new. This pathetic condition of education in the country has not spared even the national capital. In 2016, a media report had revealed that schools run by the three Municipal Corporations of Delhi lacked over 70,000 desks. Though the Government is trying to weed out the rot in the education system, a lot more needs to be done. Aiming at bridging the gap in the education sector, some social entrepreneurs have come up with their own innovative approach to deal with different aspects of the system. One such product innovation company is a Kanpur-based start-up, PROSOC Innovators Pvt Ltd, which has come up with a revolutionary solution to the problem of desk shortage in schools. The innovation, if replicated en masse, could revive India’s moribund education system.
By Soma Chakraborty

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Seven-year-old Shruti, a student of class-II in a Government school in a rural area in Kanpur, is a happy girl. She now no longer suffers from backache due to sitting for long hours with hunched back because of non-availability of desks in her school. And this has been made possible by DESKIT, a school bag with detachable table developed by PROSOC.
Shruti is not alone. Like her, thousands of school going children across the country who lack basic infrastructure in their schools have been benefitted by the innovative solution which helps students to write comfortably assisting them to maintain a proper body posture.

HOW IT ALL STARTED

Right from the beginning of the PROSOC, which came into existence in October 2015, its founder and Chief Executive Officer, Eshan Sadasivan, wanted to do something for poor students.
In an interaction with The Bridge India India, he says, “While I was pursuing my post graduation course in product designing from the IIT-Kanpur, I used to teach students of Government schools in the nearby areas. During that time, I saw that those children don’t have access to study infrastructure, both at schools as well as at homes. Lack of desks at schools and tables at homes has a major negative effect on child’s health where both back and eye get strained and also results in poor hand writing. I did some research and found that though some products existed in the market, they were not addressing the problem of bad body posture. Also none of the existing products were durable and up to the mark. So I thought that being a product designer, I can come up with a better product and solve the problems of the students. And that is how DESKIT was born.”
Today, around 17,000 students, Eshan claims, are using DESKITS in more than 10 States in the country. DESKIT bags not only solve the health problems faced by children due to lack of infrastructural facilities but also motivates them to attend school sincerely.
“The impact and response of the project has been really very good. However, when we started, it was very difficult to establish partnerships with different communities like the NGOs and the Corporates. Now gradually things are picking up. We have collaborated with the Telangana Government and are in talks with other State Governments like UP, Jharkhand, MP and Rajasthan,” the CEO says.
Till now, the implementation of the DESKIT project has been through different companies under their CSR activities. “Many companies have supported us till now and have helped us to reach many students,” Eshan says. The company is also looking forward to collaborate with NGOs active in education field to act as distribution channels.

THE INSPIRATION

It was none other than Muhammad Yunus, the Nobel laureate from Bangladesh the pioneer of the microcredit Grameen Bank, who inspired Eshan, an engineer who is currently doing his PhD on social entrepreneurship from IIT-Kanpur, to set up PROSOC, which is the abbreviated form of Products (PRO) for Society (SOC).
“When I was studying engineering, I came across a book titled ‘Building Social Business’ by nobel laureate professor Muhammad Yunus. His book inspired me a lot and gave me a clear thought and idea to set up my start-up. Being a product design student, I was always interested in innovation. I made up my mind to use my skills to innovate more products which will help the bottom of the pyramid,” the PROSOC founder says.
Besides education sector, the company is also working in the agricultural and livelihood domain. “The idea is to come up with more number of innovative products in different domains so that we can help and empower more people across sectors,” Eshan says.
The start-up has got various grants from the Government of India for its innovation. It has also received funds from the Scotland Government.

SOCIAL INNOVATION IN EDUCATION SECTOR IN INDIA

Though the Right To Education Act is trying to make education accessible to all in India, it is no secret that huge gaps persist across education segments. Schools in rural areas suffer from teacher absenteeism, poor infrastructure and lack of financial and structural support from local governments. No doubt, several good interventions such as educational apps and e-learning are being taken by both the Government and the private sectors to address these issues, but, Eshan opines, there is little breakthrough “in hardware product innovation” in the education sector. “There can be more ideas which can be thought of in hardware product innovation. But compared to the last few decades, the start-up culture in India is very much versatile now and things are picking up quite fast,” he says.
He further says that social innovation has the capability to change the landscape of education sector in India. “Once we bring more innovation into this ecosystem, there are chances that children will get motivated to go to school. With innovations and efforts made by many people in the education sector, things will be positive in the years to come. One thing I want to see in future is 100% literacy rate and that the children should not drop out from school,” the CEO says.
In the era of ‘Startup India’, though lot of exciting and innovative new businesses are coming up in various sectors, we are not witnessing equivalent number of innovative ideas in the education sector. When asked about the possible reasons behind it, Eshan says, “It might be due to the fact that in livelihood, agriculture or e-commerce sector, there is much more lucrative return on investment. Another reason could be better ecosystem in those sectors for implementing things.”

CHALLENGES

Replying to a question on the hurdles facing social innovation in the education sector in India, the PROSOC founder says that the “challenges are mainly faced during implementation”. “Whatever innovation we might come up with, finally it has to be backed by very solid business model and implemented well. But when we are in a start-up phase and when we are going for social innovation, collaborating with the right set of people and incubation partners is very crucial and getting them is a challenge. Also, in our case, convincing corporates to partner with us under their CSR activity and convincing the State Governments and getting the implementation done on quicker basis has been a challenge.”
Eshan says start-up schemes are helpful to get a social innovation project implemented, “but there should be more rigorous implementation from the Government side. Start-ups can be facilitated in a much better way. Right now there are some gaps which need to be addressed”.

THE WAY FORWARD

Education needs innovation to keep it fresh and relevant. The education sector in India is slowly waking up to social innovations which are changing the lives of countless people across the country in a positive way with special focus on those below the poverty line. As these transformations get underway, it is important that nobody is left behind. Empowered by technology and tools, our education system can indeed scale up to edify, prepare and empower our citizens to help the country on its journey to become a knowledge economy.

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UNSUNG HERO

‘Need to sensitize people towards dark areas wherein women suffer in silence’

By Monica Joshi

When Subhadra Khaperde joined an NGO as Anganwadi worker, she had little idea that her initial stint to earn a livelihood would lead her into a journey not many choose to undertake. It has been two and half decades that Subhadra has been working tirelessly to bring about awareness amongst poor women towards their reproductive health and rights. She has been able to successfully mobilise thousands of women to demand their right to reproductive and sexual health. Subhadra shares her journey into community service with The Bridge India India.

TBI: Tell us about your family background? Were you inclined towards social work since childhood?

SK: I come from a Dalit marginal farmer family and so did not have any inclination towards social work in my childhood as I had to work on our farm to help my parents. I passed my higher secondary examinations with difficulty as I had to work on the farm and also make bidis to earn money as we were very poor. I lost my mother when I was only 13 years old and so the housework burden also came on me. I joined an NGO Prayog seeking employment and not for social work. It was only later that I understood the structural factors behind poverty and decided to strike out on my own to work for its alleviation in a systematic manner.

TBI: What has been the rationale behind taking up this work?

SK: Current thinking among feminists broadly defines the discipline of reproductive and sexual health as social and clinical study of those problems and diseases that arise from the social asymmetries influencing human sexuality and reproduction. In India most women have to suffer from serious reproductive and sexual health problems. Feminist sociology has pinpointed the dominance of men in society as the prime reason for this and termed this phenomenon as patriarchy (Lerner, 1986). Analysing all

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the main institutions of society like the family,
marriage, kinship groups, media, religious hierarchies and the state, they have shown that all these play a role in maintaining the overall patriarchal structure of society. Over thousands of years this structure has become so well entrenched that to most people including women it seems quite natural instead of being the social construct that it is. As a consequence of this secondary status, women have to bear more babies to
ensure that there are male progeny who will inherit the property. Along with this there is social control over the sexuality of women. Naturally all this affects the overall health of women and especially their reproductive and sexual health. Since there is a taboo on the discussion of these issues women have to suffer their troubles in silence and this leads to mental problems. Thus there is a deafening culture of silence surrounding women’s reproductive and sexual health problems (Dixon-Mueller & Wasserheit, 1991).

TBI: What inspired you to take up this unconventional field?

SK: I first took up community work in 1989 as a means of livelihood as I joined the NGO Prayog in Chhattisgarh as an Anganwadi worker. However, gradually I began to understand the structural reasons behind poverty and under development and so began working for the rights of Adivasis and Dalits. Later in the course of my work I found that the situation of women was much worse due to patriarchal oppression. So I began to work for the rights of women. While working for the rights of women I found that they suffered from serious gynaecological problems and so decided to work to improve the situation in this regard and have developed a very successful model for reproductive health and rights work over the past three years.

TBI: Funds are a major concern. How did you manage them initially?

SK: Initially I was working as an employee of the NGO Prayog. When I decided to branch out on my own I applied for a fellowship and was awarded one by the MacArthur Foundation of USA. Later I set up an NGO, Mahila Jagat Lihaaz Samiti and now I fund my work through CSR funding of this NGO and also through crowd funding on the internet.

TBI: What were the challenges you faced? How did you overcome them?

SK: The most important challenge has always been to mobilize the community in the face of various obstacles created by vested interests. This is even more so in the case of reproductive health and rights work because women have to convince their husbands to let them improve their situation. The only way to overcome this challenge is to patiently carry on the mobilization work and use the results of the initial programmes to increase acceptability.

TBI: What are the present challenges.

SK: I am trying to spread the model of reproductive health and rights intervention that I have developed to other states. It becomes difficult because
other NGOs are not efficient enough and are often afraid to broach such a sensitive issue. However, I have now finally succeeded in holding a survey cum camp programme in Kolkata among the sex workers there with great success.
TBI: What impact do you think you have been able to make so far?
SK: The impact is huge because on an average expenditure of just Rs 1000 per woman, they are made aware of their problems and these are mostly solved and due to the intensive process of mobilisation they are now capable enough to address these problems themselves in the future. Already close to a thousand women have benefited from the programme.

TBI: Your most memorable experience in the journey so far.

SK: One lady who is a domestic help was seriously ill because of heavy cervical erosion and her husband was very insensitive to her problems and also indulging in violence. Due to the intervention a surgical procedure was done on her cervix and her husband was convinced to improve his behaviour. The lady recovered completely from her illness and her productivity and earnings improved substantially. She herself paid back the costs of the surgical procedure to the organisation saying that the money should be used to help other women like her who are suffering from serious gynaecological problems.

TBI: What do you judge to be your major successes or accomplishments in your field work? How did you achieve these?

SK: I have mobilised thousands of women over the past two and a half decades to demand their rights and this is my greatest achievement. I have patiently worked to convince women and men that it is essential for women to be emancipated for the good of the household and society and by showing results I have succeeded in bringing about improvements.

TBI: What do you hope to accomplish further as a social worker?

SK: I would like to reduce patriarchal oppression that is rampant in society and specifically spread the model of reproductive health and rights intervention that I have developed across the country.

TBI. Has political and economic environment become more conducive to your area of work?

SK: At the moment the political and economic environment is not conducive to the establishment of reproductive health and rights of women. Much more work needs to be done to sensitize the government and businesses to this dark area wherein women suffer in silence.

TBI: How supportive has been your family towards your endeavours?

SK: I married a person who was from an elite background and had chosen to work for the Bhil Adivasis instead of following a corporate career. He is a social activist who is engaged in rights based work and communitarian natural resource conservation. His support helped me to pursue higher education along side my social activism.

THE STORY UNTOLD

Subhadra began to work as an activist for a land rights movement based on Gandhian principles. This organisation organised Padyatras (walks) from one village to the other, to talk to villagers about their land rights, and to record the local situation. The movement used women as foot soldiers, but most strategic decisions were made by male leaders. Women like Subhadra were conscious that this should change. After a change in leadership in the organisation, many women workers and leaders like Subhadra left the land right movement and began to work on different issues. Subhadra started working for women’s reproductive health and rights in 1995. This work was supported with a fellowship from the John D and Catherine T
Macarthur foundation. The resource gave her an opportunity to work on gender rights. However, the opposition from the patriarchal vested interests in society and the Government convinced her that she needed to study to improve her understanding of society. She had only done her higher secondary school education. So she did her graduation in political science followed by post- graduation and M. Phil in Social work and is pursuing a Ph D also. All this while she continued to work among the Bhil Adivasi women first and then among the Dalit and Adivasi women in slums in Indore city. She works on gender rights, reproductive health, livelihoods, natural resource conservation, food security and education through the NGO Mahila Jagat Lihaaz Samiti of Indore of which she is the Chairperson.

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Driving social innovation in education

It is ironical that despite having world’s largest higher education system, no Indian institution could make its entry into the prestigious top 200 Times HE ranking, 2018. The education system across the globe is undergoing a much-needed change. Technology and online social resources are shaking up the conventional educational structure worldwide. To adapt to the rapidly changing world, the Government of India is also coming up with innovations to pave the way for new methods of learning. In an interaction with The Bridge India India, top officials of the HRD Ministry shared insights on some of the innovations undertaken by the Government for improving access to higher education with high quality content that is relevant for today’s workforce.

By Soma Chakraborty

To keep pace with the global paradigm shift brought about by digitisation, the higher education department of the HRD Ministry has adopted digital resources and methodologies to improve accessibility, quality and scale. A senior HRD Ministry official says “Technology can usher in the much-needed overhaul of our educational system to make it more relevant for a digital world. As such we are taking learning beyond the walls of a classroom to 24×7 e-learning modules.”

SWAYAM

SWAYAM (Study Webs of Active–Learning for Young Aspiring Minds) is an innovative platform indigenously developed by Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) and All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) with the help of Microsoft to achieve the three cardinal principles of Education Policy – access, equity and quality.
“Under SWAYAM, a student can choose from hundreds of courses taught at the university, college or high school level. These online courses are offered free of cost by IITs, IIMs and central universities. Also, if a student is studying in any college, he can transfer the credits earned by taking these courses into their academic record. All the courses are interactive,” an HRD Ministry official said.

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SWAYAM is initiated by the Government to take quality education to the doorstep of everyone. From school education modules of levels 9 to 12 to varied courses in Aerospace Engineering, Biotechnology, Atmospheric Science and languages, SWAYAM will ensure universal access to high quality education for every Indian.
There is another programme, the SWAYAM Prabha, under which 32 DTH channels telecast high quality educational content free of charge to teachers and students. There is new content of four hours every day, which is telecast six times a day, allowing a student to choose the time of his convenience.

IMPRINT INDIA

The Impacting Research Innovation and Technology (IMPRINT) India is a pan-IIT and IISC joint initiative to develop a roadmap for research to solve major engineering and technology challenges in ten technology domains relevant to India. “IMPRINT India is a synergizing platform for institutions, academia, industry that encourages research and innovation, making it socially more relevant,” the HRD official said and exhorted institutions of higher learning to find solutions to challenges like ‘Swachh Bharat’.

UCHHATAR AVISHKAR YOJANA

The Uchhatar Avishkar Yojana (UAY) is another innovative programme launched by the Government to promote industry-specific need-based research so as to keep up the competitiveness of the Indian industry in the global market. Under the scheme, all the IITs have been encouraged to work with the industry to identify areas where innovation is required and come up with solutions that could be developed up to the commercial  level. Under the UAY, Rs 250 crore are invested every year on identified projects proposed by IITs, provided the Industry contributes 25% of the project cost.

 WAY FORWARD

No doubt, the Government has taken a slew of innovative approaches to optimise higher education and change the country’s education model, however, there is still a long way to go before our education system comes at par with the developed nations. Nevertheless, with boost from the Government, the demand for using innovative delivery mechanisms is expected to increase, resulting in unprecedented growth of the education sector in the near future.

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Breaking the barriers to social inclusion

As they say, “You don’t need a cape to be a hero. You just need to care.” This is exactly what people at Khushboo have been doing. They all are superheroes, just that they don’t wear capes. They go about doing their work day in and day out, not seeking notice and recognition. As the superheroes do, they have been working tirelessly to bring positive changes in the lives of less privileged people in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. The Bridge India India brings to its readers a heart warming tale of how the NGO, Khushboo, is striving to promote social inclusion of people with physical and intellectual disabilities. At the same time, we also bring to light the issues concerning the disability development sector and how these can be addressed.

By Soma Chakraborty

Like any other kitchen support staff in an organisation, Rekha makes tea and serves them to her office colleagues and visitors. But what sets the cheerful lady in her mid 20s apart from others is her ability to lead a dignified life like any other girl of her age in spite of being intellectually disabled.

However, Rekha was not confident like this always. Her life took a U-turn after she came in contact with Khushboo, a Gurgaon-based NGO working for the wellbeing of children, adolescent and adults with mental and multiple disabilities.

“Almost a decade ago, Rekha’s mother brought her to us. She was then 14 years old and was diagnosed with severe mental retardation (MR). At that time, we did not have adequate infrastructure and human resources. However, we took the challenge and special focus was given to her by the educators and therapists at Khushboo. Gradually, we also built the required infrastructure and were able to impart  advanced training to Rekha on wide range of Activities of Daily Living (ADL) and functional academics,” says Lata Devi, a Special Educator who is working with Khushboo since 20 years.

The well-planned and executed approach of the NGO over the years brought a remarkable enhancement in Rekha’s abilities and today she has turned into a confident person and has also bagged the job of a kitchen support staff in Khushboo itself.

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“Rekha has achieved independence in ADLs. She is no longer dependent on others for her daily activities,” says Lata proudly.

Rekha is not alone. Like her there are several other boys and girls whom Khushboo has helped to break the barrier of disability and today these kids are making India proud by winning medals at international events. One such name is Priyanka, a teenage girl with special needs, who won four bronze medals in various categories of power weightlifting events at the ‘2015 Special Olympics World Games’ at Los Angeles, USA.

“I felt very happy after winning the medals,” Priyanka shares while confiding in that besides sports, she also “likes cooking and music” and has “lots of friends”.

THE JOURNEY

Founded in 1995 by a small group of spirited people, Khushboo was started in a rented room in Gurgaon with 10 children without any logistic and infrastructure facility with the mission to help divyangs to become self reliant and enhance their capabilities to the maximum possible and to integrate them with the mainstream in all possible areas.

It was sheer zeal and commitment of the people associated with the NGO which led to its transformation into a well-structured institution equipped with state-of-the-art infrastructure and managed by highly efficient professionals.

Today, Khushboo has a 17,000 sq ft disabled-accessible building constructed entirely from donations. One can feel the positive vibe on entering the spotlessly clean, airy and well-lit holistic centre located in its self owned 0.4 acre campus at Sector 10-A in Gurgaon, the land for which was allotted by the Haryana Government.

Khushboo is currently taking care of 110 children and has several exclusive programmes designed keeping in mind the age and learning ability of the child. Before imparting training to make them self reliant, an extensive assessment of the abilities of the child is done under the programme ‘Sparsh’ by a multi-disciplinary team comprising of Khushboo staff and specialists from renowned hospitals to identify whether the child is “educable” or is just “trainable”. Thereafter the development need of each patient is identified and an Individual Development Plan (IDP) is created.

The NGO also runs a vocational training programme ‘Samarth’ for these children wherein vocational training is imparted with them in art and craft, paper mache moulding, organic colours making, gardening, bubble wrap cutting and cooking.

In fact, the NGO has employed a security guard who is diagnosed with physical disability.

RESOURCE MOBILISATION

It is no rocket science to understand that it requires huge fund to run an organisation like Khushboo, which has state-of-the-art infrastructure and facilities. “The NGO gets fund from donations and contributions from individuals and from corporate entities which have lended support to us under the Corporate Social Responsibility Act,” says Rakesh Jinsi, president and founder member of the Khushboo.

Though several public sector undertakings and multi-national companies like ONGC, Daikin, American Express, Carrier, Genpact, Deloitte, Max India, Ibibo, Samsung and GSK are contributing towards the cause of Khushboo, creating resources still remains a challenge.

“Funds remain high focus area. More finances are required to bring quality in a social organisation. We can hire better talent and can create better infrastructure with adequate resources. We are now contemplating a residential facility for children with special needs and multiple disabilities. The land for the same has been identified and we are in the process of due diligence. We are now looking at ways to create resources to materialise this vision,” elucidates Jinsi.

CSR AND THE ROLE OF SOCIAL CONSULTING FIRM

On April 1, 2014, India became the first country in the world to mandate corporate social responsibility with the introduction of new CSR guidelines requiring companies to spend 2% of their net profit on social development. The law applies to every company registered in India having a net worth of Rs 500 crore or more, or a turnover of Rs 1,000 crore or more or a net profit that exceeds Rs 5 crore in a given fiscal year.

Though responsible business houses are complying with the Act, at times they find it challenging to identify reliable partners who can deliver impact at the ground level. “It is where,” opines Jinsi, “social consulting firms like The Bridge India India can play a major role. Today, NGOs have also re-engineered themselves to stand up to the expectations of the corporate. Companies like The Bridge India can help business firms to identify good and effective implementing agencies in various thematic areas as well as catering to different geographies. Also, it can act as a window for the best NGOs, especially grass-root organisations and innovators, to present their work to businesses and CSR foundations.

GOVT POLICIES AND SOCIAL INCLUSION

According to a study ‘The “State” of Persons with Disabilities in India’ published by international academic publisher Taylor & Francis Group, “Among countries with comparable levels of income, India has one of the more progressive disability policy frameworks. However, people with disabilities in India are still subject to multiple disadvantages.”

The Khushboo president could not agree more. He affirms, “No doubt the Government of India is doing a lot to uplift the condition of people with disabilities, but there is a long way to go.”

Echoing his voice, Shilpi, a child psychologist working with Khushboo, says there is need to create more awareness among the masses about people with disabilities. “At times, parents also don’t realise that their child is suffering from mental condition and therefore their treatment gets delayed. There have been instances when parents thought that their child is a buddhu (simpleton) when he or she did not act normal intellectually,” she explains.

At the same time, Jinsi says there has been “an improvement in the outlook of the society towards divyangs over the years”. There is now “more social inclusion and acceptance of people with disabilities into the family, community, as well as in the workplace.”

His views find resonance in Shashi Bala, Programme Supervisor and Special Educator in Pre School, Khushboo. Bala, who trains parents of special children, says that unlike before there is now “growing acceptance” among the parents who are eager to go to any extent to support the early development of their kids. Her observation assumes a greater significance as she herself is a mother of a special child.

“This paradigm shift in the outlook of the society,” Jinsi opines, “is partly due to the change in the working attitude of the NGOs in the human development sector. The NGOs working in this sector have also become more professional due to induction of better talents.”

GLOBAL TREND AND EXPECTATION FROM GOVT

The Western countries have taken several revolutionary measures to provide improved services for people with disabilities. For example, Japan and Montenegro have set a quota requiring that companies employ a specified percentage of disabled workers or pay a fine. Peru also has a quota system where employers are required to hire 5% of workers with disabilities in the public sector and 3% in the private sector. Besides, Peru, which offers 90 days of paid leave to new mothers, extends that benefit by 30 days if the baby is born with a disability.

In Armenia, working parents are guaranteed paid leave to accompany disabled children to health care and treatment appointments. In Canada, it is mandatory to provide interpretation services to deaf patients. Brazil has a law which protects physically or mentally challenged workers against discrimination in hiring, promotions and training and guarantees them equal pay for equal work.

The Khushboo president says that the Indian Government should “establish a Knowledge Resource Centre” where case studies of how countries across the globe are working towards betterment of people with disabilities are available for reference. “We want to do more for people with mental and multiple disabilities. Had there been such a centre, we would have easily known the other modern and better methodologies and technologies being used by other countries and could have implemented them. It would have been much easier and efficient then,” says Jinsi.

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