After Fab India, its XLRI’s turn

ThinkChange India had earlier covered Fab India’s innovative business model for bringing the riches right at the doorsteps of the skilled and isolated rural weavers. A similar opportunity now knocks the doors of  tribal artisans of Jharkhand.

Parichay, a non-profit founded by six first-year MBA students within the XLRI Jamshedpur campus, has inaugurated its ‘Design and Learning Centre’ not only to promote the traditional artforms native to Jarkhand, but also to improve the skills of the artisans to create products tailored to modern tastes.

In what seems to be a well co-ordinated effort, Tinplate Company of India Ltd has provided the initial investment, Kalamandir, a local based NGO, has agreed to offer the necessary training and Parichay would market the products the artisans would design. One of the founders of Parichay has summed up the idea to The Financial Express

Essentially the idea is to provide a more sustainable and non-migratory livelihood to our artisans who are currently facing a lot of trouble pursuing their crafts

While the three-way partnership between a school, a non-profit and a for-profit organization to uplift the rural poor is commendable, achieving sustainability is critcal. The best way to achieve this is probably to devise an exit strategy by training the artisans in due course in marketing and entrepreneurship.

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Small Steps, Big Possibilities

In the past week, I’ve come across several stories that highlight isolated successes or intriguing ideas that are being implemented on a small scale. Here’s a quick recap:

  • In the Chandni Chowk area of old Delhi, iGovernment reports the introduction of greener rickshaws, run by solar batteries. Obviously such vehicles can only go short distances and for short periods of time, but in an congested area like Chandni Chowk, greener autos may make a large impact on the surrounding environment:

It would be run by a solar battery, which would suffice for a journey of 70 km. The battery would take five hours to be charged with the help of solar panels in the charging unit which will be functional above the Delhi metro stations, an official of the city government said.

  • A waste management system (an issue we’ve covered here and here) in Maharastra shows a PPP at work – a privatized system in a city named Latur requires residents to pay Rs 20 per month for garbage pick up. This case shows that the involvement of both an NGO and a private system can result in efficiency:

Of the 183 who have been employed, around 75 per cent are women. Rather than a monthly salary, the women are paid per tonne of garbage collected. As an added incentive, they can sell the recyclable material of the garbage in the market.

But is the system fair (especially to the rag pickers)? The article paints a rosy picture, and it would be interesting get a sense of what the reality is on the ground.

  • Community radio has been making waves in Jharkhand with a program called “Chalo Ho Gaon Mein,” which is narrated in the local language and touches on a number of issues. A project manager at the NGO AID (Alternative for India Development) explains in this article by The Hoot:

We realized that all these problems were stemmed from the fact that the people of the region were unable to express themselves and speak freely about the problems that they were facing. So, setting up a radio programme seemed like a good way to give a voice to the voiceless. A programme for the villagers and by the villagers that would not only address their issues and make them more aware, but would also reach out to other people who could make a difference to their lives.

As with many solutions to social issues, these approaches are taking place as pilots or for specific regions and populations – but all are encouraging and may shed light for the bigger picture.

TC-I Tidbits

  • Education’s Woes and Pros: A new study conducted by UNESCO reveals that less than 30% of schools have access to electricity and only half of them have toilets for girls. In order to address such woeful capacity, the Rajasthan’s state government has signed a public private partnership with UNICEF to expand education across the state — the program will particularly focus on educating young girls.
  • Healthcare’s Woes and Pros: A new report by the UN reveals that India suffers from the highest abseentism rate with regard to healthcare workers, and that these no-shows will likely result in India failing to meet the Millennium Development Goals. However, a more positive story is that a new HIV test can be administered rapidly to pregnant women in rural areas, enabling doctors to administer the necessary treatment to prevent transmission to the baby.
  • Mobile Technology: With the advent of 3G coming to India soon, Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL) is looking to new ways to use the increased speeds to connect to the rural poor of India.
  • Energy: In Jharkhand, the government looks to wind to help power the future of that region.

Show us what you can do ArcelorMittal

The Hindu reports that AcerlorMittal, the worlds largest steel company has promised to spend US$ 500 million on CSR initiatives focussed on Jharkhand and Orissa. Its no coincidence that the company has multiple project sites within these states.

Lakshmi Niwas Mittal-promoted world’s biggest steel company has announced two steel projects in Jharkhand and Orissa of 12 million tonnes capacity at a total cost of about Rs 80,000 crore. “We will spend about 500 million dollars in Orissa and Jharkhand to achieve an appropriate balance between the Corporate Responsibility (CR) and the growth in business operations,” ArcelorMittal Vice President Remi Boyer said

By the way, Orissa and Jharkhand are two of the poorest states in the country. Half a billion dollars, if spent wisely could really improves that lives of people in these states.

Sex Education in India Subpar

There are two aspects of sex education — one straightforward the other complex. On one hand we have the biological nature of sexuality and gender, which for the most part, can be effectively explained within schools objectively and without too much controversy. The other issue, the one dealing with the physical impulses and feelings associated with sex pose much greater problems especially in a still sexually restrictive culture. This conflict leads to a state where students become adequately educated to what hormones are and how they work without getting guidance on how to deal with them in everyday life.

A recent study has shown that less than one-tenth of young men and women in Bihar and Jharkhand have ever received any kind of sex education. The rest of the country isn’t far behind, either: only 12 percent of young men and 25 percent of young women in Maharashtra have any knowledge of family life and/or sex.

My India Report attempts unpackages this disconnect briefly

Despite the fact that the youth wants sex education, and wants it from their teachers, states like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh have banned it from the curriculum. The problem isn’t that sex is considered dirty, it’s that only married people are allowed to get dirty. The study reveals that even people who are supposed to provide sex education prefer to talk to married couples and are uncomfortable dealing with queries from unmarried people. The socio-cultural taboos run deep.