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Private sector must step up CSR spending in underdeveloped areas: Ajay Piramal

Piramal Foundation, which employs over 5,000 people under CEO Aditya Nataraj, is working with several partners in private sector, and with government in areas such as education, healthcare and basic amenities

Piramal Group chairman Ajay Piramal Piramal Group chairman Ajay Piramal

Corporates need to step-up their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) spending in aspirational underdeveloped districts across the country, Piramal Group chairman Ajay Piramal has said. The tycoon said currently only 1.5 per cent of such funds reach such districts that lack basic amenities in education and healthcare.

"The private sector has to play a key role in ensuring improving basic living standards in education, healthcare, sanitation, potable water, etc and should partner with the government to scale up," Piramal said, in an exclusive interaction with Business Today.

Noting that most CSR activities of Indian companies revolve around their own plants, facilities and areas of interest, Piramal said smart innovations, cooperation with government agencies and NGOs, and technology adaptations are needed to scale up such community interventions.

He said Piramal Foundation is at the forefront to take the initiative for implementing 'Aspirational Districts Collaborative' (ADC) to support the administrations in 112 aspirational districts. It is creating a collaboration of 6,000 plus organisations, individuals including 'hyper local' NGOs, college deans, self-help group leaders, sarpanchs, media agencies and faith leaders to partner with the local administrations in the effective deployment of government programmes, he said.

As per the foundation, it will make efforts to converge and improve coordination and alignment among 12 key departments (agriculture, health, women and child, rural development, etc) reporting to district collectors for effective service of the most marginalised.

Piramal Foundation, which employs over 5,000 people under CEO Aditya Nataraj, is now working with several partners in the private sector, and with the government in education, healthcare and basic amenities for several lakhs of people.

In 2018, Piramal Foundation partnered with NITI Aayog to transform 26 districts across seven states out of 112 aspirational districts  in India as part of the Aspirational Districts Collaborative (ADC) programme and deployed over 750 employees working in those districts  in the first phase.

He said a study conducted by Institute for Competitiveness, an affiliate of Harvard Business School, found that four of the top five districts most improved in education - Jaisalmer, Balrampur, Sonbhadra and Singrauli - were districts in which Piramal Foundation operated.

Similarly, three of the top 10 districts most improved in health - Balrampur, Sheikhpura and Barwani - were districts in which the foundation operated.

The interventions improved learning outcomes by 21 per cent in Grade 2 to 8 through developing 5,023 government schools as "demonstration schools'. Jan Andolan campaigns that engaged 26.7 lakh plus parents and community members and 23,047 volunteers helped to increase enrollment by 6.15 lakhs and brought 1.23 lakh dropped out children back into government schools.

In health and nutrition, the foundation could improve maternal and child care outcomes by facilitating 12,000 plus village health sanitation and nutrition days (VHSND) and improved 263 health facilities.

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Piramal said in response to the COVID-19 first wave, the foundation launched the 'Surakshit Dada Dadi Nana Nani Abhiyan (SDDNNA)' in partnership with Niti Aayog to support senior citizens in 112 aspirational districts.

It collaborated with 150 plus local NGOs and raised 1,40,000 volunteers to assist over 29 lakh senior citizens and provided essential services for 95,000 senior citizens like ration, medicine, food and other basics.

In response to the second wave of Covid-19, the foundation partnered with 1,000 plus hyper local NGOs across 1,143 blocks and trained 1 lakh volunteers across 112 districts to manage 70 per cent asymptomatic, mildly symptomatic patients at home in these aspirational districts, besides setting up 100 COVID care centres of 30 bed each in 25 aspirational districts.

Similarly, Anamaya, launched in April to overcome key health challenges faced by the 100 million tribal population across 177 tribal districts of India, is a multi-stakeholder initiative of the tribal affairs ministry supported by Piramal Foundation and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). It will converge efforts of various government agencies and organisations to enhance the health and nutrition status of the tribal communities of India.

Also read: Piramal Capital mobilises Rs 2,500 crore to integrate Dewan Housing acquisition