In the last two decades, India as a nation has been successful in pulling up a significant number of people from below the poverty line. Unfortunately, we still have a quite a large number of our people living below the poverty line – that is on less that US $ 1.25 a day. This is a problem. The Government of India has an ambitious vision for inclusive growth. There is the overwhelming challenge to improve the lives of the poor. However much it hurts, we have to reckon with the fact that we have the largest concentration of the poor in the world. Today, more than ever it is necessary to look into societal issues and it behoves corporates to proactively partner with the government to see that inclusive growth happens.
UltraTech Cement is proud to be part of a legacy of the Aditya Birla Group, where caring for the underserved is an unwritten edict that has been followed by generation after generation.
UltraTech’s endeavours to bring in inclusive growth are channelized through the Aditya Birla Centre for Community Initiatives and Rural Development, of which, Mrs. Rajashree Birla is the Chairperson. This year the coveted Asian CSR Award was conferred on Vikram Cement for its excellent work in healthcare at their Awards ceremony held in Malaysia. Likewise, the prestigious Golden Peacock Award (India) for CSR was conferred on Birla White.
Above all this year the President of India bestowed the Padma Bhushan Award on Mrs. Birla in recognition of her exemplary social work. She was also the recipient of the Golden Peacock Life Time Achievement Award for Community Development, which she received in Portugal at the hands of the honorable former Prime Minister of Sweden Mr. Ola Ullsten.
The Company's CSR activities are concentrated in 407 villages, in proximity to its 22 Plants, across the country.
"To actively contribute to the social and economic development of the communities in which we operate. In so doing, build a better, sustainable way of life for the weaker sections of society and raise the country's Human Development Index."
Mrs. Rajashree Birla, Chairperson, The Aditya Birla Centre for Community Initiatives and Rural Development
Our projects are carried out under the aegis of the 'Aditya Birla Centre for Community Initiatives and Rural Development', led by Mrs.Rajashree Birla. The centre provides the strategic direction and the thrust areas for our work, while also ensuring performance management. Our focus is on the all-round development of the communities based around our plants, most of which are located in distant rural areas and tribal belts.
Project identification mechanism: All projects are planned in a participatory manner, in consultation with the community. The process involves interacting with them and gauging their basic needs. We take recourse to 'participatory rural appraisal', which is a mapping process.
Furthermore, based on a consensus and in discussion with the village panchayats, we prioritise requirements. Thus, a project is created. Implementation is the responsibility of the community and our team. And so is the monitoring of milestones and other aspects. Monitoring entails physical verification of the progress and the actual output of the project.
Village meetings are held periodically to receive feedback on the benefits of our community programmes and on the areas where these need to be revised. We try to ensure, that even though in the short term we have to put in enormous efforts, eventually, the projects will be made sustainable by the efforts of the beneficiaries themselves. Once the project becomes self-sustaining, complete control is handed over to the villagers. This transfer of responsibility ensures a culture of independence and self-reliance.
Model villages: One of our unique initiatives is to develop model villages. Hence each of our major companies is working towards the total transformation of a number of villages in proximity of their plants. A model village entails ensuring self-reliance in all aspects viz. education, health care, family welfare, infrastructure, agriculture, watershed management and sustainable livelihood options. The fundamental aim is to ensure that their development reaches a stage where the village committees take over complete responsibility and our teams become dispensable.
Of the 3,000 villages that we are associated with, we have selected 300 villages that we hope to turn into model villages. Over a period of time, we expect to see a major transformation of these villages. More than 80 villages in the hinterlands have already become model villages. The social situation in many villages has gone from dependence to freedom and from backwardness to progress.
We have successfully imparted special coaching to numerous girls and helped them clear the Navodaya Admission Test.
The positive impact of the Self Help Groups has been acknowledged by the Chief Minister of Rajasthan.
The District administration of Chittorgarh has applauded our family planning programmes.
We have been awarded numerous awards for best CSR practices by premier agencies like FICCI, TERI and the ASIAN Institute of Management.
Despite all this, the most heartening gift is the smile on the face of the villagers.