Let Us Make India A Child Malnourished Free Country
Vedanta's Khushi campaign is on its full swing and every day new members are joining. The state of the country is as such that if people do not take notice of present scenario, tomorrow will be too late. Udaipur Times spoke to the Pavan Kaushik, Head of Corporate Communication at Vedanta Group.
Vedanta’s Khushi campaign is on its full swing and every day new members are joining. The state of the country is as such that if people do not take notice of present scenario, tomorrow will be too late. Udaipur Times spoke to the Pavan Kaushik, Head of Corporate Communication at Vedanta Group.
Pavan : “Khushi” campaign is based on a very practical thought. India houses the maximum children in the world, much larger than China. But unfortunately, the world’s 1/3rd malnourished population stays in India. Many reports suggest that around 8 million children in India in the age group of 5-14 years are engaged in work. If we go by the UNICEF report, India also has about 11 million street children and metros are leading these figures, with Delhi housing over 100,000 such children alone. 20% of the child deaths in the world happen in India. Issue is when these children will grow into adults, they need to become productive citizens of India. It is essential for the economy and future of India.
UT: So what is “Khushi” all about?
Pavan: “Khushi” is a communication campaign, which says that Government, NGOs, or Companies alone cannot do all; it is time that the common people need to come forward. It is a non-funding campaign and the intentions are to spread the message across India to care for these underprivileged children as they are a part of India.
UT: But what about the education angle in India, how good are the systems?
Pavan: India has the 2nd largest educational system in the world. Though, with a total enrollment of 114.6 million at primary and 41.3 million at upper primary level schools, India has shown remarkable improvement in the education enrollment scorecard. But when it comes to sustaining it, the country’s biggest challenge is the increasing number of children who drop out from school. This population was as huge as 8.1 million in 2008. More worrying is the fact that out of 8.1 million children more than 2/3rd are girls.
UT: What about the meeting taken by Mr. Sachin Pilot, Minister of Corporate Affairs on 2% spent on CSR?
Pavan : The Hon’ble Minister took a meeting of large companies to push the agenda for 2% spent on CSR by companies from their profit. A Bill on this is being slated for the winter session this year. The Government seriousness and contribution by companies, NGOs and individuals can only bring “Khushi” to the lives of millions of underprivileged children in India. Many corporate were of the view to keep the spent voluntary and not to make it compulsory.
UT: Vedanta has been engaged in child care projects over more than 5 years now. How was “Khushi” launched ?
Pavan: We launched this campaign “Khushi” through a blog. “Khushi” campaign is a non-funding campaign that encourages people to come forward and understand the problem and take individual steps for the probable solutions. Subsequently, we launched the Facebook campaign through our Facebook Page. Today, the Khushi Group on the facebook has about 21,000 members which include entrepreneurs, professors, doctors, engineers, students, management graduates, NGOs etc. The ‘Khushi” blog is touching 43,000 page views and is growing.
UT: How are you taking up the issues concerning child care ?
Pavan : “Vedanta Khushi” platform also organizes on-line discussions and debates, which has seen intense discussions on problems relating to education for street children, the menace of child beggary, increasing drop-out in rural schools, infrastructure in rural schools, problem of children involved in making crackers, teachers problem in rural schools, etc. The discussions bring out some positive solutions which individuals and companies can adopt. The first change that we believe “Khushi” has brought is the change in behavior and temperament towards the underprivileged children. Many people have informed that they no more shout at poor children and try to do something constructive for them.
UT : Vedanta has also adopted Anganwadi Centres (child care centres) what is the approach behind this ?
Pavan : Vedanta has adopted about 5500 Anganwadi Centres in Rajasthan, Orissa, Chattisgarh and Karnataka. The children in Anganwadi Centres are being given supplementary diet, their health check-up has become regular, they are being taught through play-way method to keep the interest alive. There has been a considerable change in their health, weight and knowledge. 9,000 underprivileged children from Anganwadi Centres have been sent to formal school this year and 100 tribal children have also been graduated to formal school, which was a dream for them. We are also looking to adopt more Anganwadi Centres to reach out to as many underprivileged children and extend our program on providing nutrition, health and education to these children.
UT : What about the street children in India ?
Pavan : Street children in India is big problem and as I said metros are leading the numbers. We have gone and spent days with street children to understand their issues. It is not that all children don’t want to study, many are just waiting for a school to open in their vicinity. There is also an issue of children of labours who migrate from one state to another. In Tamil Nadu, Vedanta has taken care of 700 children of migratory parents who have come for work in Nilgiri area. The company tied up with an NGO to facilitate the education, food and health check-ups of these children. “These children were prone to all sorts of problem including health, food, education and even trafficking. We tied-up with an NGO to ensure education, nutrition and good health for their children. At least 700 children were brought into the stream.
UT : “Khushi” has also been working towards medical treatment of children. Could you throw some light ?
Pavan : Vedanta Khushi also tied up for the free lip cleft and palate operations for 2500 children with Smile Train organization of US and American GBH Hospital in Udaipur. The average spent by a patient on such operation is about Rs. 12-15,000, which now would be done free of cost.
UT : What more Vedanta is doing towards child care ?
Pavan : The company has constructed 8 hi-tech mid-day mean kitchens – 6 in Rajasthan, 1 in Chattisgarh and 1 in Orissa which are being run in association with State Governments and are providing hot mid-day meal to about 250,000 rural poor children every day covering about 2700 schools. We have adopted 92 schools in Rajasthan to uplift their overall infrastructure.
We need to get to the bottom of the problem to resolve the issues. It is time to wake up and make a conscious effort to ensure a bright future for millions of these underprivileged children in India.