Companies are increasingly growing innovative and flexible with their CSR practices. With globalization and technological advancement, there is a growing trend of sharing knowledge, exchanging best practices and promoting collaborative efforts. This is evident in many areas – be it conservation & management of natural resources, health, education or empowerment. The endeavours have made some significant impact in the lives of rural communities across India.
Through CSR, corporates are making their best efforts to reduce the rural-urban divide, especially in terms of access to information. The outcomes, too, have been quite encouraging. Better infrastructure, access to digital technology and increasing confidence of people (especially youth), indeed deserves an applause.
Government’s focus on strengthening rural infrastructure is a welcome move. Several companies are also coming forward to support the initiative and there is an increased emphasis on building roads and improve rural-urban connectivity. However, at the same time, there is a greater need to build a sense of responsibility amongst people to make use of the facilities in the best possible manner. Safety, of course, should be the prime concern. Currently, public, in general, is casual about safety and there exist abysmally low safety standards, especially in rural areas.
As per the report by Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, there were 269,529 road accidents in rural locations as compared to 231,894 accidents in the urban areas. The percentage of road accident fatalities and injuries were also more in rural areas as compared to the urban areas in the country. It is obvious that safety be treated as an urgent issue, given the fact that rural India is on fast-development track.
Most businesses have set up their manufacturing plants in remote rural geographies. Many a times, these locations are underdeveloped to a large extent where people lack access to basic facilities and information. However, as companies begin their operations in such locations, there is a sudden outburst of developmental initiatives mostly beginning with roads and infrastructure. This definitely works in favour of surrounding communities, however, all this often happens too quickly for the people to absorb and respond to the changes.
Companies must be aware that their presence in rural geographies, especially related to logistics, impacts the neighbourhood directly. Some of the examples are increased traffic, high pollution and several other small businesses cropping up in the vicinity. All this, if not managed well, could impose severe damage to the community, especially related to safety.
While companies are quite proactive in taking into account the safety of their employees and working staff, there still exists a large scope in extending this practice to their surrounding communities. Business responsibility doesn’t end at building infrastructure and improving access, rather, it brings upon the onus of helping people adopt safe practices to make the best use of the facilities.
Operating in rural geographies is a sensitive domain and corporates can mitigate any unpleasant circumstance by promoting safety as a way of life. Rather than reacting to the incidents that occur due to unsafe behaviour and practices, corporates should be vigilant and proactive to sense the situation and take corrective actions well in advance. In Ambuja Cement, we realized that road safety was a concern for the Company as hundreds of trucks moved in and out of plant premises every day. While the Company did improve infrastructure in the locations, it extended the safety drive to other domains as well. This included focused training of our drivers, installing GPS system in vehicles and involving employees in all safety programs initiated inside and outside the plants.
It is important to note that like any other project, safety as a culture should be accepted and owned by its people. Safety cannot be imposed, rather, it should be cultivated with care and patience so that it is imbibed and embraced by people with utmost priority.
Any other initiative will yield result, only when our community is safe and healthy. Safety should be adopted as an overarching value by companies not only for its employees but its communities as well.
Pearl Tiwari is the Director of Ambuja Cement Foundation, the CSR wing of Ambuja Cements Limited. In a professional career spanning over 30 years, Pearl has been associated with the not-for-profit, educational and corporate sectors. Pearl joined Ambuja in 2000 and ever since has been at the helm of nurturing the Ambuja Cement Foundation that has expanded from a fledging team to nearly 400 development professionals, with a pan-India presence active in 21 locations across 11 states.
Views of the author are personal and do not necessarily represent the website’s views.
The CSR Journal TeamSubscribe