Varanasi, also known as Benares or Kashi is among the oldest cities of India. The city is considered to be a holy city among Hindus, who believe that if they spend the last days of their lives in the city, they will be able to achieve salvation. Despite its religious and historical importance, the district experiences economic backwardness, making it a deserving destination for CSR interventions.
Varanasi was among the top 10 recipient districts in Uttar Pradesh for CSR funds in FY2020-21. The district received Rs. Cr. from 60 companies in the financial year. The top three sectors of focus for CSR initiatives in the district were Education, Health, and Gender Equality, which received Rs. 9.59 Cr., Rs. 5.38 Cr., and Rs. 1.37 Cr., respectively. The top three spenders in the district were G R Infraprojects Limited (Rs. 3.15 Cr.), Knr Constructions Limited (Rs. 2.5 Cr.), and Northern Coalfields Limited (Rs. 1.42 Cr.).
Let us look at top CSR initiatives in the spiritual capital of India.
Vedanta’s Nand Ghar Initiative
Vedanta, under its flagship initiative – Nand Ghar, set up its 1500th facility at Surahi village in Kashi Vidyapeeth block of Varanasi. The Nand Ghar project began in 2015 with a vision to transform the lives of 8.5 crore children and 2 crore women across 13.7 lakh anganwadis. A dream project of Vedanta Chairman, Shri Anil Agarwal, Nand Ghar is a network of model anganwadis where the thrust is on inclusive development of children, women and local communities. The Nand Ghars are set up in collaboration with the Union Ministry of Women & Child Development.
Nand Ghars are equipped with solar panels to ensure 24X7 electricity, water purifiers, clean toilets and smart television sets, and have become a model resource centre for the local communities. Pre-school education is provided to children in the age group of 3-6 years. Nutritious meals and take-home rations are being provided for children, pregnant and lactating women.
In addition to this, primary healthcare services are rendered through mobile health vans and women are empowered through skilling, credit linkage and enterprise development.
Project Parivartan by HDFC Bank and AROH Foundation
AROH Foundation and HDFC Bank, under the Holistic Rural Development Project “Parivartan”, have adopted 15 villages in Pindra block of Varanasi.
The objective of the project is to develop the adopted villages into self-sustaining model villages. This includes raising physical, socio-economical index for an estimated population of 22,610 and improving the village eco-system. Prime focus is to enhance human capital by providing better opportunities in skills and livelihood, Education, Health and Sanitation, Water and Natural Resource Management, Financial Literacy and Inclusion and realignment and community-led institutions.
The project Parivartan inculcates an organic approach to recycle and rejuvenate existing resources, create FPOs, SHGs, JLGs, linkages & convergence to create synergy to develop villages into self-sustaining entries models. The project adopts a bottom-up approach with an adequate focus on micro-planning through a participatory approach ensuring the involvement of different stakeholders in the development process, which eventually also ensures the sustainability of the impact.
Besides bringing a positive transformation in people’s lives, the project is a step to support the Government in achieving the national goals of Doubling Farmer’s Income, Swachh Bharat Mission, Make in India, Beti Bachao- Beti Padhao, etc., while also contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Project I-CLEAN by Syngenta
In order to boost to the rural economy in Varanasi, Syngenta, World’s leading agriculture company has committed to upgrade five rural haats (Mandis) in the first phase, under its flagship CSR project- I-CLEAN (Inculcating Cleanliness, Learning, Education, Awareness and New Habits), which has been inspired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. These Rural Haats (Mandis) will be upgraded to the level of Grameen Rural Agriculture Markets (GrAMs) by Syngenta. These will also be upgraded to facilities like sorting, grading and e-linking in line with the Central government’s initiative to link 22500 rural markets.
Laying the foundation stone for the Baraura Mandi, Mr Neel Ratan Singh Patel, Hon’ble Member of Legislative Assembly, Sewapuri, said, “The aesthetically designed rural market will make business activities more pleasurable. Solar electrification will add hours to the market timings, which will lead to more business hours and footfall. Better facilities will lead to significant improvement in the health conditions of the community. Safe drinking water facility will remove water-borne diseases. These changes will fuel the economy of the surrounding villages.”
“Under I-CLEAN project, eight new state-of-the-art infrastructures along with solar lighting, drinking water, garbage collection/disposal, toilet blocks and other facilities will be constructed at Baraura Rural Haat. Toilet block, shops and storerooms will be repaired. Entire Haat area will be covered with soling and solar lights. Bore wells will be provided for the benefit of vendors and buyers who visit the Haat on a daily basis,” said Dr KC Ravi, Chief Sustainability Officer, Syngenta India Limited.
Dr Ravi informed further that Syngenta has signed an MoU with CII and this project will be executed by the NGO Haritika.
The Baraura Haat that is to be upgraded, has been operational for the last several years, functioning seven days of the week. People from nearby 10 to 15 villages depend on this Haat for their day-to-day needs. There are more than 100 vendors and farmers, who use this Haat to sell their produce.
“The upgraded infrastructure will bring in improved access to water, resolve privacy and safety concerns for women with separate sanitation facilities for men and women. Raised platforms and sheds help vendors reduce losses as their wares, vegetables and fruits are shielded from direct sunlight, rain, etc. “This state-of-the-art infrastructure will provide relief to farmers and traders from the heat during harsh summers,” Dr Ravi added.
The government’s decision to upgrade rural Haats (unregulated periodic rural markets) to GrAMs is in line with the vision of doubling farmer’s income. The upgraded GrAMs are envisaged to work as primary aggregation points for farmers, where they can sell their produce directly to consumers or bulk buyers – retailers/processors.
The third-party impact assessment of Syngenta’s I-CLEAN project has shown that the rural vendors and farmers have seen an increase of 42% in their income after the project was implemented. It is, therefore, proved that this could be a game changer in achieving the objective of doubling farmer’s income. Syngenta I-CLEAN is a rural transformation project under the CSR initiatives of Syngenta India Limited. This flagship project of Syngenta CSR was started in 2014 from Bihar.