Cube Highways & Transportation Assets Advisors (P) Ltd is India’s leading highway operations and maintenance advisor. In an exclusive interview for National Road Safety Month 2022, Shibashish Sahoo, Vice President of Social Initiatives puts a spotlight on how the company is driving positive change in communities and the world at large. Sahoo specializes in various aspects of social safeguards planning, implementation and monitoring. His expertise includes Need based Assessment, Social Impact Assessment, Planning, Implementation, Monitoring of CSR, Land Acquisition Planning, Involuntary Resettlement, Indigenous Peoples Planning, Gender Assessment, Implementation of Resettlement Action Plan, Livelihood Restoration Planning, Community Development and Capacity Building.
His area of experience spans across sectors like energy, transport (Roads, Highways and Railways) Urban Infrastructure and Rural Development. He has worked as a consultant for a variety of government departments, funding agencies and donor agencies that have funded projects such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the World Bank, UNICEF and CARE.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q 1: What drew you towards social impact?
I was born and brought up in a village in the Coastal District of Odisha. I have grown up seeing the struggles of the people such as poverty, hunger and no access to basic healthcare. Although my father wasn’t financially sound, he had been in the forefront to help people in his capacity to mitigate their problems. That same spirit was ingrained in me and propelled me to get involved wherever and whenever possible to help people.
Working with CARE and UNICEF for tribal people in Odisha was an eye-opener for me to witness and experience the lifestyle of poor tribals living without any basic amenities. I was pursuing my career in Resettlement and Rehabilitation but when I got the opportunity to lead and contribute towards the Social initiatives at Cube, I embraced the same with enthusiasm as it coincided with my passion to work for the community and help them.
Q 2: Tell us about the road safety initiatives and activities taken by Cube Highways as part of its CSR?
Cube Highways as an organisation takes road safety pro-actively. The first and foremost responsibility is to follow the standards set by Indian Road Congress (IRC) in maintaining road furniture, identifying black spots by third party consultants and implementing the recommendations by the consultant to mitigate all the imperfections, providing the best riding quality pavements as per IRC standards for the commuters. Also, keeping Route Patrol vehicles alert all the time, creating awareness campaigns on road safety in the community along the highway stretch, and among school students form part of our benchmarking. Every year Cube observes National Road Safety Month in January and creates awareness on road safety with various innovative ideas like conducting workshops on road safety, distributing Helmets to those bikers crossing Toll Plazas without helmets in the presence of police, NHAI and Media personnel to create awareness among the riders and the community at large, etc.
Q 3: What are the key focus areas of Cube’s corporate social responsibility? What was the impact of the programmes?
Cube undertakes multiple activities for the development of the communities based on the needs assessment conducted from time to time. A few of our flagship programs are:
– Education: Financial assistance of Rs 10,000 to each underprivileged meritorious student of Government Schools passed out 10th Standard to help them in their higher studies. So far; we have reached out to 1221 beneficiaries out of which 743 are girls from 211 Schools in 11 States.
– Sarvangeen Abhiyan: Cube has started augmenting basic infrastructure in government schools, along the highways stretch and covered 121 Schools in seven States. The initiative has benefited 81628 students out of which 48977 are girls.
– Skill Development: Youths from rural areas have limited scope and support to add additional skills for their employability. To meet the gap, Cube Highways has started Computer Training Centers to train rural youths with digital literacy in four states, skilling around 1490 people out of which 580 are girls. With five Tailoring Training Centres, Cube Highways provide self-sustainable income generation for rural women in some states, which has benefited 1805 rural women and made them self-sustainable to earn a livelihood.
– Healthcare: Cube offers support to rural health centers to provide standard healthcare to the community, which includes providing infrastructure support to rural health centers based on the gap analysis. So far, 83 Health Centers in 10 States reach out to 48977 patients per day.
– Environmental sustainability: We have started rehabilitation of community ponds to recharge groundwater. Nine ponds have been rehabilitated benefitting 20255 villagers and the total capacity of 219902 kilo-liters of water recharged.
Q 4: How is Cube Roots Foundation augmenting basic infrastructural support to government schools, along with its road assets?
We have started augmenting basic infrastructure support to government schools across highway stretches and covered 121 Schools in seven states in 18 districts and a total number of beneficiaries count as 81628 out of which 48977 are girls.
Q 5: In view of the third wave of COVID-19, what are Cube Highways plans for emergency relief and healthcare?
In 2020, when COVID-19 hit the people and economy, we reached out to the marginalised and vulnerable communities who were heavily impacted and provided them with the aid to build resilience. Cube not only provided PPE kits to frontline workers, but also provided food packets, clean drinking water, first aid to migrant workers on highways, walking to reach their homeland during the lockdown in 2020.
Q 6: In your opinion, how can the private sector help India in achieving the SDGs by the year 2030?
The private sector has played a huge role in India’s development and is largely responsible for the phenomenal growth recorded in the country. The sector’s contribution is instrumental in achieving the SDGs. Private sector companies are predominant in creating employment, providing funds, building competitiveness and capabilities and driving innovation – all key drivers for growth.
The private sector is working proactively to strengthen the fundamentals of the country which include enhancing the quality of education, building an environment and skills that boost employability, strengthening the healthcare system, water and sanitation, addressing gender equality. Cube Highways, being one of the key stakeholders, has a fundamental commitment to accelerate the SDGs implementation process and eventually achieve them.