Murshidabad is a hotly contested parliamentary constituency in the West Bengal elections. In the 2014 elections, Badaruddoza Khan of CPM had won from this constituency with a vote share of 33.15%. No wonder Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is camping out here. Once known as Makhsudabad, it used to be the capital of Bangla, Odisha and Bihar. The town used to be a hub for silk-weaving and agricultural trade.
However, Murshidabad remains educationally backward. The female literacy rate in this district is among the lowest in West Bengal, and the rest of the country for that matter. So, it makes complete sense that the most prolific interventions for CSR in Murshidabad involve education, women empowerment and skill development.
Bharti Enterprises – Satya Bharti Schools
In 2011, Bharti Foundation (the CSR arm of telecom giant Bharti Enterprises) launched six Satya Bharti Schools in the villages of Amaritakunda, Chanak, Chargachi, Patkeldanga, Noapara and Dhalsa in Murshidabad district. More than 60% of the students at these schools are girls. Most of the children enrolled in these schools are first generation learners – their parents did not experience the joys of formal education. These children are not only receiving quality education, but also nutritious mid-day meals, exposure to a range of co-curricular activities.
The Satya Bharti Schools in West Bengal have been built incorporating the ‘Building As Learning Aid’ (BALA) technique. As per this technique, walls, windows and other structures of the school building are painted in the form of calendar month, school map, height charts, abacus grill, mathematics tables, distance markers. This method ensured that with multiple exposures to the built-in learning aids in the school buildings, children remember them in the long run. The curriculum in the schools also integrates community campaigns to develop life skills as well as critical and creative thinking among the children.
Singer India – Women Empowerment Project
For women from the weaker sections of society, a vocational skill like sewing holds an important alternative as they can set up a sewing machine set up in their homes and cater to making clothes for their family and neighbourhood while still continuing their roles as homemakers. As part of Singer India’s CSR Programme of Ek Nai Pehchaan, the appliance maker has committed itself to aggressively aiming to uplift women from the weaker sections of society who are coming from the slums and lower-middle strata.
The Mahila Selai School in Murshidabad is a Skill Development Centre for providing women with vocational training in order to help them learn the skill of sewing. Most of the women are unemployed, school drop-outs and widows. The Singer skill centre is equipped with the latest industrial machines – all part of the training course aimed at making women embrace work in garment factories. The school offers three-month Certificate and six-month Diploma courses.
As part of the company’s humanitarian efforts during COVID-19, the women at the Mahila Selai School have taken the initiative of making and distributing fabric face masks for the poor. Their mask-making efforts have found support from volunteer groups in the local community.
NTPC – Literacy initiatives
NTPC Farakka in Murshidabad has been running various literacy initiatives, which have borne fruit over the years. In fact, NTPC Farakka bagged the FAME CSR Award and the Apex India Excellence Award for its CSR programmes. The public sector power company has an adult education centre, is facilitating primary education by adopting schools and conducts GEM workshops for empowerment of the girl child.
The company’s involvement for CSR in Murshidabad takes the form of infrastructural and financial support, access to qualified teachers and quality annual educational plans for every institution. Delhi Public School at NTPC Farakka was established in 1993. It is among the top CBSE schools in Murshidabad, sought after by parents who want a bright future for their children.
The current activities for CSR in Murshidabad are prestigious but few. There is plenty of scope for private companies to get involved in the development of this historic district of Bengal.