E=mc2 said Einstein, or put simply that energy can be converted into mass and vice versa. But long before Einstein, Tata Power has been expending energy in bringing about change in the lives of the people that live around its sites.
Tata Power was set up back in 1915 with India's first hydro power plant at Khopoli, Maharashtra. Since then the company has grown to become India's biggest integrated power company with operations across India and in several countries overseas. Alongside this growth, the company has also followed Tata group founder Jamsetji Tata's philosophy: ‘The community is not just another stakeholder in business but is in fact the very purpose of its existence’.
The company's community development initiatives are based on the thought that all stakeholders, and especially communities, should benefit from the company's presence. Health, livelihood enhancement, education, infrastructure, social welfare, energy and the environment are the seven thrust areas of Tata Power’s community development initiatives: Here is a selection of three unique initiatives that have made a strong positive impact.
Tata Power’s 4000MW ultra mega power project in Mundra in the Kutch district of Gujarat is in the construction stage, but the company has already embarked on community development work in and around the area.
School children from the three village schools at Tunda and Vandh in Mundra and Nanabhadia in the Mandvi block of Kutch district will stand to gain from the learning kiosks / stations which have been set up there for a period of three years. The initiative has been undertaken through an agreement with Hole-in-the-Wall Education (HiWel), a joint venture of NIIT and the International Finance Corporation (part of the World Bank Group), to set up, operate and monitor the evaluation of the learning stations.
Tata Power hopes that this initiative will create an education backbone and serve as an effective base for further community development. The project was initiated after an assessment of the community around Mundra and the course curriculum was designed after gauging the prevailing levels of computer literacy among the people and ascertaining the usefulness of the project.
Through the learning kiosks the children will gain useful information while increasing their computer literacy skills. They will be taught subjects such as English, mathematics, social and life sciences.
The project hopes to create a sense of ownership by adopting an interactive approach whereby the entire community will be actively mobilised by showing them videos and photographs. A local champion will be selected to act as a one-point contact with the learning stations and the service agency. Regular evaluation and monitoring will be undertaken to find out the achievement levels and progress of the children in computer literacy and the other subjects.
Anantbhai Dave, chairman, Narmada Jal Sichai Nigam (Government of Gujarat) was one of the few dignitaries who was present at the launch of this project. He applauded the initiative saying, “It is really impressive and we expect that the learning from the programme will take the children to newer heights.”
A survey conducted by Pratham had revealed that learning levels of a large number of students (from Class 1 to Class 5) did not meet the national standards. In order to address this problem, Tata Power initiated the block excellence programme in 2009-10 across 100 villages that covered 6,800 students. Within a span of just two years, the programme has already reached out to nearly 13,460 school students across 262 villages in the Nirsa block of Dhanbad in Jharkhand. More than 750 volunteers are engaged in the effort.
Community classes are held in varied locations that include tree shelters and temple grounds. Learning is encouraged through an active participatory approach where children learn concepts through activities rather than rote learning from textbooks. For instance, bundles of sticks are used to explain concepts of addition and subtraction and pre-school maths is taught using coloured balls to identify numbers etc. The course curriculum also includes teaching of English songs to the students so they get a grasp of and feel comfortable with the language.
The initiative has already benefitted the community and has seen a reduction in child labour prevalent in the region – 160 children who were engaged in brick-making have been successfully enrolled for mainstream education.
Another crucial aspect of this intervention is the involvement of the local community and parents who are mobilised via a programme called the child testing mela (Hindi for fair). Over a two-day period, members of the village education committee, school teachers, headmasters, panchayats, samiti members (local government) and parents are engaged through community meetings and household visits to ensure their participation.
The mela has helped create greater awareness within the community about the importance of the programme, the education infrastructure and the quality of education imparted in their villages. Parents have gained a greater understanding of the role they play and their responsibility towards their children’s education.
Through the programme, learning levels of the children have increased to 70-75 per cent. There is significant improvement in the teaching methodology, and teachers have become more motivated, which has also helped in the overall development of the students.
The BPO caters to Tata Indicom’s Marathi speaking clientele and currently employs about 240 youth who have been given training in operations, basic English, confidence building and personality development.
Tata Power is also actively involved in various other community programmes – be it empowering farmers in Dhanbad or Lonavala, blood donation drives in local communities, empowering of women in Dherand and Shahapur, and so on – all sterling examples of how a company can channelise energy to create positive change.