December 2001 | KS Susindar*

TCCI brightens Alur childscape

The children of the MVF School at Alur, near Hyderabad, have a better life to look forward to thanks to the commitment of seven Tata companies. This initiative of the TCCI regional group is an inspiring example of companies working together for the social transformation of an underprivileged community

The Tata Council for Community Initiatives (TCCI) has been actively coordinating the social initiatives undertaken by various Tata companies. Set up to formalise the Tata group's community development activities, TCCI is involved in getting companies to work together by contributing their core competencies to improve the lives of the needy and the downtrodden.

One such successful endeavour has been that of helping the children of the MVF schools, which are supported by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). It is an inspiring example of the collaborative commitment of the Tata companies to enhance the lives and future prospects of 320 underprivileged children.

The Hyderabad chapter of TCCI was formed on March 21, 2001, with a core volunteer group of 25 members. The companies involved in this initiative were Tata Teleservices, Tata Projects, Tata Cellular, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Taj Hotels, Voltas and Rallis. On April 17 of the same year, TCS demonstrated its adult literacy programme to the TCCI team and the MVF staff.

The group of 25 volunteers from the seven Tata companies visited the schools to understand their problems. It was decided to focus on three key areas: teaching mathematics to the MVF teachers, providing computers for learning, and taking care of the basic needs of the children.

Pilot project
The MVF school at Alur, about 45 km from Hyderabad, was chosen as the first school to work with. The children at this school have run away from their homes after being subjected to physical abuse and forced hard labour at the estates of rich landlords in the area.

The school used chicken sheds as classrooms, which also doubled up as living quarters for the 320 children. It was a cruel mockery of today’s high-tech world that these children lived and studied in a place that formerly housed chickens. The other facilities at the school included a common kitchen, some washrooms, and toilets that lacked a proper sanitation system.

After hearing what the children had to say, the TCCI group was immensely motivated to transform the lives of these unfortunates. Besides the key issues, the other tasks at hand were to provide clean toilets, basic communications facilities, and to construct a compound wall and a gate.

According to the strategy evolved, individual Tata companies provided the required resources based on their core competencies. The companies, with the help of their team of volunteers — this had doubled to 50 by then — started working on individual tasks.

Within a period of four months, the companies had constructed the planned facilities and collected, through donations and purchases, the required resources.

Who contributed what

  • Tata Teleservices donated a used computer at book value and bought notebooks, pens and sweets for the children.
  • Tata Cellular donated a new Nokia cell phone and pre-paid cards for a year.
  • Tata Projects undertook the construction of new toilets, the compound wall, a water tank with pump, and also the renovation of the existing washrooms.
  • Voltas gave away some of its unused furniture, valued at about Rs 15,000.
  • Three Taj hotels, Taj Banjara, Taj Residency and Taj Krishna, collectively donated an old gate, used carpets, plastic chairs, bath towels, bed sheets, cooking appliances and other utensils, and cloth for the children’s uniforms.
  • Rallis facilitated the greening of the surrounding environs by contributing saplings and seeds.

The total contribution of these companies is estimated at Rs 3 lakh, but what’s more important is that the school now has cleaner rooms, a working sanitation system, better washrooms, greener surroundings, better infrastructure and trained mathematics teachers (the volunteers taught mathematics to over 20 teachers over two days).

The new facilities were inaugurated on August 15, 2001, lending the country’s independence day a special significance. S. Ramakrishnan, the managing director of Tata Teleservices, and the village munsif unfurled the national flag on the occasion. And Dr Shantha Sinha spoke about the achievements and plans of MVF.

CEOs and MDs of the other Tata companies involved were also present at the function, for which Rallis made the necessary arrangements and the Taj Residency provided refreshments. The children were entertained with a movie screening, but what must surely have made them more joyous was the fact that they would henceforth be studying and living in better conditions.

Following the success of this pilot project, the TCCI regional group is planning to take up similar projects in six other schools by March 2002, and it is also looking at projects outside the UNDP’s ambit.

In keeping with the best traditions of collaboration and cooperation in the Tata Group, TCCI is looking for committed partners — to whom it is willing to offer financial support — to work with it for the social transformation of India’s underprivileged communities.

*KS Susindar is a TCCI volunteer.