Corporate social responsibility (CSR) sees private companies as potentially important development agents, particularly in partnership with the government and civil society groups. The influence by business over popular and policy-related discourse is as important as that of being partners in the process of development. Government partnerships with business can indeed be beneficial to development, but a critical position needs to be maintained within this cooperative approach. Such partnerships require the strategic use of planning and management skills that the corporate is much hailed for, while simultaneously enabling the government in facilitating fair and effective execution of their schemes.
By virtue of its nature of business, Essar often operates in areas where the communities are disadvantaged and distant from the mainstream development process. These areas often stand low on development indicators and lack basic infrastructure for essentials like healthcare, education or livelihoods. Essar Foundation vehemently promotes strategic interventions that accentuate the government's outreach further to unreached areas, and complement their efforts leading towards sustainability.
In India, the state of Odisha sees a sturdydisplay of convergence in Essar's partnership with the government, where the outcomes have been more than satiating.Essar Foundation recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the district administration of Keonjhar to adopt the government Community Health Center (CHC) at Telkoi block in the district, one of the poorest and tribal dominated blocks in Keonjhar. The MoU was signed between MrBishnu Prasad Sahoo, Collector-cum-Chairman, ZillaSwasthyaSamiti, Keonjhar, and MrRajendra Kumar Mittal, Chief Executive Officer, Essar Steel India Ltd, Odisha operations, in the presence of DrDamodar Rout, Health and Family Welfare Minister, Odisha."We will maintain the CHC, provide support in terms of housekeeping and cleanliness, and depute doctors and specialists. We hope Essar will be able to make a lot of difference to the lives of people who come to the health center." remarked Mr Mittal.
The CHC will provide healthcare services to the entire population in 149 villages of 20 gram panchayats of Telkoiblock. Major intervention points are that of providing pediatric specialist services, full-time laboratory technicians, a hospital manager, security personnel, attendant-cum-sweepers, gardener, food catering to attendants of indoor patients, hospital lighting, medicines and advanced medical laboratory equipment.The MoU marks a significant step towards making quality healthcare services available to the communities of one of the poorest blocks of Odisha.
While the penetration of one of the most significant schemes of the government of India is deep, when it comes to planning and implementation at the primary level, the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM)* can be furthered effectively with advancedstrategic management. To extend supportin this direction, Essar Foundation is acting as sole partner with the Odisha Livelihood Mission at Telkoi in Keonjhar district by building a team of experienced professionals to execute the scheme.Essar has placed four experienced professionals to help reach out to more than 10,000 women and self-help group members in 13 blocks of the district. This kind of partnership sets precedence in the country in professionally managing this government scheme.
Acknowledging the efforts of Essar, JyotiRanjanSahoo, the Block Development OfficerofTelkoi, mentions that Essar's presence is being felt in the area. "They have opened an Industrial Training Institute to help the (employability of) youth. They are also investing in the healthcare sector. Essar is the only company that is active here."
For people of the villages in Paradeep, access to government health care services was limited by distance and transport issues. It was daunting especially for the women and the elderly, due to their low mobility. Based on a household survey, the Mobile Health Unit (MHU) was launched to provide primary and basic health care facilities to people living in 17 villages of three gram panchayats of Kujanga block. The MHU projectruns successfully with necessary permission from the district administration as well as the Odisha government under the Odisha Clinical Establishments Act, 1990. In its one year of functioning, the MHU has treated more than 20,000 patients.
The government seeks the involvement of business organizations to supplement its efforts in the areas of healthcare, education, livelihood, provision of drinking water and infrastructure development. Avoiding duplication of efforts and allowing replication of good practices is what is most desirable. Essar believes in progress through synergy in partnerships. And partnership with the government goes a long way in ensuring sustainable development.
*The National Rural Livelihood Mission is a major development program of the Union Rural Development ministry, catering to the needs of 70 million below-the-poverty-line (BPL) households across India.