02 Apr. 2019 | Comments (0)
The Aditya Birla Group is working toward the transformation of 5,000 villages across India. The model village concept is designed to promote self-sufficiency, including in education, healthcare and family welfare, infrastructure, agriculture, and watershed management. The work reaches 7.5 million people annually, more than 60 percent of whom live below the poverty line and belong to scheduled castes and tribes (officially designated groups of historically disadvantaged people). The project reflects Aditya Birla’s longstanding and firm commitment to investing part of its profits beyond business, for the greater good of society.
An Indian multinational conglomerate with operations in 35 countries and a global workforce of 120,000 employees, the group was founded by Seth Shiv Narayan Birla in 1857. Today, it operates in several sectors, including viscose staple fiber, metals, cement (largest in India), viscose filament yarn, branded apparel, carbon black, chemicals, fertilizers, insulators, financial services, telecom, BPO, and IT services. It also runs 20 hospitals and 56 schools.
One of its operating units, Novelis, the world leader in aluminum rolled products and recycling, is a member of the Global CSR & Philanthropy Council. During a recent visit to India, Novelis’s council representative, Ashley Gravlee, and her India colleagues hosted members of the council and shared information about the impact of the Aditya Birla Group. This included a visit to a model village surrounding the group’s Ultra Tech Cement Works Plant in Kotputli.
One of the unique programs that the model village has established for residents is a purified water dispensary that works like an ATM. Each household has a card and can get up to five liters of water per visit. According to the World Bank, 163 million people in India lack access to safe water. This, along with a lack of hygiene practices, leads to more than 500 children under the age of five dying each day from diarrhea.
To empower women and encourage sustainable livelihoods, the model village has a women’s center that teaches skills to local girls and young women. We visited one room in which girls were learning to use computers. In another, women were being taught to sew (in India, tailors are primarily men). The women were thrilled to be learning a trade and earning an income for their families. Until then, their primary role was to stay at home and take care of the family. The lessons, the women said, are giving them freedom and a sense of community with other women.
Council members visited a range of other initiatives within the model village, including:
- The Farmers Club, a program in which farmers learn how to better treat the soil, rotate crops, and conserve water, with the goal of increasing yields and income.
- A medical clinic, which is located on the campus of the UltraTech community, but open to the surrounding villages. The impressive facility provides medical services for employees and villagers. The clinic has established the Pulse Polio campaign, which immunizes nearly 30,000 children from polio in the surrounding area every year.
- The Aditya Birla School, at which many students expressed a desire to pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) or the legal profession. Thirty-five percent of the students who attend the school are children of UltraTech employees, but the remaining 65 percent are from the surrounding villages. The school has an excellent art program and as we left the building, students gave us beautiful hand-made cards to celebrate Diwali, the festival of lights. Outside of the school, we participated a beautification program and helped plant trees.
Council members left the model village feeling truly inspired by the level of commitment of both the Aditya Birla Group and Ultra Tech to improving the lives of all the villagers. Our visit painted a colorful and personal portrait of the transformations taking place across India, which are improving the health, livelihoods, and trajectories of so many families.