Beyond Money
A healing touch

Narmada Kidney Foundation not only provides information about kidney diseases but also explains how they can be prevented, Shukti Sarma reports

Each year, 0.3-0.4 million people in India develop end-stage kidney disease; only 10% manage to get treatment like dialysis or organ transplant. Apart from the serious medical complexities, the financial and psychological implications are huge for patients, organ donors and their families.

It was to help such patients that Narmada Kidney Foundation (NKF) was set up in 1993. “The patients wanted to know more about required care and medications,” says Dr Prashant Rajput, nephrologist and transplant physician, who works with the organisation. He adds, “Eminent nephrologist Dr Bharat Shah and his friends came together to promote awareness and support the patients and donors. Dr Shah managed its affairs, but his patients were the driving force in setting up this Foundation.”

NKF promotes awareness about kidney diseases and advocates cadaver organ transplant. One can listen to the programmes aired twice a month on AIR FM Rainbow where the doctors are invited to speak. “We believe that if family members want to donate their kidneys voluntarily, things should be made easy. But there are many legal hurdles, and permission often comes after it is too late. The waiting list is huge and patients cannot afford to waste time,” Dr Rajput says.

NKF encourages interaction between patients and donors. Every week, donors and patients meet there—which gives both a psychological boost. Additionally, there are screening and diet workshops and counselling about pre- and post-treatment care. NKF provides medicines and treatments at subsidised rates.

Almost 100 outdoor and indoor patients are treated daily; in a year, 50-60 kidney transplants are performed. Compared to other non-government organisations, NKF had a smooth start. But, as the number of patients went up, the fund crunch started. “We deal with patients from all sections of society. A few are wealthy but the majority earn only about Rs15,000 a month; 15%-20% are from slums,” informs Dr Rajput.

Through NKF, many underprivileged patients get check-ups, operations and medicines at subsidised rates. Some former patients donate, but major part of the funding comes from memberships. Life membership is available for Rs5,000, and annual membership for Rs500. “In many cases, more than one member of a family suffers from kidney diseases. In that case, if one becomes a member, benefits are extended to the relatives too,” says Dr Rajput.

It is difficult to keep up without corporate funding, but doctors at NKF believe that seeing their patients’ walk away smiling is more important. Recently, Dr Rajput performed a transplant, the permission for which was obtained after seven months. “It is an unbelievable story. This person was a bus conductor on a Modasa-Nadiad bus which had a two-and-half-hour-halt at Nadiad. For two and half years, he would come to Nadiad at Muljibhai Patel Urological Hospital for dialysis during that break. Dialysis is painful, and one can’t start working immediately after—but he would go back to his duty.”

His wife was willing, but her kidney was non-compatible. His brother-in-law decided to donate a kidney, but the latter’s family was not happy with their son losing a kidney. “So the search started again. Then, a man from Rajasthan came forward, whose mother required a transplant too—but she was in Haryana. Our patient’s wife’s kidney was found compatible with this woman’s—and there was a swap transplant between this conductor and that man, and the donor’s mother and our patient’s wife. He spent almost Rs2.5 lakh as bribe to get permission for the operation,” laughs Dr Rajput.

One can volunteer for NKF’s awareness programmes or sponsor patients. “The best thing to do would be to pledge to donate an organ,” says Dr Rajput. Monetary donations are exempt under section 80(G) of Income Tax Act.

Narmada Kidney Foundation

Anil Clinic
A-01, Navsanyukta Apartments
AG Link Road
Chakala Andheri (E)
Mumbai 400 093
Tel: 022 2836 8634
www.narmadakidney.org
narmadakidney@yahoo.co.in

Helping to help

Milaap, a micro-lending platform, believes that a little help goes a long way, Shukti Sarma reports

After working in Singapore, Anoj Viswanathan joined SKS Microfinance, working on energy and water services in rural India. The impact of a $10 solar lantern, sold on credit to poor tribal villagers, triggered the idea of starting a micro-lending platform. His friends Sourabh Sharma and Mayukh Choudhury were also working on similar projects. Together, they founded Milaap in June 2010 and registered it as a society.

“Anoj realised that the impact of products like solar lamps remained limited because loans were not available at low interest. Donations lead to dependence; when you give someone a loan, you’re encouraging them to stand on their feet,” says Tanvi Mehta, the chief evangelist for Milaap.

Through Milaap, anyone can make small loans to registered borrowers. The amount can be as little as Rs1,000. When the loan is repaid with interest, the lender can choose to re-lend the same amount to another borrower. “Loans usually fund two causes: providing essential needs for families like clean water and sanitation; and for income-generation opportunities—like giving vocational training to youngsters, or enabling farmers and artisans to invest in equipment and raw materials and providing them with a guaranteed buyer,” says
Ms Mehta.

On Milaap’s website, one can select a borrower and make a loan through PayPal. Repayment occurs over an extended period. Milaap collaborates with other organisations and field partners who are in touch with the borrowers. “Borrowers approach field partners who appraise and verify the authenticity of their credit needs and recommend borrowers to us,” Ms Mehta says.

The biggest challenge for the founders was getting Reserve Bank of India’s approval for foreign funding of loans. After much persuasion, permission was finally granted in August 2011. As of November 2011, Milaap has raised $160,000 for 600 borrowers in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Maharashtra with 100% repayment rate. It has helped many; like Vasim, who had benefited through an educational loan. Last year, he was unemployed, untrained and directionless. In April 2011, he decided to join a vocational training programme. Through Milaap, he could organise the entire amount required. Today, he has a stable and secure job at the retail chain More.  

Milaap disburses loans bearing in mind borrowers’ repayment capacity and the regularity of their cash-flows. For example, students availing of education loans are given time to find a job before the repayment cycle begins. Generally, they are allowed four months to find employment. Loans are disbursed using vouchers for buying products or hiring services from assured vendors. Vendors receive payments from field partners on presentation of vouchers. Borrowers are encouraged to save and focus on improving their living conditions. Several households across the country now have solar lighting or toilets installed through Milaap’s loans.

The microfinance crisis in India has not affected Milaap’s work as yet. But micro-lending is a comparatively new concept that requires awareness creation. One can help Milaap by providing technical support, or advocacy through social media and raise funds, or any other means. “We had a couple who asked their friends to lend money through Milaap instead of bringing them gifts for their wedding. That is amazing,” Ms Mehta says.

Milaap’s funding has so far come from some private investors, apart from the small commissions they charge their field partners. Milaap plans to raise at least $1 million in the next 12 months. “We’re hoping to scale up to 10 field partners and fund at least 1,000 loans,” Ms Mehta said. They are planning to have an Indian payment portal on their website too. While loans to borrowers are not tax-exempt, donations to Milaap are exempt under Section 80 (G) of Income Tax Act.

Milaap

Room-5, NS Raghavan Center for Entrepreneurship and Learning
IIM-Bangalore, Bannerghatta Road
Bengaluru 560 076
Tel: (91) 88803 40333
www.milaap.org
feedback@milaap.org

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Save Water, Save Nature

Gangajal Nature Foundation spreads awareness about water pollution, through the medium of ‘Gangajal photo exhibition’, reports Alekh Angre

In India, the river Ganga signifies faith and religion; it is a symbol of our civilization. But, over the years, it has been reduced to a polluted drain, thanks to industrialisation and human greed.

Noticing the contradictory human behaviour towards a river that people revere as ‘Ganga maiyya’ (mother Ganga), a Mumbai-based freelance photographer, Vijay Mudshingikar decided to traverse the entire course of the river capturing images of the devastated Ganges. He exhibited his photographs and the experience eventually led him to set up the Gangajal Nature Foundation in 2007.

The Foundation aims to protect India’s water resources from all kinds of pollution. It has collated extensive data on the polluted Ganga and creates awareness about dying water resources through photographs and documentaries. These efforts forced the Uttarakhand government to ban tourists/pilgrims at Gomukh, including the Kavad Yatra.

“I first read about the Ganga getting polluted while I was bedridden with slipped disc. I decided that after I recover, I must capture its condition through photographs,” says Mr Mudshingikar. He was then working as a junior technician at Crompton Greaves. In 2001, armed with his camera, he started from the point where the Ganga meets the Bay of Bengal and retraced its path to its origin at Gomukh. The photographs, covering a five-year journey, include the immersion of the Durga idol in West Bengal, dev deepawali in Benaras, dead bodies thrown in the river and other forms of pollution startling enough to shock anyone. “The gangajal is pristine blue at Gomukh; but at Kanpur, it was nothing but poison,” he says.

Mr Mudshingikar’s photographs portray the truth more powerfully than words and instantly touch one’s heart. These photographs are meant to create awareness about the state of India’s water resources, be it rivers, lakes or ponds. To dedicate time and attention to this work, Mr Mudshingikar took voluntary retirement from his job in 2006 and used the golden handshake funds to hold his first exhibition in Delhi. Although the exhibition drew a large number of viewers, not a single photograph got sold. Slowly word spread and funds from the founders and members of his organisation helped him in his mission to create awareness. “The coming generation will see worse pollution, so we always try to create awareness amongst school kids,” he explains.

Gangajal Foundation organised a ‘Jan Jodo Ganga Yatra’ in 2010 connecting people across the river’s 2,525km course. In the process, they collected useful data like levels of pollution, ill-effects on people’s lives, video records of the untreated effluent and sewage discharge. It is the local authorities from Kanpur who took action and blocked some nullahs that were draining into the river.

“Local people played a major role in making the authorities take this action. We believe we have reconnected the souls of at least one crore people with the river Ganga,” says Mr Mudshingikar.

The Foundation did similar work on the Panchaganga River in Maharashtra on a small scale. While enthusiasm for the mission is high, paucity of funds is the biggest challenge for Gangajal Foundation. Among its plans is a survey of dying rivers in Maharashtra with special focus on the Mithi River, blockage of which caused killer floods in Mumbai in 2005. In March 2012, the Foundation will undertake a data collection cruise on the river by boat. It also hopes to start a regular Ganga tour, to educate people on water pollution. “People think Ganga darshan is only for old people. We want everyone to see its condition and realise that we don’t hesitate to pollute it even as we call it holy water.”

One can volunteer for documenting the activities and collating research material for the Foundation. You can also donate financially. All donations are eligible for tax exemption under Section 80 (G) of the Income-Tax Act. 

Gangajal Nature Foundation

96/2715, Shree Cooperative Housing Society
Kannamwar Nagar-2
Vikhroli (East)
Mumbai 400 083
Tel: +91 (022) 2577 5070
www.gangajal.org.in
admin@gangajal.org.in

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