Muskaan Foundation works in an unusual way to commemorate a life
Muskaan Foundation for Road Safety is a registered charitable trust committed to building a culture of safety on roads through awareness, education, training and advocacy. It was registered in 2001 in Jaipur (Rajasthan), nearly three years after it started work.
What does muskaan (smile) have to do with road safety, I asked its founder trustees, Pramod Bhasin and Dr Mridul Bhasin. Grimly, they explain the genesis of the NGO: they set it up in the memory of their 17-year-old daughter Durva who they lost in a road accident in 1999. “She was smiling all the time and we wanted to cherish the memory of her smiling face rather than the horrible experience which brought home to us the need for that little bit of care and safety precautions that could have saved her life. Rather than naming the foundation after her, we called it Muskaan—what she stood for.” Also, says Mridul, “We wanted to do something meaningful in the memory of our child, with children. And we knew that unless we did things which were fun for the children, they would never learn. And our effort would be lost. So we developed our teaching modules with fun & games woven deftly into the message of road safety.”
Whilst road safety is recognised by everyone as a basic necessity for urban living, it has only recently appeared on the radar of corporates for their CSR (corporate social responsibility) activities. So, says Mr Bhasin, “Raising funds for our activities has been challenging; but we have always found the resources to take up the work from within our circle of friends and family. We have been lucky to get a large number of volunteers; they have more than made up for limited funding.”
Road safety is a shared responsibility of various government agencies—from the engineers who build the roads, down to the traffic police that enforces the safety regulations, to the emergency services required to deal with accidents. Muskaan uses an integrated, community-centric approach to these complex issues. Mr Bhasin says, unassumingly, “If we have achieved anything, it is in our role as a catalyst. And because we perceive this to be our strength, we have been able to get the willing support of all the agencies we have approached.”
Muskaan has developed interactive multi-media training modules. Apart from experts in road engineering, traffic police and communications experts in signage, etc, interwoven with the lecture-demonstrations are several games, quiz programmes and videos. These are provided free for school students. Only recently has it started charging corporates a nominal fee for training their executives. Some private schools have also started paying Muskaan for programmes for teachers and PTAs (parent-teacher associations).
After Muskaan’s interactions, some schools in Jaipur have set up Road Safety Clubs; these become Muskaan’s partners for creating awareness and sharing the training modules. Prominent among these are: MGD (Maharani Gayatri Devi Public School), SMS (Sawai Mansingh School), Mahaveer Public School and Sanskar Academy. Since 2013, Rajasthan government has made it mandatory for government schools to set up such Clubs (by its circular of 7 October 2013). But, as is typical, there is neither any clearly laid out plan for implementing this nor have the funds been earmarked for the purpose. Hence, Muskaan has taken it upon itself to prepare modules for training government schools to set up such Clubs and a basic programme for training teachers and students. This is estimated to cost about Rs5,000/- per school. Muskaan is currently raising funds for this activity.
Although Muskaan has FCRA registration, no foreign funding has been obtained as yet. Donations to Muskaan are exempt under Section 80G of the Income-tax Act. But more than donations and funding, Muskaan is looking for partners and volunteers in every state, city and district that can replicate its training modules and make Indian roads safer—undoubtedly a crying need of the hour.
45 A, Hathroi, Harikishen Somani Marg
Near Sunder Palace,Jaipur 302001, Rajasthan.
Phone: 0141-2373075, Mobile: Management - 09414064964