When Kaushik Das gave up a thriving career as a tea executive to dedicate his life to society, he dreamt of changing the lives of disabled people, not by giving donations to charities, but by setting up an organisation where they could work to support themselves. He converted this dream into reality by setting up Atma Nirbhar-Ek Challenge (ANEK), a social enterprise, in 1996.
ANEK works to provide economic rehabilitation and empowerment to the disabled. It aims to prove that, if presented with the right opportunities and facilities, the differently-abled can become productive and contributing members of the society.
“Employment for the disabled—that is our sole aim,” says Ashok Kumar Jha, operations manager at ANEK, which is located at Guwahati (Assam). “We started with only three people back in 1996 and now we have a team of 43 members. We have are happy with this progress,” says Mr Jha. “Our aim is to have at least 100 beneficiaries. We want to support them and help them in maintaining their families. We really hope to achieve this in the near future.”
The organisation generates employment in the tea and spices industry where employees help with packaging and marketing of their in-house tea brand, ‘Nav Jeevan’. They purchase tea leaves from the Guwahati tea auction and the blending and packaging process is entirely done by ANEK employees. The tea is sold commercially and also supplied to select, socially conscious canteens and cooperative stores. The employees also make ornamental potted plants and paper shopping bags for sale.
ANEK operates out of a three-storey building named ‘Paropkar’. The plot of land on which the building stands was a gift from their project coordinator. Some parts of the building are rented out to other organisations which brings valuable income for the institution.
ANEK was initially financed through generous contributions by friends and well-wishers of the founder. Over the years, it has had its ups and downs, dealing with financial constraints and other problems; but that has not been allowed to hinder its activities.
The employees are paid a salary based on their job description. They have a provident fund and are financially supported for medical treatment and are also given a free meal. ANEK’s contribution has been recognised with the National Award for the Welfare of Persons with Disabilities-2004, presented to them by the then president, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. It also received the NCPEDP-Helen Keller Award-2005—a national award for promotion of employment among the disabled. ANEK is the only organisation in the North-east, and one of the few in the country, to have won both these awards.
Even with so many accomplishments, the organisation has its fair share of challenges. Says Mr Jha, “The market itself is our biggest challenge. We pay our beneficiaries a salary even when there is no sale of products. Only if we can sell our products can our beneficiaries be truly rewarded.” There is also a geographical disadvantage due to the lack of infrastructure facilities and development in the North-east region of the country.
Mr Jha credits GiveIndia, a payroll-giving NGO, for its support. “We must give credit to GiveIndia for their immense support. The contributions from their site have really helped us during our tough times.”
“In all honesty, we never expect help from any person or organisation, not even from the government. We just want our beneficiaries’ efforts to be repaid wholly. Atma Nirbhar will always be working for their prosperity,” he says further.
Contributions to the organisation are eligible for tax exemption under Section 80G of the Income-tax Act. You can also make donations via GiveIndia.
Atma Nirbhar- “Ek Challenge”
Shop No. 120, AK Azad Rd, Gopinath Nagar, ESI Dispensary, Kalapahar,
Bishnu Rabha Nagar, Birubari, Guwahati, Assam 781008
Phone: 0361 247 1668