Enterprise Launched To Employ the Disabled
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

 

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    A Balwadi for Kids of Construction Workers
    Construction sites are the largest employers of migrant workers, with approximately 11 million men and women working on projects across India. The children of these workers suffer from a lack of proper food, hygiene, sanitation, education, etc, and are left to fend for themselves in tiny shanties or at the dusty sites where their mothers work. For the past 40 years, Mumbai Mobile Crèche (MMC) has been striving to help migrant families and their children. 
     
    “MMC’s vision is for all children to have a nurturing and happy childhood and, with this vision, we have been running day-care centres for children of migrant workers for over four decades,” says Vrishali Pispati, chief executive officer of the organisation.
     
    It is one of the few NGOs that specifically supports construction labourers and has reached over 100,000 children across 270 construction sites in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Thane. 
     
    MMC’s marvellous story begins in 1969 when its founder, Meera Mahadevan, picked up and soothed a wailing baby near Rajghat, during the Gandhi Centenary celebrations, and realised that many children and infants at the construction site had nobody to look out for them. It is then that the idea of a mobile crèche was born and she was joined soon by her friend Devika Singh as co-founder.  
     
    In a matter of years, there were many helping hands; in 1972, it branched out to Mumbai and in 1980 to Pune. In September 2006, the organisation split into three separate entities—Mumbai Mobile Crèches, Mobile Crèches (Delhi) and Tara Mobile Crèches (Pune). MMC is now a Section 25 company that reaches out to 4,500 children every year.  
     
    MMC’s day-care centres cater to children from birth to 14 years. Ms Pispati emphasises, “We aim to promote ‘child-friendly sites’; where every child living on a construction site is safe, healthy and educated, and able to enjoy their childhood. The challenge is to look after children whose families come from 15 different states of the country and speak over 10 different languages.”
     
    MMC’s education programme includes a crèche, Balwadi, and an ‘after school support’. The crèche, for babies under three, concentrates on creating a safe environment; the Balwadi, for children from three to five years, tries to promote overall growth and development of the children and get them ready for school. The ‘after school support’ is for children from six to 14 and targets enrolment and retention of these children in municipal schools. 
     
    “The curriculum is planned yearly and teachers meet every other month for feedback and support. Centres follow the same standardised programme to ensure consistency and better sharing, learning and monitoring,” adds Ms Pispati.
     
    Nutrition and hygiene is a big priority at the centres with a planned daily diet for children of all age groups. They are given four meals a day, as well as calcium and vitamin supplements. There are weekly visits from doctors and MMC also organises special health camps for eye and dental check-ups to screen for common illnesses.
     
    In recent years, MMC has observed a proliferation of smaller construction sites across Mumbai, which makes it difficult to set up a full-fledged day-care centre. In August 2013, this led to creation of ‘Care on Wheels’, a mobile bus that is equipped with educational and health materials and MMC’s care-givers. 
     
    Ms Pispati says, “It is deeply ironic that the children of the very people who produce the symbols of economic development—skyscrapers, residential and commercial complexes—are denied the ability to participate in and benefit from the progress the city promises.”
     
    Donations are eligible for exemption under Section 80G of the Income-tax Act. You can also offer support by volunteering.
     
    Mumbai Mobile Crèche
    1st Floor, Abbas Building, Mereweather Road, Colaba, 
    Mumbai, Maharashtra 400001 
    Contact: 022 22020869 / 022 22020879

     

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    COMMENTS

    Silloo Marker

    2 years ago

    Mumbai Mobile Creches is doing extremely useful work by taking care of children who would otherwise be left to fend for themselves. Anyone giving time or money to such an organisation is certainly giving to a good cause.

    Hi-tech, Low-cost Gift to the Blind
    When Surabhi Srivastava from Mumbai was judged the winner of the prestigious 2017 ASME Innovation Showcase competition, it was a reconfirmation of her belief that technology should improve the quality of life for the disadvantaged. BrailleMe, the award-winning product developed by her company, Innovision, makes it possible for the visually impaired to access any digital information instantaneously in their own tactile script.
     
    Their product, BrailleMe, is the world’s first ever low-cost digital aid which enables the visually impaired to access digital content and devices in their own script in multiple languages. It is a digital Braille assistant aimed at digital accessibility for the 39 million visually impaired members of the global community.
     
    The core content of BrailleMe is the ‘magnetic Braille actuator technology’, for which Innovision has a patent application pending. This breakthrough provides a huge price advantage over their competitors’ products. It sells for just $300 compared to competitors’ price of over $3,000. “The technological challenge attracted us the most, as affordability is embedded in the technology itself,” says Surabhi.
     
    Their core aims for the product range from increasing the rate of literacy of the visually impaired community to creating ergonomic change in the workplace that can help increase employment opportunities for them—that is, “to create a social impact through an affordable product.” Innovision categorises the daily challenges faced by the blind in accessing information as: the lack of availability, accessibility, affordability and, finally, having it in audio format. BrailleMe surmounts all these challenges. It allows them to access any information in digital Braille without paying a fortune. It can provide e-books and  also Braille access to MS Office and other software. More importantly, it allows them to access social media and social network apps in Braille. The product itself is “multi-lingual, portable, battery-powered, ergonomic and affordable,” says Innovision’s website.
     
    Innovision’s team, led by Surabhi and her partner Shyam Shah, aims at positively impacting people’s lives with their work. They are both alumni of IIT Bombay. Surabhi manages the production department of the company as also business development while Shyam oversees technology and product development. Surabhi has an MTech degree in metallurgy and material sciences. Shyam is an MTech in energy sciences and engineering. 
     
    Innovision calls itself a product innovation company developing assistive technology solutions for the empowerment of the differently-abled, with a critical focus on affordability for users. It has been working on BrailleMe for the past two years, in an effort to reverse rising global illiteracy rates among the blind.
     
    Surubhi tells us how getting hold of the necessary hardware to start the production process for BrailleMe itself highlighted how scant the work done in this segment was.
     
    Another challenge, clearly, is outreach and implementation of social projects. Surabhi believes that NGOs and government organisations need to be involved in supporting and implementing such projects. Innovision has some experience in this area, having worked with a few government initiatives such as Accessible India (for empowerment of the public works department), Digital India (for digital inclusion and accessibility of untapped communities) and Skill India (for employing and training of the visually impaired in computer-based jobs).
     
    She says, “We were lucky to get some support from NGOs and government organisations, but what about other hardware engineers in other parts of the country? Hopefully, both, guidance and the technical support, that a hardware company requires will become more available.”
     
    BrailleMe’s big challenge will be to create awareness about electronic Braille and promote its adoption by NGOs, teachers, vocational trainers and other channels.
     
    Innovision 
    CN09, SINE (Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship), 
    IIT Bombay, Powai, Mumbai 400076
    Phone: 09167470369
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    Ramesh Poapt

    2 years ago

    Great!

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