By Dr Anil P Joshi
Dehradun, 26 May: COVID-19 has not only been a pandemic but has also shattered the global economy because of a long term lockdown that inhibited any economic growth. There is a serious discussion on how to restore the economic activities especially in rural India where migrants have become another challenge. Efforts are on at the National and State levels to create possibilities to help rejuvenate economic activities so that situation can be managed. One major initiative in this regard has been undertaken by ICICI Foundation. The Bank will help community organisations to help local communities with some economic activities. This was proposed under the leadership of HESCO. There are various social organisations currently devoted to this task in various remote locations of Uttarakhand. These are GRASS, Rudraprayag, LPS at Jairaj, and Community Welfare Organisations, Chakrata. There are various activities of the Foundation and Bank to help the community through these organisations. This task equally proposes to support migrants who will be returning to villages without immediate livelihood support.
Water being an important asset for the community, the HESCO model of water/stream recharging has been adopted by the ICICI for replication in four locations. These are Jairaj, Almora; Rikhar, Chakrata; Medanpur, Rudraprayag; and Antwara. At each location, one stream has been selected for rainwater recharging. Ten hectares of community land has been treated with thousands of water holes, check dams and ponds to hold rain water which ultimately proposes to recharge the stream down below. This land is also treated with local species of forest trees to maintain ecosystem behaviour. This initiative has brought employment of 10,000 man days in each location. Thus, this will not only do water recharging at 4 locations, but has also been able to create approximately 30,000 man days through the ICICI Foundation and the Bank support system.
Another initiative is exclusively devoted to women. Realising the fact that it is ultimately the women who are the sufferers of any disaster, including the current one, this initiative aims to create a Common Facility Centre (CFC) for women. This proposes to train women in adding value to local resources. It is in fact an initiative that follows the desire of the Prime Minister in his recent speech urging self-reliance through local resource based economy. This aims to promote a brand of local products for local economy and urban consumption. Besides, various family chores involving women have also been demonstrated for better output. Activities like Bio-farming, fuel & fodder, potable water, etc., are also part of the programme. This initiative at 4 locations is expected to involve 3000 women in the short and long term. Every CFC will be able to generate income of Rs 10 lakhs initially. This venture is technology and resource based empowerment of women. Women Initiative for Self-Employment (WISE) is the partner organisation for the same.
The third major project which has been undertaken by the ICICI Foundation and the Bank is with Kisan Vigyan Samiti (KVS) where 60 hectares of fruit belt will be created in 4 locations of Uttarakhand. This is to promote the ecology and economy. The community will be the major stakeholder. The fruit trees with high economic values are proposed for planting in the orchard at these locations. The planting material will be sourced from the various research institutions for orchard development. This initiative, from preparedness to planting, will generate employment worth 50,000 man days in these locations immediately. In the whole exercise, the local community is being involved for all major decisions. After 5 years, these fruit belts will generate income worth Rs 40,000 per hectare and in total Rs 24 lakhs annually.
Saurabh Singh, President of ICICI Foundation, feels this will also cover employment for migrants. He believes it is an integrated approach where water, resource development, and value addition are part of the approach to create a stable ecosystem. This would also involve all genders and income groups of villages.
Mr Dhumal, from the bank, who is steering these programmes, stresses that such a model in the future will be very important for replication in other areas, too, and be an inspiration for others.
Mr Joachim and Mr Shailash of the bank are part of the executive team of the programme and propose to develop a financial management model out of these project strategies. According to Dr Anil P Joshi, Padma Bhushan awardee, the initiative of the ICICI Foundation and the Bank at this critical period is a major example for various corporate communities to develop such a rural-centric ecosystem approach to address migrants and as well local community livelihood problems.
Ultimately this would add to income of local community besides, will stabilise ecosystem.