For the good of society

humanitarian efforts

For the good of society

Byramanagala is a region in Bidadi town on the outskirts of Bengaluru. Water here is highly polluted due to the release of industrial and sewage pollutants into the Vrishabhavathi river, which finally gets collected in the Byramangala Reservoir.

Almost 80 per cent of the local population belongs to the lower middle income group. A few years ago, local communities were affected by various skin diseases, arthritis and other health problems due to water contamination. Obtaining clean water had become a Herculean task.

However, all that has changed over the last few years. Illnesses are slowly
disappearing as the water is becoming purer and safer. This is courtesy of  
several water purifying units that have been installed at various points across the town and its surrounding areas. These units use a six-stage purifying process to deliver ISI:10500 standard potable water. Each unit has a purification capacity of 1,000 litres per hour. The units cater to over 46,000 people spread across 42 villages. A nominal fee of Rs 5 for 20 litres is charged to ensure sustainability. These water purification units are installed as part of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives of the automobile manufacturing major Toyota Kirloskar Motors (TKM).

Philanthropic ventures
The term CSR may, at the outset, sound counter-intuitive to many people. However, the fact is that the concept has been in existence for many decades, having
benefited several communities in the country under various aspects. The TKM Plant is located in Bidadi town of Ramanagara district, on the outskirts of Bengaluru. Its philanthropic ventures began in 1998, way before the CSR Law was introduced in 2013. And it has been a sustained effort ever since, even during the times when the company incurred losses.

Before zeroing in on the areas where they could potentially channel their
contribution, they started out by testing the waters through surveys in villages in and around Bidadi, soliciting inputs from the residents themselves. During the course of this interaction, a majority expressed their needs for better sanitation facilities, especially for the womenfolk, as at that time, most houses did not have toilets and open defecation was still a prevalent practice. They also received requests to construct toilets for girls in government schools.

They began addressing this issue by coordinating with the Gram Panchayat and certain NGOs that worked in the same field. Together, they worked towards
engaging households at a micro-level to spread awareness and educate the
residents. But as and when toilets were being built, several unanticipated
challenges cropped up. For instance, schools demanded toilets for boys too, as the lack of it would force the boys to use the girls’ toilet, which would then lead to different kinds of problems.

After constructing toilets, they were faced with new challenges. One of the main challenges was the usage of these toilets. They were either left vacant or used as grain storehouses by the families.

Consequently, TKM had to educate people and make them aware about cleanliness. The general populace had to be convinced to change their mindsets. In all, over 450 toilets have been built in the last five years. This sanitation campaign has taken place  in Manchanayakanahalli, Byramangala and Ittamadu Gram Panchayats of Ramanagara district. As many as 250 toilets have been built in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar as well.

TKM follows strict regulations to ensure proper maintenance. For instance, to supervise the construction of these toilets, a taluk coordinator is appointed. He or she is responsible for ensuring that toilets are in perfect condition before they  are put to use. This measure has been taken in association with an NGO called Sneha.

Also, children are taught to create awareness among their parents as well. “There has been a good progress in this regard. Earlier, children would go home every time they had to use the toilet. And once they did, parents would send them on errands, which would ultimately result in them not coming back to class. Dropout rates were high. But ever since we have built the toilets in school, there has been an increase in the attendance,” says Ramachandra Hegde, headmaster at a government primary high school in Bidadi. Sanitation issues often lead to drinking water issues. Hence, it is only logical that these two issues are being addressed simultaneously.

In addition to this, the TKM CSR has also forayed into education at government schools. They have provided notebooks, sports kits and first-aid kits to the students. So, what is next on their CSR radar? “We plan to build rest houses for drivers and focus on enhancing tourist destinations in the long run. We want to set new
benchmarks in the coming years by executing a workable model,” says Shekar Viswanathan, vice-president and whole-time director, TKM.

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