Havells, India’s largest electrical products manufacturer, had a yearning to serve the society since long. The Company began its CSR programs well before it became mandatory for certain companies according to criteria led down in The Companies Act, 2013.
Havells’ CSR initiatives are focused on child health, nutrition, education and sanitation. The flagship Mid-day meal program was started in 2005, with 1,500 children every day, and today covers 58,000 children in 688 government schools in Alwar district of Rajasthan, where the Company has five manufacturing plants, including the largest of the 11 that are spread across different states. The company-owned superior infrastructure for preparing and delivering fresh and nutritious meals has a highly automated kitchen spread across a 4-acre plot, deploying 130 cooks and 24 vans with driver and helpers. The Mid-day meal program has led to an increase in the average enrolment number, for both girls and boys, and it was specifically higher for girl students in the target schools.
Understanding a very strong nutrition-sanitation nexus, Havells was desirous of providing sanitation facility in these schools. After evaluating various sanitation technology options, the Company decided to provide the eco-friendly and sustainable bio-toilets that treat waste onsite, in these schools. Havells chose to partner Banka BioLoo, a social enterprise of global acclaim that has bio-toilets at its heart, to install the bio-toilets (or bioloos) in the schools. Representatives of both the companies undertook detailed planning on the structures, layout and the overall designs of the bio-toilet blocks for girls and for boys. Havells provided support, not only from the corporate office but also the local officers in Alwar took keen interest – after all the implementation was taking place there.
The sustainable sanitation initiative strengthened the Prime Minister’s Swachh Bharat Mission through Swachh Bharat – Swachh Vidyalaya. It, also, was another step in the holistic education initiative that Havells is committed to. In the fiscal year 2015-16, Banka BioLoo installed 816 bio-toilets in 102 schools on behalf of Havells, while in 2016-17 another 1,200 bio-toilets would be installed in little over 150 schools. Many research studies have highlighted the importance of adequate WaSH (water, sanitation and hygiene) in increasing school attendance in general, and reducing school dropouts in particular. This is more pertinent for girl students, who have the added dimension of menstruation hygiene. One such study, “The Economic Impacts of Inadequate Sanitation in India” by Water and Sanitation Program, World Bank, concluded that building toilets in schools increases attendance by 11%.
Havells’s school sanitation program is probably one of the biggest in Rajasthan, by any corporate house, that too with a perspective of sustainability and being environmentally-friendly. It, then, wasn’t a great surprise when the Government of Rajasthan, at its first-ever CSR Summit on 7 March 2017 in Jaipur, honoured Havells with the newly-instituted CSR Awards of Excellence in the category of Clean Water and Sanitation. Creating the sanitation infrastructure is not enough by itself, thereby the Company also aims for behavioural change and habit formation to WaSH. Havells has undertaken sensitization programs through interactive sessions with students, teachers, school staff and district education officers. The Company has also published a booklet “WaSH Education in Schools”, which highlights the importance and significance of cleanliness, bio-toilets, clean drinking water and the new three R(s) – reduce, reuse and recycle, helping not only the students but also reaching the families, creating a multiplier effect.
Havells initiatives of inclusive development, more so of supporting education through WaSH-Nutrition in schools, are worth emulating; and Banka BioLoo, the sustainable sanitation implementation partner, is happy to be part of this sanitizing journey.
Sanjay Banka is Managing Director of Banka BioLoo, and a Steering Committee member of Sanitation and Water for All. Banka BioLoo, founded by Namita Banka, in association with the Indian Railways, PSUs, publicly-listed and private companies, Foundations, Non-profit organizations, construction, infrastructure and plantation companies provides bio-toilets in trains, schools, homes, institutes, work sites, and many similar ones in 20 states. Sanjay is considered an expert on sustainable WaSH (water, sanitation and hygiene) and is a regular speaker at international events, including at the UN. He is a prolific writer, and has authored many a piece on sustainable sanitation, nationally and globally. He, strongly, believes in partnerships as a basis for sustainable development. Governments, civil society and businesses should work in harmony for the greater good of the society.