My Village is My Home - A Coal India CSR story
My Village is My Home - A Coal India CSR story

By auther pic. CSRBOX

June 7, 2019

My Village is My Home - A Coal India CSR story


Poverty and deprivation had been a way of life for people in Purulia, West Bengal. The land, a rich reserve of coal but her people barely surviving. Farming on fragmented barren land; their method outdated; women trapped in smoke-filled kitchens; Children dropping out of school. Left behind by development, the villagers were migrating. Leaving their homes and villages in search of greener pasture.


S.N. Singh – GM, CSR, Coal India Limited says – ‘The main focus of our CSR is to end migration. Villages will develop when migration stops. Migration stops when the villages develop.’


Purulia district is 1 of 250 most backward in the country. Purulia needed help and the help came from Coal India Limited. A development project was initiated in the year 2015 with TERI as the implementing partner. 40 villages were identified in Neturia and Santuri blocks. Sustainable solutions for clean energy, agriculture, livelihood, sanitation and the setting up of computer-based knowledge centre was the goal.


TERI begun its work by launching a door-to-door survey, it was essential to understand the area and available resources, initiate dialogue with people, assess their needs, and tailor make solutions, but it was not easy.


Sachin Kumar, Field Supervisor, CSR said – ‘People were hostile and would not respond properly.’


The survey armed the CSR team with knowledge and understanding; planning commenced. Institutional links were established with local experts – Birsa Agricultural University and Institute of Forest Productivity became partners. A masterplan was drafted with all the stakeholders onboard.


Amit Kumar Thakur, Head – CSR, TERI stated - ‘From the very onset, what we found was that people want to work hard. They want to have sanitation solutions. They want to have solar solutions, but they didn’t know how to get it and how to use it.’


Clean Energy –

Women in Purulia had been using coal dust as fuel. They mixed it with soil and dried it. Others had been hacking trees or collecting firewood, burning their chullas round the year with this free fuel, unaware of the high price they had been paying with their health. Breathing in toxic air, polluting their homes and environment.


As many as 9000 clean cookstoves were distributed. The stoves ignite quickly; the solar power run exhaust circulates air for complete burning. The heat is high and above all it is smokeless. Clean energy is the backbone of sustainability; a determined effort was made to introduce integrated domestic energy systems. Solar Panels glint atop village homes soaking in the abundant sun ensuring uninterrupted clean solar energy to light up homes and lights.


Each solar bulb spells sustainability, the electricity bills are down and the home are brighter, and a hundred solar street lights have also been installed. Villages that went dark after sundown are now safer with clean energy.


Agriculture and Greening –

Agriculture in Neturia was in the doldrums, the water table was low and the soil depleted. Farmers were using obsolete methods and their land stood barren for most of the year. Farmers were taken to Lucknow, Bhopal and Ranchi for field visits. Farmers learnt a lot there and started implementing them here. Access to modern tools boosted their confidence further. Good quality farm implements were given to them, Implements that helped save energy and time.


Paddy is the main crop of Purulia, but their produce was low, their methods outdated. When the farmers were trained in the rice intensification technique, they were reluctant to switch. Demonstration plots were set up in each village, farmers were motivated to come forth. With better seeds, low input and a completely different method of rice cultivation, the yield multiplied.


Farmers were provided with mechanized threshers to process their abundant crop. Farm and backyards are now green with vegetables round the year; they spell food security and income. Many farmers are now growing vegetables commercially. Sustainable development needs long-term planning. Trees were planted to improve the water table and yield fruit.


Livelihood – Goatery

A major goal was livelihood and income generation. Introducing goatery was an informed decision. The hardy black Bengal was the chosen breed. Being an indigenous species, this goat is  a quick breeder, needing low maintenance.


Gender equality is an important goal of the nation; special attention was given to livelihood opportunities for women. Women were organized into self-help groups and were given training. Mushroom farming was a viable and profitable activity. Seeds and grow bags were provided to them and buyback agreement facilitated.


Leaf Plate making machine –

The traditional occupation of making leaf plates was strengthened with training and mechanized equipment. Bamboo artisans were given training to add value to their craft. Training and toolkits have helped them enhance marketability and profits.


Village ponds have traditionally yielded fish and recharged groundwater in Bengal but in Purulia, they were neglected and underutilised. 41 village ponds were systematically cleaned and recharged with fingerlings – a planned diversity was introduced.


Knowledge & Recreational Centres –

Education is the first victim of poverty; the knowledge and recreation in government schools have infused a fresh life in learning. The trainers were specially trained when no teachers were found. These 40 schools were identified with the help of Government bodies. 10000 children, who had never even seen a computer before, handle them with ease today. Furniture, learning material, a library and even UPS. The knowledge and recreational centres are boosting the level of education.


Sanitation –

Sanitation and health go hand in hand but in Neturia the custom of toilet in the house did not exist. An intense sanitation drive was launched village to village, door-to-door. A survey to access need, willingness and feasibility and behavioural change was crucial. Toilets dot the villages now, awareness of Sanitation, health and hygiene are evident today.

Nitish Pareek – Assistant Manager, Coal India says – ‘This project can serve as a model for other PSUs and companies, that how a backward place can be transformed into a developed one.’

Three years, 40 villages, Two Lakh Lives impacted.

The mood is upbeat here in Purulia. There is much to celebrate. With their present secure and their future bright, their village is now their home.

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