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Responding to the needs arising out of the unprecedented lockdown implemented to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, ITC has spearheaded a unique initiative to enable the creation of an eco-system that would lead to signification livelihood generation for farmers and daily wage earners under the ambit of the government’s Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS).
While ITC had already put in place a comprehensive plan to provide relief to the needy as well as the frontline warriors in 25 states within days of the lockdown, the company also recognised that economic rehabilitation of its rural stakeholders was the crying need of the hour, given that there was significant loss of livelihood among marginal farmers and landless labourers. The situation was compounded further by challenges arising out of reverse migration.
As soon as restrictions on agricultural activities were eased, ITC swung into action. Initiating discussions with the government and people on the ground, ITC galvanised its NGO partners to mobilise farmers and wage earners in the catchment areas of its operations to enable them access work opportunities under MGNREGS. Extensive dialogues were carried out with authorities at the taluk and block levels to identify families in distress and help them apply for job cards if they don’t have one already. A holistic plan was put in place covering the safety of the workers and ensuring the creation of long-term assets for the people, including structures for water conservation like irrigation tanks, farm ponds and field bunds that would also enhance crop productivity.
Commenting on the initiative, S Sivakumar, Group Head of ITC’s Agribusiness said, “Inspired by its credo of Nation First: Sab Saath Badhein; ITC, in collaboration with district administrations and NGO partners, is enabling the rural workforce in the catchment of its operations to access income generating opportunities under the MGNREG scheme.The objective is to scale up this programme by extending it to more regions in these unprecedented and challenging times.”
ITC also provided technical support for planning and execution of work in different areas. To demonstrate outcome, impact data was shared with the government. Emphasis was laid on adoption of requisite precautions, quality of work and output, large-scale employment generation and asset creation as well as helping in timely muster submission and payments.
The scale and impact of the programme was significant. Within just 45 days, 7.6 lakh person days of work worth Rs 17 crore, was created. In the short span of time, the programme has been scaled up to cover 1,467 villages in 63 districts across 14 states.