Nita Ambani is a woman of many qualities and characteristics; compassion and hardworking being well-known amongst them. Her work with her brainchild, Reliance Foundation, is something that has transformed lives of people for good. Various programs launched by the Foundation, which has focused on various areas has been evidence of her commitment in improving the current state of affairs of the impoverished. Even the story of the birth of the Foundation is something worth noting; earlier, RIL’s own Corporate Social Responsibility activities extended only till the catchment areas around their owned townships in Jamnagar and Patalganga. However, it was Nita Ambani who envisioned widening RIL’s social influence beyond its own locations. That led to the formation of Reliance Foundation.
How Nita Ambani launched BIJ-
Nita Ambani was once asked by Sudarshan Suchi, one of Foundation’s employees, about the main target of Reliance Foundation, to which she replied, “Whatever it will take to make Indian a developed nation before we are in the 100th year of independence.”
This is what prompted the flagship initiative known as Bharat India Jodo (BIJ). While the Foundation has primarily focused on areas such as healthcare, education, sports, etc. But BIJ was designed to focus more on rural development. It’s interesting to note that BIJ accounts for more than half of its total outlay.
What BIJ is about-
This Initiative mainly tries to empower farmers with sustainable livelihood practices. The aim here is to de-risk farming, decrease the amount of external dependencies and to improve the overall quality of life of people in rural areas. The Foundation, through this program, supports low cost of investment to produce high yield in agriculture, thereby helping farmers increase their productivity and consequently, their income. The program also organizes farmers in collectives, to leverage the power of unity. All this is carried out in hope that the gap between rural and urban India.
The BIJ program is currently active in 540 villages in 33 districts and 12 states impacting 60,000 households and around three lakh individuals. Three new states were added to the program in 2014/15 while one new school and a hospital (Sir H.N. Reliance Foundation Hospital) were opened in the year. The BIJ team of 550 development officers pick the poorest villages by human development index, where 70 per cent of households earn under Rs. 30000 a year. They form a village association independent of the panchayat.
Every village association prepares a development plan by consensus where the Foundation invests. So while a village in Balangir has built a check dam, in Mandla the villagers engaged in tree plantation and built a water harvesting project. In Sirsam, Gangakhed the villagers built a 1.5-km long road. Year-end analysis is measured by outcomes and impacts. One of the goals was nutrition through kitchen gardens in the backyard. It’s measured by the grams of vegetables in farmer’s garden.
Nita Ambani plans to cover as many rural areas of the country as possible under this initiative. It was even reported that she wanted to cover over a 100 villages by now, which is not very far off from the actual number. However, she is pleased with the direction that the Foundation has taken by way of this initiative. She aims to bring about a positive and lasting impact through this and shall strive to make it a reality.