Can India Inc Educate Deprived India?

I go back to my school days in Birlapur. Our school, Birlapur Vidyalaya, was in the factory campus and Birla Jute Manufacturing Company (presently known as Birla Corporation) financed it. The company had a scheme for the educating the children of factory employees. Two of my own uncles went for education in Birla’s educational establishment in Pilani. Unfortunately, they couldn’t continue because of the fault of their own. But many availed it fully. Manorama Shrivastava (Pandey), the eldest daughter of my assistant headmaster and her uncle, Rajendra Sharma, son of an employee in mill, Jharkhandey Singh, the younger brother of another teacher, and many availed the facility and continued up to master level. It was a totally free education including even pocket money and clothing. I am sure there might be many other companies doing that.

I am not sure if the scheme exists any more. Perhaps the decline of the group or the cost cutting exercises caused the death of the scheme. But I am sure if the group could afford that in 50s, many other industrial houses and professional companies could do that even now with the advantages coming after liberalization in industrial policies and death of license raj. If I am to believe the balance sheets, websites, and media reports, most of the big companies in India are involved in the education and other tasks in name of corporate social responsibility, but it’s not focused and the impacts are not visible.

Today Indian corporate in large number must get into the philanthropic task of educating the deprived India to help effectively in the inclusive growth that the country badly needs. It will be more efficient in managing the institutes and ensuring the quality education and learning for the students as against the same by government schools. The prime minister and the education minister can take the initiative to bring the industry, both private as well as public, in the fold to help the country becoming a knowledge power.

Think of at least 100 (number can be much bigger) Indian big industrial corporations setting up and promoting a large education city each to impart education of all levels to the children of the deprived classes and the impact it will make. The city can have a university with number of engineering and medical institutes, science colleges, along with a larger number of schools that will provide the input for the colleges. And the education city can also have facility for large scale skill building too. It will also improve the employability of the graduates with the input from the companies who ultimately engage them. Will not the education from a university set up by Infosys, TCS, or Wipro be better oriented for IT sector? Tata, L&T, M&M, or for that matter Reliance Group can certainly create an educational institute that can be something like MIT of India. Unfortunately, the big brands of Indian industry have not, very lately shown interest in setting up educational and research institutes that can become globally known as pioneer its fields.

I get excited with the news emanating from the rural development ministry. As reported, nearly 100 companies had responded positively to a notice issued last month inviting “expressions of interest” for implementing the Provision of Urban Amenities in Rural Areas (PURA) scheme under a public-private partnership (PPP) framework. I am sure it will include education centres coming up in rural India. Fortunately, companies like Tata Power, Tata Realty & Infrastructure, Jindal Steels & Power, cement manufacturer ACC and Reliance Energy have sent proposals.

According to another report, the government has decided to allow corporates, non-profit companies and societies to open 2,500 schools across the country. The Public Private Partnership (PPP) model allows the government to fill 1,000 of the 2,500 seats in each school with children from the deprived sections. The scheme must be able to screen out unscrupulous entrepreneurs in education that have come in huge numbers.

I wish the corporates with a mission for the inclusive growth must take on the responsibility of the quality education of the deprived class, both in rural as well as urban regions, otherwise the country can’t think of having its largest youth population as advantage over the aging countries. This can be the only way to bring the death of the poverty and the menace of Maoism. Can’t CII take up the task?

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