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Chairman Speaks - 2003

Mohan Padmanabhan

Kolkata, Aug. 25

THE Indian Leaf Tobacco Development Division (ILTD) of ITC Ltd has taken up a major social forestry programme to create sustainable livelihood for poor tribals in about eight mandals of Khammam district.

The project involves the development of 5,500 acres of wasteland. The plan is to take this up to 10,000 acres by March 2004.

Mr Janardhan Reddy, CEO of ILTD, told Business Line that the total beneficiaries of this project now number 2,513. He said the company has been spending around Rs 1 crore annually on community development activities in Nellore, Prakasam, Guntur, Khammam, Krishna and East and West Godavari districts. He said the activities covered providing infrastructure to village schools, community health, equipment for hospitals, construction of bus shelters, bore-wells and development of slum areas. ITC has also taken up soil and water conservation projects in Ponnaluru and Dammapeta mandals of Prakasam and Khammam districts respectively. Mr Reddy said the aim of the project was to stabilise/increase farmers' incomes, and raise productivity through soil enrichment and water conservation measures. Benefiting around 3,400 villages, with a catchment area of 2,125 acres, this initiative is expected to facilitate storage of 850 m.cft of water and reclamation of 2,500 acres of wasteland. The plan was to scale it up during 2003-04 to cover an additional 2,275 acres of catchment area and benefit 3,000 more villagers in the area.

An Integrated Community Development Programme (ICDP) sponsored by the company is already in operation, since 2001, in Anaparti (East Godavari district) and Chirala (where ITC has its green leaf threshing plants) and Vetapalem in Prakasam districts. This covers around 1,200 women in 30 villages with self-help groups, skills training and employment generation, besides basic education and health as the main activities.

Chaitanya Development Society (CDS), a Guntur-based NGO, with assistance from ITC, has launched a major Integrated Coastal Management project in 10 villages of Prakasam district, located in the coastal and cyclone prone areas. The project has been conceived to provide an opportunity to the community to face challenges of cyclones in a formal network to safeguard both assets and lives.

According to Mr S.V.S.R. Reddy, Factory Personnel Manager at Chirala GLT plant, the company's intervention in the area was unique in that sustainable community development work has been taken up along with a disaster preparedness training programme. The aim, he clarified, was to prepare a band of persons in the villages to act as motivators and coordinate with members of the groups in facing such disasters. The programme content involves providing training for revising the village contingency plans, formation of action groups, defining the role of various action groups and the precautions to be taken to face the natural calamities.

A novel idea by way of a "Vipathu Atyavasara Nidhi" (VAN) has been promoted by CDS as part of the coastal management project, for motivating the community members to contribute voluntarily either in cash or kind to the nidhi, to enable the village level mitigation committee to provide relief measures immediately after the havoc without waiting for external aid to arrive. CDS has promoted VAN in four villages. CDS, with ITC's help, has also organised an entrepreneurship development programme for the youth and fisherwomen in these coastal villages.

Mr Reddy said the programme has helped to create awareness towards dry fish marketing, identification, of urban markets for dry fish, price variance between rural and urban markets, and hygienic packing of fish to attract customers.