The COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc around the world, and India is in a state of despair, today more than ever. Hospitals and crematoriums are witnessing unending queues every day. People are begging for hospital beds and oxygen, and dying in the absence of both.
The country is on its knees. Cries for help are going unanswered. India is devastated.
At a time as trying as this, The/Nudge Centre for Rural Development is set to invest Rs 200 crore to support rural livelihoods and to help poor households access government programmes, subsidies, schemes, and private sector investment. Called Asha Kiran – the Hope Project, this initiative is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, the Skoll Foundation, Hindustan Unilever Foundation, FICCI-Aditya Birla CSR Centre for Excellence, HT Parekh Foundation, Godrej, RBL Bank, KPMG among others.
Focused on Uttar Pradesh as the primary state along with neighboring geographies, Asha Kiran will build upon government priorities and programmes, to scale high-impact models, in partnership with the government, with the aim of helping those impacted by Covid rebuild their rural livelihoods. Asha Kiran’s implementation partners include Transform Rural India Foundation, Indus Action, Magic Bus, Heifer International, Trust Community Livelihoods, The Goat Trust, Haqdarshak and others.
“The/Nudge has been working in the state of Jharkhand for the last three years, creating livelihoods for underprivileged communities in 110 villages. With the effect COVID has had, we are expanding this work to the state of Uttar Pradesh. Partnering with the UP government we will be able to spread and scale the impact of our work to underprivileged families in the hardest hit districts in the largest state in our country,” Ashish Karamchandani, President, The/Nudge told Platocast.
Since the first wave, Asha Kiran has been running sizable pilots on the ground in Uttar Pradesh, both responding to the immediate needs and building long-term sustainable livelihoods, to help UP’s rural poor, especially women, deal with the crushing blow of the pandemic. Asha Kiran has been active in 7 districts of Uttar Pradesh, reaching 80,000+ households to improve their food security, income security and to build long-term sustainable livelihoods.
The second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic unleashed even more damage, wrecking the livelihoods of the rural poor, at a time when they were hoping for a way to rebuild their lives after the first wave.
There is an huge opportunity to expand the reach of government schemes and to build on top of the massive self-help group (SHG) and community institution infrastructure to aid faster recovery and long-term sustainability.
“Uttar Pradesh has large scale poverty alleviation programs and enabling convergence is important to amplify their benefits for the poor. I’m happy that Asha Kiran is actively partnering with government, private sector and civil society to enable this,” said Shri Manoj Kumar Singh, Additional Chief Secretary, Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, Government of Uttar Pradesh.
Asha Kiran is acting as a force-multiplier and scaling targeted, high-impact and cost-effective interventions which include enabling access to MGNREGS and PDS, input distribution and kitchen gardens to provide immediate relief in addition to improving agricultural incomes through high value crops, productivity and market linkages and adding secondary income via goatery & backyard poultry. Asha Kiran’s investment of Rs 200 crores is likely to unlock 800 to 1000 crores of benefits to rural communities through access to government schemes and private sector investments.
Mrs. Rajashree Birla, Padma Bhushan, and Chairperson- Aditya Birla Centre for Community Initiatives and Rural Development, said, “The/Nudge’s Asha Kiran is a forward step in bringing a ray of sunshine in the lives of 5 lakh people, living on the margins of society. Its strategic roadmap is sure to help India’s transformative journey to inclusive growth and our collective vision of freedom from poverty, in the not so distant future.”
Hari Menon, Country Director, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, added, “The COVID-19 pandemic has caused severe economic disruption and India’s poor and vulnerable have been disproportionately impacted. The/Nudge’s approach to mobilize support from a diverse set of stakeholders and complement the government’s efforts in rebuilding the livelihoods of the most vulnerable, especially women, is much needed.”
Note: The advisory board for Asha Kiran includes Dr. Mukesh Aghi, President & CEO, USISPF, Hari Bhartia, Founder & Co-Chairman, Jubilant Bhartia Group, Rajashree Birla, Chairperson, FICCI-Aditya Birla CSR Centre For Excellence, Shri Saurabh Chandra, Retd IAS 1978 batch, Former Secretary, Petroleum, Neelam Dhawan, Board Member Royal Philips, ICICI Bank, Renu Karnad, MD, HDFC Bank, Hari Menon, Director, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, India, Sanjiv Mehta, Chairman & MD, HUL, Vikram Mehta, Chairman, Centre for Social & Economic Progress, Shivani Garg Patel, Chief Strategy Officer, Skoll Foundation, Sanjiv Puri, Chairman & MD, ITC, Krishnan Rajagopalan, President & CEO, Heidrick and Struggles, Arun Seth, ex-Chairman, British Telecom & Alcatel Lucent, and Vandana Shroff, Partner at Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas.