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The National Institute of Industrial Engineering (NITIE), Mumbai, a premium institution under the MHRD of the Government of India, distributed grocery and medical kits to remote tribal villages in Murbad taluka of Thane district, Maharashtra. NITIE has adopted these five villages under the Unnao Bharat Abhiyan, a flagship program of MHRD. Provision of Panchayats (Extending to Scheduled Areas) – Five villages under the PESA Act, 1996 – Wadachi Wadi, Shirwadi, Ekleshwadi, Shiroishi Katarwadi, and Walihware – NITIE is helping tribal communities in these villages in training capacity. Creating and accessing market links to earn a living.
Due to the status of COVID-19, villagers, who depend on the sale of forest produce and handicraft artifacts to tourists, were facing livelihood challenges. Professor Manoj Kumar Tiwari, Director NITIE conceptualized a novel two-way social outreach activity to support the villagers. On one hand, grocery kits will be distributed to the villagers, while the institute will purchase some products made by the villagers.
Since the start of the lockout, the team of NITIE was constantly in touch with Mr. Prahlada Lokade, PESA Coordinator of Murba to support the villagers. The intention was not only to distribute goods, but also to provide earning opportunities in difficult times. The team at NITIE discovered various products that villagers could make and sell, and reviewed the grassroots constraints in the supply chain of each product. On the basis of feasibility, two products were selected: home-made papad and bamboo baskets.
There were procurement and distribution challenges due to the lockdown scenario. At the village level, Mr. Lokade coordinated the procurement of raw materials and product preparation. At the same time, on behalf of the institute, Lieutenant Commander (Ms.) Nisha Singh (Retd.) Obtained the necessary permission and coordinated grocery procurement and kitting operations with the help of NITIE students and staff.
On 5 May, NITIE’s team, including medical staff, visited the villages and distributed 340 kits at home with the help of rural level officials and mobile phones. The team also purchased 40 kg of papad and 150 bamboo baskets from the villagers. Social distinctions and hygiene norms were followed throughout the activities. Medical Team, Dr. Smriti Patel and Shri Laxmikant Thopate interacted with ASHA workers (recognized social health workers) and explained in simple language to the villagers about basic health protocols to effectively fight COVID-19. Medical kits including masks, gloves and sanitizers were distributed to ASHA workers.
The villagers were happy that NITIE gave them an opportunity to earn a livelihood in difficult times.
Prof Vivek Khanzod and Prof Kanchan Joshi coordinated the entire activity and ensured that outreach was implemented to the last mile as a concept by the Director, NITIE. NITI plans to use learning from this activity to identify focused intervention areas to bring changes in the lives of tribal villagers.
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