A Smile on Every FAce
Numaligarh Refinery Limited
Sustainability being the key to success, Numaligarh Refinery Ltd (NRL) is focussed on developing communities around the unit. And the journey of development and inclusion has been ongoing for many decades now
Popularly known as the ‘accord refinery’, NRL was established when the Assam Accord was signed in 1985. With an understanding that the real purpose of business is human wellbeing, the Mini Ratna PSU’s CSR projects revolve within 10 km radius of the refinery and also in Golaghat district. Some have also extended in the areas around its centre in Siliguri. The thrust areas for the projects are agri-allied and income generation, education and skill development, infrastructure development, healthcare, sports, arts and culture. Sustainability being the key to success and long-term impact, community participation is encouraged from the beginning.
With Assam being an agrarian community, NRL supports farmers in many ways. Among them is engaging experts for sharing technical know-how in agri practices. This involves knowledge of crops and farm mechanisation tools, including giving them the machines through Custom Hiring Centres. “There are six centres that NRL has established,” says Dr F.U.A. Ahmed, head and senior scientist, Krishi Vigyan Kendra. “We are part of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research and Assam Agriculture University. In Assam, mainly rice is grown. So we are training the small and marginal farmers to grow oil seeds such as sesame and mustard, black and green gram, lentils, cabbage, cauliflower, potato.”
We encourage visits to good states where they can see the best practices. We have made committees, opened bank accounts for the farmers and audit their accounts also. The project has been in place since 2017 and we have a five-year target. And till now, we have already seen a 30 per cent increase.
As new crops and new techniques demand new machines, most farmers face a huge challenge. They can’t afford to buy those expensive machines or even rent them as that is a costly affair. “Here, the custom hiring centres play the crucial role. NRL has equipped these centres with tractors, tillers, thrushers, water pumps, reapers, weeders, ploughs. The farmers can hire them individually or in groups at half the price as compared to the market.”
Haris Ali from Purabangla village has allowed part of his land to be used as a centre. Three villages with 180 farmers are the prime beneficiaries here. Besides machines, even a safe water drinking facility has been made, as it is the most visited place in the village.
“With proper machines and better technology, the farmers are able to double their income. as in one year they can now grow more crops and have a better yield,” says Dr Ahmed.
With shelter and facilities needed for a good quality of life, NRL has developed infrastructure in many ways for tourist areas, schools and villages. Safe drinking water is provided in various places through Project Jeevandhara. Toilets are constructed through Project Parichannata. Kaziranga National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has got a facelift with better parking facilities, toilets for tourists and a drinking water facility at Bagori. Famed for the one-horned rhino, this national park has a constant influx of tourists from November to April. And they now have a better experience.
Tea Garden Balya Bikash Bhawan, Khumtai, would have been just another non-descript building but for the efforts to make the four rooms clean and green by NRL. A non-formal school run by the NGO since 1981, children from the underprivileged section come to study here. Painted walls, airy rooms amid clean surroundings make learning easier for these small children whose parents are unable to fund their education.
Giving the smallest of villages access and facilities is the core of the 'model village project'. The 32-home village No 2 Na-Pathar, Numaligarh Block Gaon, Letekuchapori, is now a 100 per cent ODF village. All the homes have toilets and bathrooms. Women, children and men walk freely in the dark as there is solar lighting and electrification through grid. The project began in 2016 with a loom unit for a 10-member women’s self-help group.
With a forest in the vicinity and the area being well-known for wildlife, a 'tongi ghar' or elephant watch tower has been built. A water harvesting tank was built to collect water coming down from the forest and that can be used in tougher times. People fill buckets from the tank. The village now has a community hall for all meetings and functions.
Khagen Chaliha, a tea grower from the village, had chosen to approach NRL. And since then, the villagers have access to many amenities. The entire school complex was renovated with a boundary wall, furniture, classrooms, library, drinking water, toilets. Four families who couldn’t afford homes have been supported with construction of a two-bedroom home with a kitchen and a verandah.
In each home, a vermi-compost tank was built and all the farmers trained in vermi-composting. Each home got an LPG gas connection. Adult education camps are held, so each person in the village is able to read, write and spell their names. Padmavati Borah, Secretary, Na-Pathar Development Committee, is all smiles as she says, “Medical camps are held regularly too.” Like this, six villages have been transformed.
NRL has executed different programmes for all age groups, so that more children get better livelihood opportunities. There are scholarships for the meritorious students in schools, coaching under ‘Super 30’ for those yearning to get into medical and engineering, professional courses for the youth under ‘Project Uttoran’. Not just fee, even the infrastructure is taken care of.Aiming for 100 per cent literacy in and around the area, there is a ‘Library For All’ programme in the villages.
Scholarships are one way of motivating students, as most coming from the underprivileged section need this. Gyandeep is a one-time cash award for class X and class XII students for securing 1st division, star/distinction marks and/or ranks in state board examinations. Prerona motivates girls. It is a one-time cash reward for those who have secured 1st, 2nd and 3rd positions in classes VII, VIII, IX and X.
Dronacharya recognises teachers. It is a one-time cash award for the teachers’ welfare fund of the school against each 1st division scorer student in class X examination from the school. The amount is Rs 10,000 against each student with a maximum of Rs 50,000 for each school.
Super 30 is a participatory model where the government, parents, community and teachers are aligned. It was launched in 2017. As the name suggests, the best 30 students are selected from 18 government schools in the district for coaching in maths and science. There are 15 boys and 15 girls from class IX and X. “This model is unique as we are working on strengthening their foundation, unlike other centres where students of XI and XII are given coaching for a professional course,” says Bhaskar Gogoi, project co-ordinator.
Young teachers who have passed out from IITs are part of the project. All laboratory training is done in DPS Numaligarh. Also ongoing are complementary daily classes in maths and science for students of class VIII, IX and X in the selected 18 schools. These aid in strengthening their concepts and understanding the syllabus better.
Students who score 85 per cent and above are helped with admission in the prestigious DPS Numaligarh. In fact, last year eight students were supported by NRL and in the current year, six are in the school.
Uniforms the colour of sky, the students at VK NRL School of Nursing pay attention as their teacher explains how to handle a newborn baby. The three-year General Nursing and Midwifery (GNM) course is designed to empower the girls for sustainable livelihood. The USP is that it is an all-woman school: all teachers, students and staff are women. Each batch comprises 40 students and the current batch is the third. Seeing the high demand for this professional course, NRL started the school in October 2017.
A fully residential school with upgraded facilities such as labs, library, study rooms, conference halls, six teachers this institution aims to be among the best in the country. All aspirants have to take an entrance test. “The three-year course is free and just a nominal Rs 1,000 is charged for the mess,” says the principal Namita Chetri. Even that is waived off in dire cases.
Ensuring employment for youth, NRL signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Directorate of Employment & Craftsmen Training (DECT), Government of Assam, in August 2018. And NRL took on the onus of turning the ITI at Golaghat into a hub for skilling the youth.
From beautification to establishing smart classrooms, everything has ben spruced up. There are whiteboards, projectors, good laboratories and the highlight is the Rs 24 lakh state-of-the-art welding simulator. This hi-tech gadget is one of its kind in the entire northeast. And it gives the students an edge in understanding different kinds of welding. The first batch started in September 2018 with the Fitter and Welder course. And full-term courses are available in COPA, Wireman and Basic Cosmatology as well. Last year, 37 students had taken admission, out of these 12 have completed the Welder course. This year, another 60 are enrolled. Not only brightening the classes and the building, NRL has repaired the road leading to the institute, making it easily accessible.
Health is a primary need and Project Niramoy takes care of this through mobile medical camps. There is ‘free eye screening and cataract operation’ through Project Drishti. Project Niramoy started in 1998, explains Dr (Mrs) Karabi Saikia who works with VK NRL hospital. “We go to villages within a 5km radius. Most patients have skin problems, hypertension, and gastro-intestinal diseases. If needed, they are referred to hospitals for serious problems and investigations. Others get free medicines in the camp.” Free medicines are distributed and an ambulance is always on standby for emergencies in the camp.
A yoga instructor, Chandra Bhushan, also guides patients in the camp. He trained at the Bihar School of Yoga and joined Vivekananda Kendra. Since his placement in Numaligarh, he is happy to teach the villagers basic asanas that help them in their day-to-day movement. A 72-year-old farmer, Sarukom Kachari broke his hip and hurt his legs when he fell down five years back. He needs regular check-ups and medicines, also has learned some easy asanas to ease the pain.
Dipali Kachari is suffering from hypertension and has been coming to the camp for 12 years for her medicine. “I never miss this, as I need to take regular medicine,” says the 35-year-old housewife. The villagers are informed in advance of the camps, so they can plan their medicines accordingly, as some have to, walk quite a distance.
Supporting local talent in sports through Project Khel Prashikshan, NRL started a football academy in 2012. With Sportify as academy partner, the NRL academy aims to promote the sport at the national level, taking in the best talent from the state.
“The Academy started with 40 children and now we have 600 boys and 100 girls across seven feeder centres, apart from the 40 children in academy in the U-13 and U-15 age groups,” says manager Chinmay Bora. With 14 coaches, including foreign coaches, this academy is the only certified one in Assam with the highest rating in the northeast. The certification is done by All India Football Federation (AIFF).
With hostel facilities, the Academy provides theory and practical sessions on the sport. It has U-13 and U-15 age categories of teams. “We are planning to start the U-18 team now.” Students participates in state, regional and national level tournaments, including national I-League since 2015. “Our players have even been invited to the Real Madrid club in Singapore.”
No 1, Ponka Gaon
Helped by NRL and his family, this nine-year-old is learning to walk.He doesn't speak or move around on his own. But he smiles when visitors come and is willing to show them how he can move now.
The 16-year-old is being rehabilitated with artificial limbs.
"I hardly ever go out. But now, I am slowly gaining confidence with the artificial leg. I will be able to walk properly soon. I can stand for some time now."
Project Swanirbhar supports Joint Liability Groups, Women Self Help Groups and local entrepreneurs. Under this, schemes related to animal husbandry, farm mechanisation, horticulture, floriculture, vermi-composting, agri marketing, diversified handloom and handicraft production, micro enterprise such as printing/DTP, cyber cafe, fabrication unit, furniture house are encouraged. Uptil now, 79 such groups have been helped.
In village No 4 Rongbong, a group of three took help to start a pig farm in 2018. Porag Rajkhowa, Simanth Kurmi and Ratul Saikia started with 20 pigs and have sold 14 since then. NRL helped them with a fund of Rs 4 lakh and they have already made a profit of Rs 85,000.
Giving a helping hand to the challenged ones, NRL runs a Community-based Rehabilitation (CBR) project through ‘Swabalambi’ Guwahati. It has also helped in the renovation of Special Handicapped School at Bokakhat and it also provides food to students there.
In his teens, Vicky Majhi was once an able child, running off to school and playing with his friends in Purabangla village. Electrocuted by a pole while cutting a tree, he was burnt badly five years back. He lost a leg and an arm. The young child went into a state of depression and gave up his studies too. The NGO has begun work on motivating the 16-year-old, building his confidence and now rehabilitating him with artificial limbs. His family is very happy with the progress.
An artificial leg was fitted in Guwahati, where he has been trained and taught some exercises. The work on rehabilitation is still on and once he is comfortable, he will be given an arm too. The NGO also plans to give him a tricycle and help with a vegetable shop near his home, ushering in mobility and livelihood for the young boy.
A farmer’s home in No 1, Ponka Gaon reverberates with children’s laughter. With nine-year-old Nayanmoni Thengal having nerve related issues, the siblings and parents constantly take care of this special child. Unable to speak or walk properly as the spine hasn’t developed in the normal manner, he has been taught to stand with the help of a wooden stability box. The problem came about as the umbilical cord wasn’t cut in the right manner, say the parents. He is also being taught to walk with support.
A special walkway has been created for him at home with bamboo railings. He has been given a wheelchair which he manages to move around. The parents have been taught to massage him and he needs to do special exercises.
The wheel of programmes keeps rolling for development is a never-ending phenomenon.
Managing Director,Numaligarh Refinery Limited
NRL has an extensive CSR framework. What are the primary challenges in this area?
Our CSR projects are need-driven, as we are located in a remote location. We can’t be an island of prosperity in an ocean of poverty. Our primary focus is on health, education and livelihood. In fact, long before the CSR mandate took shape, we were doing community development projects. The refinery was commissioned in 2000 and our programmes began the same year. Speed is our biggest challenge. We don’t employ any middlemen. A dedicated team executes and monitors the projects.
What are the main areas that you are focussed on?
We hold healthcare camps daily. We have two mobile clinics which go to the villages. We spend Rs 1.50 cr annually to maintain the VK NRL Nursing School, as it is subsidised. The government offers free education, so we support schools with infrastructure such as digital classrooms. The scholarships that we give to the students go directly into their bank accounts.
Drinking water is another important aspect in the operating area of the refinery. We have established water ATMs in different villages through Eureka Forbes. We are constructing rural roads with paver block through contractor. Supporting the government’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, we let the beneficiaries build the toilets themselves. When a person builds it himself, then he gets a good quality toilet and maintains it well. We sent a group of MBA students to do a door-to-door survey in the neighbourhood and found that 40 homes needed this. We gave Rs 9,000 advance and released the instalments as the project progressed. We have already built more than 1,000 toilets in DBT mode and work is in progress for another 700 toilets.
We have undertaken the health insurance of the 1,200 forest guards of Kaziranga National Park. We support Project SAVERI, an initiative by Numaligarh ladies’ club, with assets to impart skill training to the ladies of nearby localities. We have also developed another group on sewing and most of the boiler suits worn by the refinery workers are stitched by this group.
What are the new initiatives?
We have tied up with Assam Cancer Care Foundation, a joint venture between Government of Assam and Tata Trusts to equip radiotherapy unit of cancer care facility being built in Barpeta Medical College Hospital by providing equipment worth Rs 16.5 cr.
We are going to renovate the Gandhi Mandap in Guwahati. Considering the government thrust on Aspirational District, we are looking at Darang district of Assam which is more than 200km from Numaligarh. Here too, we are working on need-based projects in close coordination with the district administration.