With a focus on sustainable programmes, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) is partnering with communities to open avenues that lead to inclusive growth
Among the best performing Maharatna Public Sector Undertakings in the country, BPCL energises lives through community-based initiatives that leave a long-term impact. Known for interventions related to integrated and sustainable development in diverse areas of Healthcare & Hygiene, Education, Water Conservation, Skill Development and Community Development, BPCL has touched millions of lives since decades.
Giving momentum to healthcare in remote tribal belts, BPCL supports the unique Lifeline Express or Jeevan Rekha, also hailed as the Magic Train. The world’s first hospital train began operations in July 1991 under the aegis of Impact India Foundation, and since then has taken free medical care to Manmad (Maharashtra), Daltonganj (Jharkhand), Latur (Maharashtra), Churaibari (Tripura), Araria (Bihar), Dhubri (Assam) and Papum Pare (Arunachal Pradesh) and more.
Equipped with state-of-the-art operation theatres and medical equipment, the hospital train offers corrective orthopaedic surgeries for people afflicted with polio or club-foot deformities, hearing impairment, cataract surgeries, plastic surgeries for cleft lips. In addition, the doctors on board provide breast and cervical cancer screening, epilepsy treatment, dental treatment, gynaecological and cancer procedures. Stroke prevention programmes are also conducted through health education session. Prof. (Dr) Rohini Chowgule, Trustee, Impact India Foundation, adds, “BPCL has been supportive to our intervention for initiating healthcare programmes such as cervical cancer for women too. Since the inception of this project in 1991, our mission has been to improve the quality of life through healthcare interventions in remote and tribal regions.”
In Nakti Semra village, Jagdalpur, Bastar district, an aspirational district in Chhattisgarh, tribals sit under trees, waiting for their turn to enter the train, as volunteers and doctors do the preliminary check-ups. Boda, a farmer from Kumar Sadra village, was suffering from poor visibility since a year. “A nurse from this train used to visit my village and recommended treatment at this train hospital. My eye sight has improved now.”
Word about the train’s arrival in different regions spreads through nurses, volunteers, ASHA and anganwadi workers. ASHA worker, Aravati of Nakti Semra village, says, “We first establish cold contact and visit schools in the pada to identify children with health issues. Then we counsel and intimate them about the train’s arrival.”
There is digital registration on a health app, which also becomes a data bank for mapping the diseases prevalent in the area and planning the interventions. A spirited 24-year-old Vandana Baghel, from Nakti Semra village, is an outreach volunteer. “I was trained by my outreach coordinator, Pawan, to make digital entries on this check-up app. And I tested my skills by doing that for my grandmother. I gave her a demonstration using the app in the local language. It is user-friendly and I have also taught my brother to use it. A coordinator and a nurse visit every house. During one such visit we came across a child with a cleft lip, whom we got to the train for treatment.”
Kanak Nag from Nakti Samare village, Bastar district, was treated for his eyes. “The operation was quick and painless. Once I get back home, I will play with my grandchildren, something I missed doing in the last couple of months.”
Deepika, all of 10 years old, could not go to school due to congenital mature cataract. Now, she is looking forward to resuming her studies. All patients agree that the train is truly magical.
After the surgery, the patients are kept under observation for 2-3 days and more in serious cases. The patients and their attendants are provided free boarding and lodging at the nearby government premises such as schools or healthcare centres.
Eye check-up camps are also organised regularly. Free spectacles are provided too. An eye surgeon from Mumbai, Dr Raju Muskawad says. “This is my fourth camp on this train. I first came to operate in this train 10 years ago. Almost 50 per cent of the patients are afflicted with mature bilateral cataract due to lack of awareness.”
Not only do workers, the heads of villages also encourage people to get treated. Alnar village has a population of about 950 people, and the mukhiya Rajan Kumar Baghel informs, “Senior people have poor vision and are hard on hearing. On an average 60-70 people go to the train hospital for check-up and undergo treatment.”
Though COVID-19 did prove to be a setback, but the situation has improved. Dr R.K. Chaturvedi, CMO of Jagdalpur, Bastar, adds, “Sometime, people don’t reach the hospitals and sometimes there is deficit. So, this hospital truly becomes a lifeline.”
Dr Ajay Kumar John served as a medical officer in the primary health unit for 32 years in the state healthcare department. He joined the workforce of Lifeline Express in 2002 and has seen top surgeons operate on the train, even been a witness to plastic surgery.
Aayush: Cancer Care Programme In a sanitised air-conditioned hall, in Baksara, Howrah district, West Bengal, four doctors are busy checking patients. This is a cancer screening camp organised by Indian Cancer Society, free of cost for the underprivileged people. The day starts early, as the doctors—general physician, dentist, oncologist and gynaecologist—and a female attendant diligently check patient after patient till late afternoon, recording their habits, family history and illness history.
Himanghsu Roychoudhury of Baksara is happy that he could make it to the camp, “You have to obtain a prior appointment in regular clinics and the treatment is also expensive.” Mita Chakrabarty (name changed) came with her young daughter Ashmita (name changed), as she needs advice on menstrual hygiene. Like them, the others too in the camp avoid visiting doctors due to paucity of time, cost, fear and social stigma. But BPCL has taken a bold step of making modern healthcare services accessible to the underprivileged free of cost through Integrated Cancer Cure and Care programme.
Among the most distressing and expensive diseases globally, research shows that early detection can lead to treatment and complete recovery from the dreaded disease. And for this BPCL has partnered with the Indian Cancer Society, touching upon the ‘Preventive’ and ‘Curative’ dimensions of cancer care.
The project comprises cancer screening camps for Oral, Cervical and Breast Cancer in Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Maharashtra along with financial support for treatment of cancer in through 10 government/not-for-profit hospitals pan-India as well survivorship and rehabilitation programmes for cancer survivors. Till date screening camps have been held in Varanasi, Pune, Kolhapur, Kolkata.
P. Misra, Programme Coordinator, Baksara, Howrah district, says, “As lifestyles and habits have changed, there is a spurt of ailments, ranging from diabetes to cancer. All the doctors check the mouth cavity, as most people have a habit of chewing betel nuts, smoke, making them more susceptible to oral cancer.”
For some, there is a need for further tests. Under the programme, patients are guided to hospitals which are empanelled for this. Among them is the Cancer Institute (WIA) Adyar in Chennai which provides free cancer treatment. It has treated over 500 patients under the programme since 2020.
“The criteria for being eligible for financial support for the treatment is based on the income as well as the type of cancer,” explains Dr Venkatraman Radhakrishnan, Professor, Department of Medical Oncology. “We have an online form that needs to be filled and it is sent to the BPCL team in Mumbai for approval.” Treatment is not held back while waiting for approvals. There is a one-month credit facility and people can claim the last 30 days amount spent on treatment under the assistance received.
Gunal, 17, was diagnosed with lymphoma. His mother says, “We went to a government hospital and even after three months we saw no improvement. The hospital said that the child will not survive. I heard of the Indian Cancer Society through relatives and when we came here, we were told about the BPCL financial support, and we are so glad that our child has survived.”
The process is transparent. Doctors fill in the treatment plan and details of recovery chances while the social worker includes details of the patient’s family. The amount needed for financial support is also mentioned. Under the curative dimension comes the role of psychology in cancer cure. “The role of a psychologist is different at all stages of the treatment. If there is a new patient, we assess the distress level of the patient as they will have frequent visits. For children, the parent, usually the mother, is also counselled. As the treatment has toxicity as a side effect, this varies from one child to the other, parents also need to be psycho educated. The child needs to be comforted; the parent caregiver may have family issues as they may have another child who needs to be taken care of at home,” says Divya Rajkumar, Psycho Oncologist, After Completion Therapy (ACT) clinic, Indian Cancer Society.
At the paediatric ward, children as small as six months are treated. The hospital has a small library with toys and books. For children who are undergoing chemotherapy or in ICU, more attention is given to the parent as well. Every week a ‘Smile Meeting’ is conducted where all the mothers are addressed by the doctors, psychologists and dieticians.
As there are chances of a relapse, the children need to be monitored closely after their treatment as well. BPCL also supports the children for continuing their education after they recover. Young Harish survived blood cancer. The 11-year-old has now resumed school through BPCL financial support. “My father works as a help at a gas agency and financially it is hard for me to study. But now, I can do that,” he smiles.
Rajkumar elucidates, “We enrol all the students into After Completion Therapy Clinics. We need to understand what is affecting the child and if parents are being overprotective of their kids post their treatment. Some children are given radiation to the head which can cause memory issues. Again, with survivors there are chances of late effects when organs get affected after treatment, whether it is eyes, neuro cognitive issues or dental issues.”
Paedriatic Heart Care equipment, Navi Mumbai It’s hard to believe that the adorable, one-year-old Vaishnavi Shivale with bright, black eyes was detected with Tetralogy of Fallot, a rare heart condition that makes babies turn blue, commonly known as blue babies. The advanced, corrective surgery would cost Rs 4-5 lakh, her farmer parents of Washim village in Maharashtra were informed by a doctor. That’s when a doctor in Akola suggested that they take Vaishnavi to Sri Sathya Sai Sanjeevani Hospital for child heartcare in Kharghar, Navi Mumbai.
After a quick check-up, Vaishnavi was operated upon completely free of cost. Her parents, too, were given free accommodation in the hospital premises. A month after the surgery, Vaishnavi is fine, but needs to visit the hospital frequently for examination.
The hospital operates on 100 such children, as young as one-day-old up to 18 years, every month, for any kind of cardiac issues. This number, however, was just 30-40, two years ago, until BPCL supported the hospital with a second operation theatre, doubling the hospital’s operation capacity. Dr CS Srinivas, Director of Academics, says, “A baby’s heart is of the size of the walnut and operating on it requires specialised instruments that are very expensive. We had more patients coming in during the pandemic and there was shortage of funds for equipment. This aid has helped us and the patients tremendously.”
Ten years ago, it was believed that a child’s heart must be operated upon only when the baby weighs 10 kg. Over time, paediatric surgeons realised that the baby has better chances of survival if the problem is detected early. “Hence, we operate on babies as young as one-day-old as well.”
The complete operation theatre. including beds, machines and fine, micro instruments, has changed the way surgeries are now done in the hospital. More equipment that came in the aid was the ECHO scanning machine and a laundry machine. Not many are aware that a laundry machine plays an important role in maintaining the required high hygiene levels and to deal with the large volume of clothes that need to be washed daily.
The ECHO scanning machine is used for checking the hearts of the many patients, almost 70-80, that flock to the hospital daily. This is in addition to the requirement of 5,000 pregnant women from rural Maharashtra registered with the hospital.
Additionally, as part of the hospital’s preventive programme, it ferries pregnant women from interiors of Raigad and other districts in Maharashtra to its premises, for the much-needed ultrasounds. “We do free scans to detect the heart defects in the womb. The villages don’t have an ultrasound facility and centres in nearby cities are unaffordable for most of them,” explains Dr Srinivas.
In the last two years, two paediatric cardiac surgeons have operated upon approximately 2,400 babies with different kinds of heart issues, even the most severe ones, with a success rate of 99 per cent.
The hospital is also training young doctors and paramedics in cardiac paediatrics by offering one-year internship at the hospital. It is also training anganwadi and ASHA workers in rural areas of Maharashtra, in detecting early signs of cardiac problems in babies and dos and don’ts of healthy pregnancies.
Integrated Rural Initiatives In the hinterlands of Maharashtra, a large tract of the tribal belt comes under the aspirational district of Gadchiroli. Divided into 12 blocks, the Red Corridor district depends on agriculture and paddy for livelihood. But the lack of large-scale irrigation systems creates a socio-economic divide. Thus, for holistic development, BPCL supported the Integrated Rural Upliftment Programme (IRUP) in collaboration with Tata Trusts. “The project focused on agriculture, education, water conservation, nutrition and hygiene sectors,” says Harsha Vashistha, Area Manager, TATA Trusts. Under IRUP, the Lakhpati Kisan project was initiated to help marginal farmers earn an income of Rs 1,50,000 annually. With an aim to benefit over 1,000 farmers, the capacity building included access to irrigation, new techniques of cultivation, productivity of key cereals, forward market linkages.
After the training sessions, Krishi Samanvays or groups were formed. And a Krishi Doot, a volunteer from the community, was appointed to give support to the farmers as they implement their new learning. Krishi Doot Pankaj Madavi of Bhalitola and Kudakoi says, “For the last three years farmers are using the new techniques for lac cultivation, and new agricultural practices with positive results.”
Lac is used for many purposes and costs Rs 350 per kg in the market. Suresh Madavi and four others were given support to grow trees of palash, ber, kusum, toor on which insects secreting lac flourish. In one day, 4-5 kg of lac can be scraped, and one tree gives 10 kg of lac.
In one of the villages, a polyhouse with drip system was built where three vegetable crops such as brinjal, tomato and chillies can be grown, especially during the harsh summers. Umesh Bhaktdas Madavi of Bhalitola, has adopted drip and mulch technique for cultivating bitter gourd, tomatoes, brinjal and chillies on his farm.
Community wells have been dug to address water problems during peak summer and these help farmers cultivate paddy and vegetables. A single well serves five small holding farmers and provides irrigation support to close to 12 acres of land. Ram Lamhno Meshram of Dhanora got a well constructed on his land for his group. So far, five wells have been constructed and another seven are on the anvil.
Not just wells, the 300-year-old Malgujari tanks, which fell into bad shape over the centuries, have been desilted and now have more water storage capacity. Constructed by the Gond kings, close to 100 ponds have been desilted and are maintained by Water User Groups (WUG.) Amol Meshram of Pandersara village informs, “Each water body has two outlets and benefits up to 59 farmer beneficiaries. The group collectively pays Rs 11,000 for the water usage.”
Community mobiliser Pravin Kalbandha says that in Amori block desilting of 21 tanks out of 100 tanks has been completed. With over 50, 545 cubic meter silt dug out, the water storage increased and that water can now us used to irrigate 225 acres, as compared to the earlier 170 acres.
Besides livelihood, education too got a boost with Parag Libraries. With story books in Indian languages, the activities are designed to encourage reading competencies and capacity building of teachers and counsellors too. The project includes 50 libraries at Zila Parishad, Ashramshala, KGBV, model schools and Samuha Niwasi schools, for children in grades 1-7.
At the Zila Parshad Upper Primary School, Nave Gaon Rar, Ashish Ashok Yellawar, has charge of the Parag Library. “The children are encouraged to read the stories out aloud. It helps build vocabulary and learn clear pronunciations.” Aniket, a Class 7 student, has read five stories. Namrata enjoys the story ‘Mitva’, which is about girl empowerment. Health is wealth goes the old adage and good hygiene habits are inculcated early in life. A Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) programme was also introduced in 50 Zila Parishads to teach the importance of washing their hands before and after meals, and after going to the toilet, on keeping the place clean to prevent infections.
Then, for healthy and wholesome meals, Annapurna Central Kitchen has been established at Government (English medium) Ashram School, Semana. The kitchen caters to 30 neighbouring schools. To address the issues of micronutrient deficiency, Rice Fortification was introduced. It started with 12 millers and now 40 are participating in the project, with one volunteering from Armori village. FRKs are grains made from rice flour enriched with iron and micro nutrients and shaped like conventional rice. It is mixed with the original rice in a ratio of 1:10, that is 100 gm of FRK is mixed with 1 kg of conventional rice.
Robotic Manhole Cleaning Among the oldest ‘safai karamacharis’ in Indore Municipal Corporation, Kamal Laxman Narayan is experiencing relief in manhole cleaning after 42 years of service. Gone are his days of manual scavenging the city sewers and being exposed to poisonous gases. Now, he has a Bandicoot robot which cleans the sewers. “There are sensors in the panel to detect poisonous gases so we are not exposed to any perils,” he cites the benefits of this robotic manhole cleaning. Surveys state that more than four million people are engaged in this profession across India, despite the fact that the Supreme Court has banned this practice by passing The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993 and The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013 or M. S. Act 2013. To reduce the risk for sanitation workers, local civic bodies are always in search of better and viable solutions such as use of Robotics and Artificial Intelligence (Al) to eliminate human involvement in sanitation maintenance services.
Always in the forefront of good services, BPCL has supported Indore and Coimbatore Municipal Corporations with 10 robotic manhole cleaning machines, along with operational cost for two years. Developed by Kerala-based Genrobotics, these robots can perform all the functions that a sanitation worker needs to perform to clean the sewer.
In Indore, robotic manhole cleaning was introduced in October 2020. Site Manager, Vimlesh Mishra, informs, “It takes 10-15 minutes for one robot to clean a single manhole and on an average 50-60 manholes are cleaned in a day with five robots. The robot set-up requires three people: a driver, robot operator or ‘safai mitra’ and a sanitation worker. They need 10-12 days of training. Not only does robotic cleaning make it safe, it also gives dignity to this much maligned job.”
The other advantages: Manpower reduction, only 2-3 people can now do the work of 4-5 people. Robotic machines can clean around 1,000 litres of sludge daily and more manholes, while manual scavenging could clean only 300-500 litres of sludge. The daily cost of cleaning 10 manholes manually is close to Rs 10,500 and with robotic scavenging it comes down to Rs 2,500.
Safai Mitra Govind Bhairave echoes the sentiments of his colleague, “It is easy, safe and more hygienic to work with the robots. Even during the Covid pandemic, we did not stop working, instead we adhered to strict safety protocol and kept the city clean. People look at us with more respect now.”
With multiple initiatives, BPCL has been working on integrated projects and many crucial areas that pave the way for a healthier and happier community.
Covid Relief Initiatives
BPCL has provided Vaccination related Cold Chain Equipment in Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.
An amount of Rs 125 cr was also contributed to the PM Cares Fund from the CSR Budgets of 2019-20 (Rs 100 cr) & 2020-21 (Rs 25cr).
BPCL refineries are supplying medical oxygen to hospitals monthly in Maharashtra, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh. BPCL under the leadership of MoPNG has provided:
11 PSA Plants in Maharashtra, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh
3,000 Oxygen Cylinders
1000 Oxygen Concentrators
BPCL partnered with local administration and police at various locations to provide PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) Kits to various front-line workers.