New Delhi: The government plans to rope in state-owned and private sector firms to help build toilets for every school, a vision outlined by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his Independence Day speech.
Human resources development minister Smriti Irani will hold a meeting with around three dozen executives from leading firms and their foundations in New Delhi on Tuesday to chalk out strategies in this regard.
“She (Irani) will address the conference on the use of corporate social responsibility funds for construction of school toilets," said a ministry invitation.
Officials said the ministry would like to take corporate houses into confidence on the lines of Modi’s “Make In India" programme. The government believes they “would be able to mobilize thousands of crores of rupees" for the purpose.
According to Census 2011, half of Indian citizens—over 600 million—do not have access to a toilet either at home or in their communities. According to the Annual Status of Education Report 2013, published by education non-profit Pratham, the percentage of usable toilets for girls has increased from 32.9% in 2010 to 53.3% in 2013. That means 47% schools still do not have separate toilets for girls, increasing their chances of dropping out or facing regular difficulties. India has more than 1.2 million schools catering to over 220 million students.
After Modi’s 15 August speech, Tata Consultancy Services Ltd (TCS) said it will contribute ₹ 100 crore for the cause. A similar pledge was made by Bharti Foundation, the philanthropic arm of telecom firm Bharti Airtel Ltd.
Three IT firms including TCS and Infosys Ltd will attend the meeting and are expected to help the ministry, two ministry officials said on condition of anonymity. Mint could not independently verify this.
“TCS has already pledged and the ministry believes by the end of Tuesday, several others shall join in," said one of the officials. Other than private firms, state-owned firms in power and energy sectors, too, would participate in the meeting, the official added.
The new companies law mandates companies to spend 2% of their profit on philanthropic activities. The official said a portion of the fund can benefit the ministry and the state government in achieving the goal. “If we can mobilize ₹ 2,000-3,000 crore, it would be a great help, and along with Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan fund, we can build toilets in all schools," the official said.
“I want to make a beginning today itself and that is—all schools should have toilets with separate toilets for girls," Modi had said on 15 August. “Only then our daughters will not be compelled to leave schools midway. I call upon the corporate sector also to give priority to the provision of toilets in schools with your expenditure under corporate social responsibility. This target should be finished within one year with the help of states and on next 15 August, we should be in a firm position to announce there is no school in India without separate toilets for boys and girls," he had said.
The second official said some ministries have tapped public sector firms under their jurisdiction to chip in. Narendra Singh Tomar, minister for labour, employment, steel and mines, has earmarked ₹ 100 crore to be sourced from public sector units (PSUs) under his ministries for the Swachh Bharat and Swachh Vidyalaya campaigns. A labour ministry spokesperson did confirm the development.
Kartik Sharma, chief executive of Agnitio, an education firm working with schools, said roping in companies is a good move, but “government cannot only think of corporate-sponsored toilets in falling-apart public schools. They have to overhaul the public school system and have to provide for maintaining the infrastructure as well". As several corporate houses have their own schools, to convince them to invest in government schools will not be that easy, Sharma added.