The Executive Chairman of Vedanta Resources Limited believes that the profits of business must help society where it matters most and there is nothing more important than securing a healthy future for our women and children.
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought out the importance of public health in no uncertain terms. A robust public health system is key to both lives and livelihoods, and not just in the context of mitigating the impact of the pandemic. India has a number of other public health challenges, none perhaps more alarming than malnutrition. As per the Global Hunger Index (2019), India ranked 102 out of the 117 countries which qualified for assessment. One third of our children under the age of 5 are stunted, a key indicator of malnutrition.
I believe that philanthropy can play a central role in supporting the government’s efforts to eradicate malnutrition by 2030 in line with our commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. At Vedanta, our flagship social impact initiative— Nand Ghar—is reimaging and modernizing the Anganwadi network across different states of India. The 14 lakh Anganwadis are catering to 2 crore women and 8.5 crore children, our most precious human resources. Like all other fine institutions, it needs to upgrade and transform with time, especially since technology is opening so many new doors. Through a modernised Anganwadi network, we can indeed eliminate malnutrition in no time. Our experience of 1800 Nand Ghars is showing us the way.
No single corporate or foundation can complete the task at hand itself. But we must build scale in our efforts, which we are doing through a constructive partnership with the Union Government’s Ministry of Women and Child Development. Last week, I had the privilege to speak to one of the world’s great philanthropists, Bill Gates, whose Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has done incredible work in public health across the developing world, including in India. The Anil Agarwal Foundation and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in collaboration with the Union and state governments, will work to rapidly eradicate malnutrition from Uttar Pradesh. There will be similar opportunities and efforts in other states as well. Successful models can be replicated in every corner of India in a public-private-civil society partnership. The wheel need not be reinvented each time.
Philanthropy will be the cornerstone of entrepreneurship in the years ahead. Bill Gates and many others have shown the path. I have pledged 75 percent of my wealth to philanthropic activities. I see giving back to our communities as part of our DNA and not as an additional responsibility. The profits of business must help society where it matters most and there is nothing more important than securing a healthy future for our women and children. It will guarantee prosperity and well-being for 1.4 billion Indians in the years ahead and help fulfill the Prime Minister’s vision of a strong and Atmanirbhar Bharat.
This article has been authored by Anil Agarwal, Executive Chairman, Vedanta Resources Limited