Supporting governments and communities in containing Covid-19 has been a priority for the Tata Trusts
I t's a task fraught with uncertainty — taking on a shape-shifting crisis in a hurry and devising a response that works without disrupting the larger picture. That's the tricky challenge the Tata Trusts have confronted while joining the shared fight against Covid-19, even as they keep their social development programmes running.
There's no doubt where the attention is concentrated. Since March 2020, the Tata Trusts have been in hyper drive with their contribution in containing the pandemic, by helping governments, communities and civil society cope better with it.
The Tata Trusts Chairman Ratan Tata spoke about the 'need of the hour' soon after the Trusts and the Tata group had together committed 15 billion to India's Covid-19 relief effort. The effort is centred on bolstering India's healthcare infrastructure and supporting communities in need.
Setting up hospitals to treat Covid-19 victims was a key undertaking and this was entrusted to the Trusts' cancer care team, which worked with Tata Projects. The team reached out to state health departments to upgrade existing infrastructure into coronavirus treatment centres. The move paid off.
By end-december, the Trusts had converted four hospital buildings into Covid-care facilities. Two of these are in Maharashtra: a 50-bed centre in Sangli and one with 104 beds in Buldhana. Two more have come up in Uttar Pradesh: a 168-bed hospital in Gautam Buddha Nagar and a 124-bed centre in Gonda, both developed in collaboration with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Designed to offer a range of treatment services, the centres have critical care capabilities, operation theatres, basic pathology and radiology labs, etc.
Augmenting the critical-care skills of medical personnel working on the ground has been another important initiative in the Trusts' Covid-relief spread. The Trusts tied up with Christian Medical College, Vellore, and the Care Institute of Health Sciences, Hyderabad, to create online programmes to train doctors, nurses and paramedical staff.
This 22-hour training module, which covers, among other things, airway and ventilator management, has been provided free to about 200 hospitals in 19 states.
Covid-19 caught the entire world and its healthcare systems napping. It did more in India, exposing how inadequate the country's health ecosystem is and how short it was in dealing with an infectious outbreak.
Health sector and frontline workers were at maximum risk and in dire need of protection. The Trusts have stepped up with support here. Some 3 million pieces of coveralls, face masks, surgical masks, gloves and goggles were imported and donated to workers in 32 states and union territories.
The Tata Trusts team has rolled out a pan-India communication campaign to build awareness about multiple aspects of the pandemic. Reaching an estimated audience of 21 million people in 21 states, the campaign takes in safe behaviour — social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands, etc — understanding Covid-19 and its symptoms, treatment avenues and more.
Called 5 Kadam, Corona Mukt Jeevan (five steps to a Corona-free life), the campaign features some 300 video messages, animated audiovisuals and infographics that are packaged in a variety of languages. The campaign was used to train in excess of 8,700 community volunteers to spread the word on the virus.
As India imposed a severe lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19, jobs and livelihoods dried out. These people needed a helping hand, and immediately.
The Trusts-backed Annapurna Central Kitchens project in Nashik and Palghar in Maharashtra — which ordinarily delivers meals to more than 28,000 school-going children from the state's tribal belt — started feeding stranded migrants. In addition, 1.6 million packets of a nutritious snack called GoMo were distributed to vulnerable communities in several states.
The 730,000-plus beneficiaries of the GoMo initiative included street dwellers, shelter-home residents, migrant workers, police personnel, ragpickers, etc.
Across India, the Trusts organised a slew of community programmes in support of Covid-relief initiatives. In Hyderabad, under the 'Elder Spring' programme aimed at senior citizens, a helpline had volunteers handling requests from the aged for food and medicines. Crafts initiative Antaran Artisan Connect, meanwhile, enabled 230 artisans to stay afloat through an online campaign that netted 3.9 million in pre-paid orders.
The 'data-driven governance' project partnered the government think tank, NITI Aayog, in researching the impact of the outbreak on residents of 885 villages across India. And, in a personal move, nearly 1,200 employees in the Tata Trusts family collectively contributed about 3 million to fund food and rations for migrant families stranded in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.