It’s personal and it’s supportive

The ‘individual grants programme’ of the Tata Trusts helps meet a variety of health and education requirements of those with no other recourse. By Kishore Rathod

Small steps can lead to big changes and this holds true for the Tata Trusts. Starting with loan scholarships in the late 19th century, the multidimensional and multi-thematic initiatives of the Trusts have come to span a wide spectrum of social development initiatives. A crucial — and personalised — component in this continuum of purposeful philanthropy is the ‘individual grants programme’ (IGP), which supports the needy and the meritorious through financial assistance for medical and education requirements.

Like they have from the beginning, the business and philanthropic principles of the Tatas have been guided by the philosophy and vision of Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata, the pioneer who founded the group. Education was of particular concern to the Tata patriarch and this quote of his on backing, and banking on, talented students looking to pursue further education is illustrative: “What advances a nation or a community is not so much to prop up its weakest and most helpless members, but to lift up the best and the most gifted, so as to make them of the greatest service to the country.”

The JN Tata Endowment for the Higher Education of Indians, set up in 1892, reflects Mr Tata’s belief. The first of many philanthropic endeavours by the Tatas, the Endowment’s legacy has enriched IGP and the funding support it provides to individuals in two categories, for education needs and for health emergencies.

IGP has grown in size and scale over time (in 2018-19, it disbursed more than 1 billion to some 8,000-plus beneficiaries). Although disbursals dipped slightly during the pandemic, the programme continues to receive thousands of applications from people looking for financial help to pay for costly medical treatment and from students and institutions seeking monetary support for education.

Sparkling scholars

The roster of those whom IGP has supported down the years includes some of the country’s brightest minds. The JN Tata Endowment, for example, covers many of India’s leading lights. There’s Freany Cama — among the earliest beneficiaries — who went to Britain to study gynaecology and midwifery, and later luminaries such as KR Narayanan, the late president of India, astrophysicist Jayant Narlikar, Dinshaw Patel of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, and Srikant Datar from Harvard Business School.

The Trusts have expanded IGP’s reach to incorporate grants for individuals wanting to enhance their professional skills, spectrum grants for budding talents in sports and music, and even a grant for candidates keen on becoming commercial pilots. Also in the mix is a pilot project to train teachers and mothers to care for children with learning disabilities.

IGP’s disbursals for medical care helps patients unable to afford treatment of life-threatening diseases. Apart from supporting those who apply directly, the Trusts have also tied up with a network of hospitals that can endorse and recommend deserving cases.

For IGP, the intent is to deliver support in domains where other sources of funding are either not available or are beyond the reach of disadvantaged individuals. The programme’s disbursal process has been honed to ensure a comprehensive and, importantly, fair and humane approach to identify the meritorious in genuine need.

IGP is now looking to design better schemes with targeted outcomes in both health and education, even as it continues to impact the lives of thousands of individual beneficiaries.