Media Speaks

Asian Age Ahmedabad

24 and 25 October  1998

Industry shies away from AMC slum projects

By Ojas Mehta

Irony possibly never struck the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation as hard in all its history. On one hand it is busy celebrating its maiden success in the pilot project of upgrading the slums at Sanjaynagar, at the same time, some of the major companies in the city are hesitant to strike an alliance with it.
While the AMC is trying hard to locate an industrial partner to sponsor its slum networking projects, the initial enthusiasm that the industry had shown towards such projects seems to have fizzled out. While Arvind Mills, co-partner in the earlier slum upgradation project at Sanjaynagar, has already refused offers from the AMC to co-finance such developmental projects, the Lions Club of Ahmedabad has for reasons unknown backtracked from its earlier commitment to co-sponsor the Pravinnagar-Guptanagar project.
“Working with the AMC is impossible, says Prof. V L Mote, director of Arvind Mills and one of the major player in the Sanjaynagar project. “We have burnt our fingers badly and there is no way we can do business with the AAMC again, he said. Prof. Mote claimed that the AMC owes the company Rs.2.25 lakhs.
Municipal commissioner B K Sinha was evasive when asked why the companies were dithering to lend support to its project. The problem has not yet come up before me, but I do not think there is much of a problem,” he said. But with no deadlines fixed for the various projects and the snail’s pace at which the projects are proceeding, the AMC does seem to be grasping for breath. The AMC in fact has reportedly written to 30 leading companies in the city, including Torrent Pharmaceuticals and Asoka Mills an affiliate of Arvind, but has failed to evoke response. The Lions Club has backed out for lack of funds,” a top AMC official told The Asian Age.
But according to another source the Lions Club wrapped up its plans as soon as the tenure of the district governor under whom the decision was taken ended. Since then a hunt for partners has proved futile.
The AMC is however undeterred by the poor response and has resigned itself to go it alone if the search for partners does not materialise. “The alliance partner will have to rake in Rs.24 lakhs at Pravinnagar. But we are prepared for the worst as the AMC has decided to see the project through even if the cost is not shared” a senior official at the AMC said.
“The World Bank has evinced keen interest in slum networking projects and it is considering the prospect of lending support”, the source said.
Prof. Dwijendra Tripathi, who authored the book Alliance for Change, has an explanation for AMC’s failure to acquire partners.
The companies in Ahmedabad have not yet reached a stage when they could consider the prospect of charity”, he said. He emphasised that the four stages of development for a successful company as riches, profit, charity and social responsibility. The priorities of the recent entrants to the industrial field have changed, the professor added.
Another reason, and a more prudent one, could be to draw inference from the reasons that led to the strain in relation between the AMC and Arvind Mills during the Sanjaynagar project. Many saw it as doomed to fail, as there was no preparation of a ground to reduce the possibility of friction between the AMC and Arvind Mills in the initial stages of the project.  Generally speaking the AMC had the resolve and the powers to short-circuit the decision making machinery which a corporate body has and Arvind Mills apparently failed to examine the procedural shackles that binds AMC. According to observers, this difference in work culture later snowballed into a major feud between the two.
The main problem was that the two partners began competing rather than complementing each other, an AMC official involved with the project said.
Even Saath, the third partner involved with community development, had figured that the sharp differences between AMC and Arvind Mills will eventually sound the death knell for the Pravinnagar-Guptanangar.
We had a prior commitment from Arvind Mills for the Pravinnagar project. But as its relation with the AMC ran into rough weather, Saath’s integrity was at stake, Saath’s chief Rajendra Joshi said.
Says Prof. Dwijendra Tripathi, “the best thing about the alliance experiment was that Sanjaynagar did happen. The differences, however major, should have been replaced by the pride of success as soon as the project was completed. Changing the lives of 181 households within the estimated budget and that too within the time frame is no small achievement".
Unfortunately for the city’s slum dwellers the tussle is bound to reflect on the various AMC slum-networking projects which are in the pipeline.

Strategic Focus: Sharda Trust to train drivers
By Ojas Mehta
 25 October 1998
After allying with the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation in its slum networking project at Sanjaynagar the Sharda Trust’s next focus is a training programme for drivers.
The recently launched programme by the Strategic Help Alliance for Relief to Distressed Areas Trust is a step towards achieving its objective i.e. to upgrade skills of the deprived sections of urban populace.
A corporate body has the means and sources to upgrade skills of the distressed sections of the society. With the right approach it can certainly usher in development among slum dwellers, Prof. Mote, trustee Sharda Trust said.
The trust is a sister organisation of the Arvind Mills.
Having tasted success with the sewing machine training programme for slum women in the city, the trust is now trying to expand its areas of work.
The idea for the driver’s training programme originated during the course of a slum networking project when the trust felt the need to reach out to the slum dwellers and inculcate a sense of fierce competitiveness in them.
We had seen the community development taken up by Saath during the slum networking project and felt that with the type of resources we had, backed with corporate support, we could perform the task better, Prof. Mote said
“We have been successful in placing trained drivers in various establishments, including the affiliate organisations of the trust who are now drawing a decent income. This is something that they could never have dreamt to accomplish”, he added.
There were however, several cases when the organisations sacked the services of the drivers as they lacked the discipline and attitude needed in a professional organisation.
The “hire and fire” policy of the modern day organisations is something that the people could not relate to.
Sharda Trust therefore focussed on sensitising the drivers to the human dimensions and expected standards in professional organisations.
The trust also arranged for a training programme for the drivers after they were thoroughly trained in the requisite driving skills.
The training session itself is tough as the drivers have to go through the rigours of learning to drive during the night and under difficult lighting conditions.
The driver is also familiarised with the traffic rules and driving in congested roads of Ahmedabad.
Only after such an intense ritual the driver is placed as an apprentice in various organisations and eventually recruited as a full-fledged employee.
“The driver’s training programme as a means to attain our objective was changed after looking into the rising demand of trained drivers in the city.
The cost of training and the time per person was also less compared to other programme and the most important fact that the educational qualifications is not essential pre-requisite for the programme”, Prof. Mote said.
The trust also gauged the response to training programme and initially train only three persons. Now the trust has planned to train 150 drivers in the year 1999 alone.
Among the objectives of the trust are educational, physical and material advancement of the deprived and the advantaged section of the urban population India.