Steel with soft core

Print edition : July 04, 2008

Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata, Sir Dorab Tata, and Ratan N. Tata. Since its inception, Tata Steel has focussed on its workers and introduced several welfare initiatives.-THE HINDU PHOTO ARCHIVES

Tata Steels commitment to bettering the quality of life extends beyond its employees to the community around its plant.

THROUGHOUT its hundred-year existence, Tata Steel has never lost sight of the welfare of its employees. Over the years, the company has taken progressive steps towards bettering their professional as well as personal lives, fostering a culture of knowledge management, providing equal opportunities for women and encouraging innovation.

Right from the time he launched Tata Steel, Jamsetji Nusserwanji Tata gave paramount importance to workers welfare. His son Sir Dorab Tata later wrote, The welfare of the labouring class must be one of the first cares of the employer. A pioneer in employee welfare, Tata Steel, even in its nascent years, brought in social scientists like Sidney and Beatrice Webb to work on welfare schemes. In fact, some of the initiatives introduced by the company were not only the first of its kind in India, but also in many Western countries at that time.

Apart from building housing blocks for its employees, offering civic amenities and infrastructure, as early as 1912, the company introduced eight-hour working days; free medical aid was introduced in 1915; initiatives like leave with pay, Workers Provident Fund Scheme, and Workmens Accident Compensation Scheme were introduced in 1920; maternity benefits were introduced in 1928; profit sharing bonus was granted for first time in the country by the company in 1934, and a scheme of retiring gratuity in 1937. This tradition continues till date. In 2002, the company launched Shabash a weekly scheme offering instant rewards and recognition to employees for exemplary behaviour.

In 2003, Tata Steel launched Tejaswini, a womens empowerment programme the first of its kind in the country that trains women to take up unconventional jobs in the steel works. The same year, the company celebrated 75 years of industrial harmony and mutual cooperation, coordination and understanding between the management and the union. It has twice been voted Asias Most Admired Knowledge Enterprise.

The employees in turn have reciprocated these measures with their unflinching loyalty. Generation after generation of employees have identified themselves with the cause of the company. In fact, today, the 17,000-strong workforce pools in talent and trust to empower the company to seize the opportunities of tomorrow.

Tata Steels commitment to improving the quality of life is not restricted to its workers but also to the community around its plants. As early as 1916, a social welfare scheme was formulated by Tata Steel to assist people in the region in education, vocational training, self-employment and family welfare. A night school was started at Golmuri, in Jamshedpur, in 1936 to impart literacy to those who had to labour during the day. The company has also hosted the Lifeline Express the worlds first hospital on a train which provides medical treatment to the poor in rural areas around Jamshedpur.

In 1958, Tata Steel established its first community development centre. Today there are nine such centres through which the destitute, widows, the unemployed and the youth are not only trained in various crafts but are also provided social assistance and recreational facilities. Women who are in financial distress are taught sewing, embroidery, doll-making, and midwifery; unemployed youth are taught typing, plumbing, motor mechanics, carpentry and skills to repair refrigerators and air conditioners.

These centres also encourage activities such as music and dance and offer health education for the community. Tata Steel also assists villages in far-flung areas where it owns iron ore and coal mines. Its village projects include agriculture, dairy, piggery, poultry farming and horticulture. The Family Welfare Department of Tata Steel, set up in 1950, was converted to a trust in 2000 and it runs 21 family planning clinics.

Jawaharlal Nehru with J.R.D. Tata and his wife at Jamshedpur in March 1958.-THE HINDU PHOTO ARCHIVES

In order to help the tribal population of the region to meet their basic needs in a self-reliant and sustainable way, Tata Steel has long been involved in increasing the agricultural productivity of the land in the rural areas through assured irrigation. The company has assisted the tribal community in forming innumerable self-help groups, particularly among women, which have taken up micro-enterprises making Dokra items, carpet weaving, terracotta, mat making, food processing, poultry, floriculture, pisciculture, mushroom farming, and so on. The various social welfare arms of the company train them in networking and marketing.

In 1908, the Tata Main Hospital began to function from an 80-square-foot tent, divided into two small sections the dispensary and the chief medical officers room. The workers who helped the company run the hospital were mostly tribal people. Today, with 900 beds, 14 specialised departments and 168 doctors, it is considered one of the finest hospitals in the country. Treatment is free for all Tata employees and their direct dependents. The company has also set up in Jamshedpur the Lady Meherbai Tata Memorial Hospital, one of the finest cancer hospitals in the country, which is recognised as a research centre by the All India Medical Council.

The hospitals serve people from the entire region. The doctors and the paramedical staff of the hospitals, along with the staff of Tata Steels social welfare departments, are active in spreading health care awareness eye care, tuberculosis and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) mother and child survival programmes and so on among the villagers and communities around Jamshedpur. Through the efforts of the Tata Steel Rural Development Society and the Tata Steel Family Initiatives Foundation, the company covers a large section of the rural and semi-urban population in and around the Steel City.

These two institutions have been conducting training programmes to create community-based health care partners as well as grassroots volunteers. Tata Steel has also committed itself to contributing of Rs.25 crore annually for the next 30 years to a health insurance scheme run by the Jharkhand government for the benefit of those living below the poverty line.

Tata Steel has always been quick to offer immediate relief and long-term assistance to the victims of natural calamities such as the tsunami (Tamil Nadu), earthquake (Gujarat) and floods (Orissa). Funded and supported by its group companies, the Tata Relief Committee reaches out to people in the worst-affected areas.

Tata Steel has taken an active interest in promoting excellence in schools in Jamshedpur. It has instituted the J.J. Irani Education Excellence Award with a hefty cash prize, to encourage all schools in the region to aspire to improve the quality of education. The company also donated a building on a 71-acre campus to the Xavier Institute for Tribal Education (XITE). In fact, the company assists tribal students at various stages of their academic careers.

It runs balwadis (creches) and offers scholarships and sponsorships to reduce the dropout rate of tribal students. Moreover, with a view to helping the tribal population preserve its rich heritage, the company has set up the Tribal Culture Centre, which showcases the legacy of four major and five minor tribes of Jharkhand and Orissa. A Santhali language laboratory has been set up at the centre. Tata Steel also assists the Xavier Labour Relations Institute (XLRI), a premier management institute, in Jamshedpur.

The company has made full use of its knowledge and resources to help tribal people discover their potential in sports. Every year, Tata Steel identifies at least 12 potential athletes from the tribal communities and provides them training with financial assistance and accommodation. These athletes are encouraged to participate in State, regional and national-level events.

The Tata Archery Academy trains tribal people in the sport for which they have a flair. The Tata Football Academy and the Tata Athletic Academy also nurtures and trains participants from the States of Jharkhand and Orissa.

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