A social vision

Print edition : October 11, 2002

WHILE striving to provide students the knowledge edge, Xavier Labour Relations Institute gives as much importance to developing in the students a sense of social justice and helping them imbibe the right attitude the values of discipline, dedication and commitment to the society in which they live. Apart from grooming future business leaders with a social conscience, the institute has been directly involved in social development activities all over the country, particularly in the Jharkhand region. It has provided consultancy services to international agencies such as the Ford Foundation for the Community Forestry Management Project (1979-83); the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), for the situation analysis of women and girls in Bihar (1992), and the Primary Education Project (1995); the European Union, for evaluation and impact assessment of the Kerala Horticulture Project (1999); and the International Labour Organistaion (ILO), for Dispute Settlement in India (1999). It has offered consultancy services for the five-year microplanning project of the government of Madhya Pradesh, which involves microplanning for forest-based villages under a Government of Madhya Pradesh-World Bank project, and a social assessment study and Basic Education Project for the Government of Bihar.

The institute is active in promoting literacy, adult education, income-generation projects and health care for the underprivileged people of Jamshedpur, and East Singhbhum and West Singhbhum districts. In collaboration with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), XLRI is involved actively with the management concerns of the business community in the State's eastern region. It is undertaking a study on the impact of infrastructure development on the socio-economic profile of the industrial and tribal areas around Jamshedpur. Through such joint ventures, XLRI aims to play a part in the development of the local community.

For more effective and direct action in the field of social development, the Socio-Economic and Education Development Society (SEEDS) was set up in the last quarter of 1995 on the XLRI campus. The mission statement of SEEDS underlines its role in "building an enabling environment which would facilitate strengthening of people's involvement and grassroots capacities leading to their empowerment''. SEEDS works in more than 250 habitations in the region and has implemented a Water and Environmental Sanitation Project under UNICEF and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). It has also implemented a project on Integrated Tribal Development and Empowerment aimed at the uplift of the indigenous people of the region, for the German organisation EZE. Over 66 per cent of the rural population in this area constitutes Scheduled Tribes including Santhals, Hos and Mundas, and primitive tribes that are on the verge of extinction, such as Birhors and Sabar Kharias. The basic components of this project are community organisation, capacity building, non-formal education and adult literacy, thrift and credit-based promotion of micro enterprises. The main income generation programmes for these tribal populations include mushroom cultivation, manufacturing incense sticks, tamarind processing, herbal oil extraction, vegetable cultivation, formation of grain banks, making leaf plates and items from terracotta and bamboo shoots.

In order to focus more strongly on its social development work, the institute set up a number of `Centres'. The Centre for Rural Management was set up in the academic year 1992-93. The mission of the centre is to upgrade managerial talent in rural development agencies by designing appropriate models. It has also undertaken research and consultancy work for national and international agencies.

In 1995, the institute set up the Centre for Small Industries in order to promote entrepreneurship and management of small and micro enterprises in the country. Since its inception, it has had the active support of the Small Industries Development Bank of India. Its aim is to create a level playing-field in the area of enterprise by empowering small- and micro-business enterprises with strong skill advantages so that they can compete in the market and help generate avenues for livelihood.

It has tried to help educated unemployed persons by conducting 15-week Small Industries Management Programmes (SIMP), in which youths were trained in the basics of small business management so that they could be in a position to provide support to small entrepreneurs. With several private and public sector companies downsizing their manpower in the economic environment driven by liberalisation, the centre has been engaged in developing a placement service that can provide people with alternative avenues of employment in small firms that are in need of trained manpower. It is also working on organising retrenched workers into cooperatives or start-ups that function as ancillaries to their earlier organisations, in a context in which such organisations are increasingly outsourcing their non-core operations. The centre also conducts gender-specific training programmes for women entrepreneurs as well as agencies involved in their promotion.

In its efforts to address the problems of the rural and the urban poor of Jharkhand, XLRI, in coordination with the State and district administration, has prepared a blueprint for entrepreneurial training. Although Jharkhand is rich in minerals and forest cover, its resources have hardly been tapped for development, and the overall literacy and human development index in the State is well below the national average. With this purpose in mind, the institute has identified certain thrust areas; these include forestry, rural industrialisation, group enterprise and other possible livelihood and employment generation programmes.

XLRI's Centre for Educational Management, Leadership and Research seeks to address weaknesses in the field of education that can hinder human development and sustained economic growth. Some of these weaknesses that the centre has identified are the absence of innovative teaching methodology, continuance of the traditional type of curriculum, and failure to use effective management techniques. Its main task is to train administrators and heads of schools who are encouraged to formulate a vision for their team and organisation, set goals and meet the objectives required to make the formulated vision work. The methodology used is participative and interactive, where skills are learnt hands-on through case studies and role-playing.

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