Tuesday, July 21, 2020

#Sambandh Stories is a series of short interviews with our members or collaboration partners on different topics of interest


This interview is with GV RAO, Director - Coporate Social Responsibility and external industry affairs at VOLVO Group India


With the widespread relief operations that Volvo Group has been doing in Bangalore, share with us the key challenges that you encountered and how you navigated the same?

Volvo Group has undertaken an extensive outreach program of relief support for Covid 19 impacted sections of society. Due to countrywide lockdown, many migrant and daily wage workers were out of jobs and lost their livelihoods and were desperately looking for support of grocery kits. We supplied approx. 4000 grocery kits worth 30 lakhs to around 18,000-20,000 people comprising of migrants, daily wagers and BPL families in the industrial areas in and around Bangalore. Safety hygiene items were supplied to frontline warriors like Police, Civic Sanitation workers, Govt Hospital Staff etc. Hand sanitizers were provided to Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation for promoting safe commuting of passengers. We also supported the mining staff like truck drivers, machine operators etc at 18 remote operational locations in Telangana with safety kits comprising of masks, liquid soaps etc. We have spent close to 65 lakhs on various Covid 19 relief support so far.

In our interaction with various government authorities, realised that there were many migrants and daily wage workers in very remote locations and couldn’t receive support and were suffering due to non-availability of food and ration kits. It was challenging and risky to reach out to those places. We discussed with our volunteers and were determined that however difficult it is to reach these needy in those remote locations, we will still deliver the grocery kits to their doorsteps!

Safety of volunteers was a challenge and we had to take extra precautions during the relief operations, besides providing masks, sanitizers, gloves etc and took extra efforts to maintain orderly distribution and social distancing. We had extensive discussions with authorities and volunteers on how to avoid over-crowding, maintaining social distancing among the recipients and making them come with masks or some protection on face.

We also had to take extra efforts during the relief operations with regards to permissions and transportation, which was not easy during the lock down period. We hired few tempo travellers and along with employee volunteer cars (maintaining social distance norms) managed the movements of volunteers to remote locations in and around Bangalore.

Eventually what is gratifying is after receiving the ration kits, the happiness and gratitude seen on the faces of the beneficiaries. This has motivated our Volvo Group CSR Volunteers (Social Ambassadors) and they were able to reach such tough locations and could extend help during these unpredicted times.


Experts say that COVID-19 is here to stay for a while. In the light of this, what are your recommendations regarding how CSRs should strategize for the long-term implications that this pandemic would have on the poor?

Till we find vaccination or medication to treat the virus effectively, we need to find ways and means to coexist and manage Covid 19 and give momentum to economic activities as lockdown is not the long-term solution. This will be a challenge which we need to learn to manage going forward.

From CSR front we need to strategize how we can support in the medium and long term in the areas of Health care, Sanitation, Basic Education and Community development. It’s not a very straight forward or easy task on hand, we need to find some innovative ways of overcoming the unprecedented challenges thrown at us in areas of job losses across the sectors both formal and informal with constraints on social and religious gatherings, mass transportation etc to name a few.  

Just to give one example, in the huge reverse migration of workers from cities to their villages, those who were supporting their families have instead become dependants in their own homes. This contraction of rural incomes will have a significant effect on the landscape of school education in the months and years to come.  Consequently, it seems inevitable, that over the next couple of years, India may see a significant reverse migration of children from private schools to government schools. From CSR front, we need to think through how we can support and strengthen the basic education system in the country.


Thank you GV! 


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