Thus, volunteerism is embedded in the Essar ethic. It is not just the company that supports community development initiatives, employees are the direct interface in such endeavors, devoting time, investing emotion into working with various marginalized communities on projects that directly help improve the quality of their lives. In villages and slum communities across Chhattisgarh, Odisha, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra, wherever there are Essar employees, community development projects have been initiated.
At Salaya Village of Khambhalia Taluka in Jamnagar District, Gujarat, a group of women started a tailoring training center supported by the Wagher Muslim Community Jamat. But it was when Capt Rajen Sachar, COO of the Essar Bulk Terminal at Salaya, heard about the initiative and joined hands with the Salaya Nagarpalika President, Saleh Mohammad, to step up support, that the initiative expanded to extend the training to at least 60 women at a time and a formal 'Salaya Stitching Centre' was established.
Essar employees have conducted financial literacy camps for migrant and other workers in Singrauli in Madhya Pradesh, Paradip in Odisha and for women's self-help groups (SHGs) in villages around the Essar Steel Plant in Dabuna, Odisha. Outside experts, including specialists from nationalized banks and insurance companies, were invited to explain how parking surplus money as cash at home is both unproductive and risky and how depositing this in financial institutions keeps workers' hard-earned money safe as well as productive. Essar volunteers described the local financial institutions and schemes to the communities, in the belief that financial literacy is about empowering the workers.
The Essar Foundation has helped introduce multimedia teaching across more than 20 schools in Burdwan District of West Bengal, funded scholarships for students across schools in Hazira in Gujarat, Dantewada, Sukma and Jagdalpur in Chhattisgarh and Malkangiri in Odisha, and established libraries at schools in Lonavala in Maharashtra and Vadinar in Gujarat. Essar employees were passionately involved in every one of these initiatives from the start — identifying communities and organizations with which they would work, and helping to conduct the initiative from start to finish.
Essar staff members have been involved in various other support initiatives for schools — from providing books to helping build infrastructure. They have been involved in organizing healthcare camps on problems as diverse as worm infestation to caries. They have organized education camps for tribal communities in Odisha on issues and causes of infant mortality, and on pre-natal and post-natal care of infants and mothers among communities in Gujarat. And they have conducted programs for creating awareness of health and healthcare issues among schoolchildren in all the localities where Essar offices and plants are present.
As part of its health program, Essar Foundation strives to provide door-to door health facilities in rural areas, in the form of mobile medical units. Each unit is equipped with skilled doctors and paramedics, and also provides referral transport for secondary and tertiary treatment. To date, four mobile medical units have been launched in four states — Gujarat, West Bengal, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh.
Essar Foundation seeks to work within the 3E framework, addressing issues of Entrepreneurship, Environment and Education. In an effort to streamline use of resources — human and financial — it focuses on six long-standing programs: education, health, women's empowerment, livelihood, infrastructure and environment.
Thus, it was not surprising that Essar Foundation was recently recognized for its commitment to social development at the National Quality Excellence Awards. The Foundation was presented the award for 'Best Corporate Social Responsibility Practice' by the Stars of the Industry Group in February 2012. The honor was hard won by all those Essar employees in remote field locations and plants who work tirelessly in extreme conditions with local communities to help build physical and social infrastructure.