The East Zone comprises Sikkim, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, Odisha and the Seven Sister States (as they are popularly known) of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura.
The challenges that the East Zone region faces cover a wide spectrum of issues due to the disparate geographies of the involved regions. The predominance of hills and forest cover in the Seven Sister states adversely impact its terrain and geographic connectivity. Active fault planes result in heightened seismic activity. Geological and socio-political factors account for the lack of economic opportunity, political instability and rising insurgency. Despite high literacy rates and possessing a treasure trove of natural resources, the region is overcast with the seemingly paradoxical phenomenon of inadequacy amidst abundance. For instance, even though the region is blessed with water bodies, access to safe and clean drinking water has been a challenge. Similarly, lack of fishery-related skills has led to the region having to source its supply of fish from other states such as Andhra Pradesh. Nagaland, which has the highest per capita consumption of pork, also suffers from an acute shortage of local sources for the meat.
Similarly, Jharkhand suffers from a ‘resource curse’. Though accounting for more than 40 cent of the country’s mineral resources, nearly 40 per cent of the population of this primarily rural state falls below the poverty line. Bihar and West Bengal are primary agrarian economies, with corresponding challenges that are associated with agriculture. Odisha suffers from issues associated with urban habitats and migration, among other challenges. Sikkim, with its hilly terrains and poor transport infrastructure, lacks a large-scale industrial base.
The strategic approach
The Tata Trusts interventions are aligned towards improving the quality of life of the communities they serve. The activities go beyond the realm of patchwork philanthropy as the interventions are strategically designed to be inclusive, long-term, impact-driven and supported by data analytics and technology. The regional strategies are driven through several holistic programmes including those on livelihoods, education, health care, water and sanitation. These programmes work synchronously to address the needs of the communities in a comprehensive manner.
The Trusts’ collaboration with the central and state governments in regions helps build synergy on common goals and assists in achieving the desired reach, scale, impact and momentum of the programmes. Working with local partners and associate organisations has helped build the Trusts' presence in all regions. Direct implementation projects are conducted by deploying field teams even in remote locations where there is no partner network. This multi-pronged approach to interventions helps the Trusts stay aligned with the evolving needs of local communities. There is a deep understanding of regional challenges, nuances and opportunities, which helps the Trusts to customise intervention strategies that are most relevant, meaningful and beneficial to a region.
The Trusts design their strategies for sustained positive change, which is often achieved by projects that aim at strengthening the whole ecosystem. This involves building sustainable community organisations wherever required, such as producer groups, Self Help Groups (SHGs) and local community resource personnel that add to the thrust and outreach of the programmes.
For improving programme outcomes, the Trusts leverage their global network of like-minded partner organisations for sourcing new technologies and expertise. Successful programmes are replicated across locations through cross-pollination and cross-learning -- after piloting and localising them in newer regions.
In the east, the Tata Trusts began their engagement over a decade ago. Having field teams on the ground has helped in developing a deep understanding of local communities and the challenges faced by them. The Trusts are addressing the needs of the region by institutionalising platforms that support local communities in gaining access to livelihood opportunities, education, safe drinking water and health care facilities, sports development, energy, etc.
Our work in the region
The Trusts are active in Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya and Tripura through their associate organisation, Centre for Microfinance & Livelihood (CML). Multi-thematic interventions in Nagaland, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh are implemented by the Trusts along with the help of their associate organisation, North East Initiative Development Agency (NEIDA) and like-minded partners such as NABARD.
In discussion with the Dzüleke Ecotourism Board (DETB), NEIDA initiated a community-based ecotourism project in the Dzüleke village in Nagaland in 2014 for the local community to reap the economic benefits of tourism. The project has helped sustain the community’s conservation efforts by offering tourists an opportunity to experience the Naga rural life, while enabling the community to supplement their income.
In Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Mizoram, the Trusts are extending support for household piggery enterprises to flourish. In Tripura, the Trusts are collaborating with the state government, NABARD, NB Institute of Rural Technology (NBIRT) and partner organisations to implement a multi-thematic initiative that includes dairy, fishery, skills and education. These initiatives are being implanted through CML. The breeding of Indian major carp (Rohu, Katla and Mrigal). Magur and prawns in three districts in Tripura have helped progressive farmers earn additional income. The commercial aspect of breeding has also added to the sustainability of the project.
In the field of education, the Trusts address quality issues in elementary schools in Jharkhand through the direct implementation of the School and Community-based Quality Improvement Programme (SCQuIP). The Trusts’ Women’s Literacy Programme works on building functional literacy skills in women, enabling them to read and engage with numbers organically.
The Madrassa Initiative in West Bengal focused on improving the quality of teaching and learning processes in madrasas, and providing a pedagogical framework to integrate science, mathematics and geography with the Islamic way of life. The success of the initiative has led the Trusts to extend the Integrating Dini and Dunyavi (IDD) module of their Madrasa initiative to Bihar. The Trusts have implemented their integrated approach to technology in education (ITE) in the madrasas in West Bengal, as well as secured an MoU with the Directorate of Secondary Education in Assam.
Alongside, the Trusts are also implementing CLIx, their technology-enabling initiative to improve the academic and professional prospects of high school students from underserved communities in Mizoram. In Tripura, the Trusts have, with the support of resource organisations, contextualised grade-appropriate workbooks in English and mathematics for grades 1-8, to address the learning gap among the students.
Across the region, the Trusts have helped preserve and revive the local crafts and handloom cottage industry. Through the Antaran initiative, the Trusts have focused on uplifting Dhokra artisans in Odisha and revitalising Kauna grass craft and bamboo craft in Manipur. The Trusts aim to build one of the largest Kauna craft eco-systems in Manipur that is both empowering and sustainable. The ‘Charkha to Market’ programme in Assam, Odisha and Nagaland nurtures artisans on various aspects of handloom textiles. Market linkages have been improved by setting up producer organisations for greater income generation from handlooms, agriculture, horticulture, fisheries, skilling, etc.
The Trusts established the Tata Dairy Mission (TDM) to provide impetus to dairy farming among small and marginal farmers. In Tripura, TDM set up an all-women producer company named TRIDHA, as well as a dairy plant with a processing capacity of 5,000 litres per day. Initiatives such as diversion-based irrigation system and the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) that have been successful in other regions were cross-pollinated across Odisha, Assam, Tripura and Manipur to build food security.
In Jharkhand and Odisha, the Trusts’ Lakhpati Kisan initiative aims to bring about irreversible change through economic empowerment. While the Trusts’ Transforming Rural India (TRI) initiative works to trigger the large-scale transformation of villages in regions of endemic poverty in Jharkhand, while in Odisha, the Trusts worked with the government of Odisha to enact a landmark legislation that empowered slum dwellers with security of land tenure and access to liveable habitat through their unique Urban Habitat initiative. The Trusts’ Migrant Resource Centres (MRC) have provided over 16,000 entitlements to vulnerable migrant households in Odisha. These MRCs also serve to provide migrants with legal assistance, as well as linkages to skills training, employment opportunities and banking services.
In Manipur, the Trusts are working to ensure energy security for remote communities, by creating a sustainable and affordable financing programme to provide decentralised solar energy solutions for lighting and small livelihoods. Jointly implemented by the Trusts, CML and the SELCO Foundation, the intervention aims to supply power for basic lighting and small livelihood interventions such as spinning looms and sewing machines to improve the primary quality of life and incomes among the target demographic.
The Trusts’ Skilling portfolio focuses on skilling youth for employment, entrepreneurship and community enterprise. Under this vertical, the Trusts have introduced the Skill Mitra and Udyog Mitra model in Odisha to specifically address the challenges of finding employment in the underdeveloped rural region.
The Trusts signed an MoU with the government of Odisha to establish the Odisha Liveable Habitat Mission, or ‘Jaga’. Over a hundred ‘Jaga’ Fellows from all Urban Living Bodies (ULB) in Odisha will be recruited to ensure the smooth implementation and regular monitoring of the activities of the Jaga mission.
Through the WASH programme in Assam, the Trusts are treating water for arsenic contamination and providing clean and safe water through their own water purification plants. Similarly, the Tata Water Mission works to enhance water supply, address microbial contamination and improve access to safe drinking water in Jharkhand and Odisha. Several water-related initiatives have been rolled out in these areas, including rainwater harvesting, pond deepening, etc. In Mizoram, the Trusts have garnered institutional support to implement the Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin).
Through collaboration with Tata Swach and the Uday Foundation, the Trusts also provide a technology-based household-level water purification system to address microbial contamination in the water. Springshed management practices in Nagaland and Tripura helps these states develop water security.
Health is a focus area and the Trusts are driving a pan-India initiative to screen for non-communicable diseases. They have set-up the Assam Cancer Care Foundation which manages the first-of-its-kind 19-hospital cancer grid in Assam. This distributive cancer care model is a pioneering step that will make cancer care more accessible and ease the workload on urban hospitals. In partnership with the respective state governments, the Trusts are also building state-wide cancer facility networks in Odisha and Jharkhand. The Trusts have pioneered a much-needed Respite Palliative Care facility in West Bengal and are working with the state government in Odisha on a malaria eradication programme aimed at reducing deaths due to the illness by 100 per cent, and mitigating the spread of the disease. The unique Elder Spring Urban Model was also launched in the state.
Sports is another focus area and the Trusts support development centres for football, hockey, badminton, boxing, polo (for women) and other sports. These ventures will provide a pathway for talented young sportspersons, while also boosting associated employment opportunities. A three-tiered hockey programme was initiated in Odisha involving the establishment of grassroots centres in hockey-centric districts of the state. The Trusts also established the Naval Tata Hockey Academy in Bhubaneswar, in collaboration with Tata Steel and the government of Odisha. A grassroots hockey initiative was also launched in Jharkhand in partnership with the Bovelander Hockey Academy.
In Mizoram, the Trusts have built a Centre of Excellence (COE) for grassroots development and encouragement in the field of football and badminton. COEs on similar lines are being planned in Meghalaya and Manipur. A grassroots football programme has also been initiated in some of the remote areas of the state of Manipur, which includes two all-girls football academies. The Trusts are also focusing on developing a training programme for teachers in Assam in collaboration with the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS).
The interventions by the Tata Trusts in the east region support the following Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as laid down by the United Nations (UN):
- No poverty
- Partnerships to achieve the goal
- Good health and well-being
- Clean water and sanitation
- Quality education
- Decent work and economic growth
- Sustainable cities and communities
- Responsible consumption and production
- Peace, Justice and Strong Institution
- Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all