With December upon us, the time is right to take a breather and reflect upon the year that has gone by amidst paradigm shifts in our understanding at the cellular level and new ground gained in the daunting domain of space exploration, the climate crisis presents a sobering picture of the human condition today. The times call for prompt and collective climate action, which will help usher in an age of environmental, economic and social sustainability. Through their campaign AbHawaBadlegi, Sonalika CSR has not only adopted this three-pronged approach but has also tasted tangible success in their efforts to fight pollution, help farmers earn better profits and hence develop the local economies.
Every winter, air pollution in the national capital of New Delhi turns the city into a cauldron of smog, shattering Air Quality Index records and posing serious health risks for the residents. One of the main contributors is the practice of burning crop residues to clear the land for sowing, in the neighboring states. This releases copious amounts of potentially lethal smoke into the air, which accumulates and ends up enveloping the whole of North India. The “AbHawaBadlegi” campaign decided to attack the very root of this problem in the villages of Karnal, Haryana and almost put a stop to this practice in over 50 villages.
Realizing that the region’s agricultural landscape needed systemic change, the campaign started off by educating the farmers about the negative impacts of crop residue burning. With the focus specifically on younger farmers, the campaign also communicated data and statistics of how unsustainable the practice is in the longer run. Simultaneously, extensive data about farming methods, the crops grown and available resources was collected in these villages. The major problems that the data revealed was the unavailability of alternative machinery to clear the land after harvest, high transportation costs and low connectivity with the governmental information centers, which further inhibited the sharing of knowledge.
To address these issues, farmers were provided top-of-the-line equipment like the Happy Seeder, Spatial Zero Till Seed Cum Fertilizer Drill and Super Straw Management System, through which a system of effective crop residue management could be put in place. Most importantly, to bridge the knowledge gap, farmers were given comprehensive demonstrations and training to optimally use this equipment. As part of a more holistic approach, tree plantation drives and agricultural capacity building programs were instituted to raise awareness about the environment. The introduction of these techniques not only helped cease crop residue burning but also translated in increased yield for the farmer, better soil fertility and a reduction in water use, thus paying rich dividends. Having realized the benefits for themselves, over 200 farmers from over 50 villages have pledged to put an end to crop residue burning, setting an example for other villages and farmers to follow, and move the Indian agricultural industry to a greener standard.
Apart from championing the farmers’ cause, Sonalika CSR believes in creating a positive impact on all sections of society. Mrs. Surbhi Mittal, Director Sonalika CSR elaborates, “Whatever good happens in our life is worth only when it is shared with someone who is not a part of it. From the ones who have it all to the ones who need just a bit of it, Sonalika CSR comes as one body that acts as merely a server. We believe that everyone deserves a good life. Every initiative of Sonalika CSR is here to fulfill each aspect for them with care including health, education, environment, hygiene, career, and most of all, harmony.”
To that end, the organization has established diverse programs representing the entire gamut of the social sector. The Udaan program, for example, is a women empowerment initiative that imparts skills to women, making them financially self-sufficient; while Unnati trains the spotlight on the art of stitching, the Hospital Attendant Training Program helps extend the reach of healthcare by offering vocational training to the participants. The Women Skill Development Program, on the other hand, is helping women take control over their own finances by creating a support system for women wanting to be social entrepreneurs.
With a view to catalyzing the development of rural India, Sonalika CSR is working in 33 villages of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh on agriculture enhancement projects, wherein farmers receive proper training to maximize their income while sustaining the land’s natural resources. The organization also helps boost agricultural productivity by building new infrastructure, like the stop dam in Datoda village of Madhya Pradesh. On the social development front, the Anganwadi project sets up centers of primary learning for children and is ably complemented by sports centers for budding athletes to hone their talents. Additionally, the organization works with underprivileged urban children, providing them with facilities like libraries, training in art, and interventions that caution against social evils like substance abuse and petty crime.
To improve public sanitation in New Delhi, Sonalika CSR started the Waste to Compost initiative. After identifying four places of worship as heavy generators of organic waste, machines that converted waste to compost were installed at Chattarpur Temple, Jagganath Temple, ISKCON-East of Kailash and the Gurudawara Bangla Sahib. By preventing waste to pile up in the city, the machines also help put an end to vermin and disease-carrying pathogens which breed in such spaces.
Sonalika CSR prides itself on enriching the youth of today through the power of the written word. To put this belief into action, Sonalika Publications was set up to tell inspiring stories through books. Printed entirely using eco-friendly, recycled paper, their latest offering is a collection of 15 stories of inspiring heroes of the country, whose efforts have brought about wholesale positive change in society.
Thus, Sonalika CSR strives to leave no stone unturned in effecting a positive change in people’s lives, irrespective of the mechanism by which to bring about the said change. Dr. Deepak Mittal, MD of Sonalika CSR puts it best when he says, “It is not just life that defines us, but our deeds that define our life. We, at Sonalika Group, define ourselves as a team of likeminded people with empathy for agriculture and the environment. The initiation of Sonalika CSR points to our shared belief. Every initiative that we undertake serves only one purpose, to replace happiness and prosperity in place of everything else.”