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Indian NGO founder who helped migrants in lockdown on Schwab list of social innovators

Schwab Foundation named 5 Indians in its list of 2020 social innovators award. Among them is Ashif Shaikh, the founder-director of Jan Sahas.

Unnati Sharma
Ashif Shaikh, founder and director of Jan Sahas | By special arrangement
Ashif Shaikh, founder and director of Jan Sahas | By special arrangement

New Delhi: Five Indians have been selected by the Schwab Foundation, a sister organisation of the World Economic Forum, for the ‘social innovators 2020’ awards for being among the first responders to the Covid-19 crisis.

These five are Azim Sabahat, CEO of Glocal Healthcare Systems, Ashif Shaikh, founder-director of NGO Jan Sahas, Shanti Raghavan and Dipesh Sutariya, co-founders of EnAble India, and Prashant Mehra, Vice-President, Social Inclusion, of Mindtree.

While the first four have been listed under the ‘Social Entrepreneur’ category, Mehra is in the ‘Corporate Social Intrapreneurs’ category.

The Schwab Foundation is a leading global platform that accelerates outstanding models of social innovation. 

The awards announced Tuesday recognised a group of 23 change-makers, who responded to the needs of those “disproportionately affected by the Covid pandemic” around the world. 

Relief efforts by Jan Sahas

Jan Sahas’ Ashif Shaikh told ThePrint the award recognises the hard work done by more than 950 team members, who regularly worked for over 150 days.

“It is a motivation to all our field staff and 40 NGO partners in seven states. This work would not be possible without the support of 1,200 individuals who contributed in various ways to our Covid-19 relief activities,” he told ThePrint.

The Schwab Foundation said Jan Sahas has been recognised for empowering “millions of migrant workers in India by establishing and providing access to social security delivery systems using a mobile app”.

The organisation was founded in 2000 with an aim to eliminate sexual violence and forced labour with a focus on the most excluded social groups. 

According to Shaikh, Jan Sahas collaborated with 40 organisations in its Covid-19 relief initiatives and also reached remote locations with the help of the governments of Madhya Pradesh, Delhi and Telangana.

The organisation was able to reach more than 10 lakh people from vulnerable communities in 120 districts across India in the middle of the lockdown, he added.

From 25 March to 2 July, when the Covid-induced lockdown was implemented, the organisation supported the migrant labourers with interventions such as dry ration support, cooked food, mobile recharge, cash transfers, and helpline.

During this period, Jan Sahas provided ration support to over 2,81,000 affected people in 90 districts of 15 states. It also provided cooked food to over 2,18,000 migrant workers, and 25,520 individuals were supported by online cash transfer, medical and mobile balance in 145 districts of 19 states across India.


Also read: Migrant exodus triggered by panic created by fake news on lockdown, govt tells Lok Sabha


Overcoming challenges through technology

Shaikh said when the organisation started its relief work, they faced several challenges. 

“We had very limited information on the availability of modes of transport and travel passes during the lockdown. This improved in April when governments and local authorities set guidelines for relief distribution and transportation for the lockdown period, which helped us in acquiring the required permissions,” Shaikh told ThePrint.

“The fear of contracting Covid-19 was one of the biggest challenges for us as the majority of our team members were working on the field at various locations across India,” he added.

To overcome these challenges, the organisation moved its system of data collection and communication to internet and cloud-based technologies. 

Applications like Google Hangout and Zoom were used for internal communications and training.

“We also developed a mobile app ‘Jan Sathi’ to link communities with various social security and entitlement schemes launched by central and state governments,” he said.

“Learnings from this crisis have made us adapt to difficult situations and our learning process is still going on. I feel this award indicates that our learning path is in the right direction”, added Shaikh. 

He also said that Jan Sahas in collaboration with EdelGive Foundation and Global Development Incubator has initiated a Migrants Resilience Collaborative with an objective to support 10 million workers and their families in 100 districts and cities over the next 5 years. 

This will be India’s largest grassroots-led collaboration, and also the largest non-governmental initiative dedicated to migrant workers and their families, he added.

Other recipients

EnAble India co-founders Raghavan and Sutariya have been recognised for “building the Indian ecosystem of skilling, employment and entrepreneurship for persons with disabilities through technology innovations”, the foundation said. 

About Sabahat, the CEO of Glocal Healthcare, the foundation said that his company has “established 12 hospitals, over 250 digital dispensaries and a telemedicine network spanning 8 countries, delivering low cost healthcare using technology to over 1.5 million patients”.

On Mindtree’s Mehra, it said that he “spearheaded technology platforms as a public good and capital asset that work at the grassroots level and address market inefficiencies reaching over 2 million people”.


Also read: Don’t blame Covid or financial package. Politics is holding India’s migrant workers hostage


 

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