Youth Unemployment in India and How STeP is taking measure.

India has one of the highest youth population in the world with an estimate high of 356 million youth. 500 million Indian citizens are expected to be under the age of 25 by 2020. If its 500 million youth, around 64% of our population will be added to our workforce and the country’s socio-economic development will witness an unprecedented rise. Economists believe such favorable demographic dividend could add a significant 2% to the GDP growth rate.


Let us take a look at the ground reality. In a recent survey of about 6,000 young people aged between 15 and 34, the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) found that 48 per cent of respondents cited unemployment as India’s biggest problem. India happens to be one of the fastest growing economies in the world, and yet this financial growth has not trickled down to benefit the sheer volume of people who are out of jobs. What is even more unfortunate is that it is not so much the dearth of jobs,but the lack of skilled manpower is the reason behind such large numbers of unemployed youth. It is not unemployment, but un-employability that leaves the Indian youth frustrated, dejected and disillusioned.


Unequal access to opportunity remains a persistent problem while lack of formal vocational education, high school dropout rates, inadequate skill training capacity, negative perception towards skilling, and lack of industry ready skills even in professional courses are the major causes of poor skill levels of India’s workforce. Cognizant of the fact, over the years, successive Indian governments have launched schemes to both increase the number of new jobs being created and young people’s ability to do them. The most recent of these is the Skill India Mission, which aims to provide training to 400million people by 2022 through various government initiatives.


With this very vision and in a concerted effort to equip, enable and empower the youth, Smile Foundation had initiated its national livelihood programme, the Smile Twin e-Learning Programme, or as we call it, STeP – the first step towards a dignified life. Urban underprivileged youth, including high school drop-outs and under-trained graduates are identified and enrolled under the programme and trained in market-oriented skills such as English communication, computer proficiency, basic management, personality development and soft skills.


In addition to knowledge and skill enhancement, STeP also focuses on providing practical exposure to its young trainees to help them get job-ready, by creating an ecosystem wherein the students can meet their potential employers. This is facilitated through regular employer engagement sessions and industry exposure visits which help the youth get hand-on training and develop an understanding of concepts such as workplace culture, customer satisfaction, and work ethics and also familiarize them with every day challenges. Career counseling sessions and volunteer knowledge exchange programmes are conducted where well-trained, employed youth share their experience with the STeP trainees.


Over the last ten years, STeP has successfully trained more than 25,000 youth and placed over 15,000 in 150 reputed brands across the country. At present, 91 STeP centres are operational pan-India, with young women making up 55% of the total trainees. 

This, however, is just a small step towards addressing the much larger need of enabling and empowering the huge youth population of the country, and tapping the demographic dividend.


“Never before have there been so many young people. Never again is there likely to be such potential for socio-economic progress. But how we meet its needs will decide whether the largest youth population in the world would actually turn out to be an asset for India.”


To know more about the STeP programme , click the link given:


Women on Wings

India has recently recorded the maximum number of women pilots in the world, Indian women are reaching new heights and conquering new lands with their skills and competence. India has been pushing hard for women empowerment via various schemes like  Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Scheme, One Stop Centre Scheme, Women Helpline Scheme etc. and the government is leaving no stone unturned to make women self-reliant.


India is a country with maximum number of women pilots in the world whether it’s Air India or Indian Air Force. The women in India have created a great impact in the aviation society. While the aviation industry is flourishing in India there are areas where we need to still focus for the welfare of the female community.


Believing in the fact that dreams come true we recognize Anny Divya, the world’s youngest woman to command a Boeing 777. She was fascinated to touch the skies from her childhood days. Divya was greatly motivated by her mother to be a pilot when her mother noticed that Divya was quite fascinated of flying. Anny Divya started working hard on her dreams to turn it into a reality. Today, Divya at the age of 30 years holds the title for being the youngest woman to command a Boeing 777, the world’s largest twin engine jet.


Divya joined the Indira Gandhi Rashtriya Uran Academy, a government run pilot training institute in Rae Bareli, Uttar Pradesh right after her schooling. During her two year course her parents had to take a loan of Rs. 15 lakhs to pay her tuition fees. Since she belonged to South India, Divya had to face cultural imbalances during her stay in North India. Divya faced challenges and problems but she realized what she needs to do and why she had come so far. Her determination, firmness and perseverance to make a pact with reality and never give up till she achieved her goals made her achieve one of the highest titles in the history of mankind.


There are stories of many firsts—first woman air marshal of the Indian Air Force, first woman engineer to acquire license in an airline, first woman air traffic controller, first woman aviation medicine specialist, the first all-women contingent to march down Raj path on India’s Republic Day two years ago. Their stories will inspire us to the core but behind the inspiration there were tremendous challenges and struggles they had to go through. We have to note the fact that living your dreams is to fulfill your primary tasks which our woman community has exercised it very well in various sectors.


The issue of women empowerment has been prevalent for years now. The universe is trying to find tackle the various issues surrounding women empowerment and the issues surrounding women equality with men. Women empowerment usually refers to an environment where women make decisions based on their preferences for the benefit of them and the society. It also refers to improving the economic, social, legal and political strength of women. The ideal scenario would be where women can claim their rights such as:


  •  Living a life of dignity and respect.
  • To be able to control their life within their home as well as the workplace.
  • To be able to make their own decisions in life.
  • To have equal rights to be able to participate in religious, social and public activities.
  • To have an equal status in society.
  • To have equal rights for economic and social justice.
  • To be able to determine economic and financial choices.
  • To get an equal opportunity for employment and education without any sort of gender bias.
  • To be able to work in a comfortable and safe environment.


“If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman.”

     – Margaret Thatcher

Insights Smile

CSR: Why Partner With Smile Foundation

Mallen Baker, writer, speaker and CSR expert, defines Corporate Social Responsibility as a strategic act – “a way companies manage the business processes to produce an overall positive impact on society.”


Over the last decade, and much before corporate social responsibility became a mandate in India (Companies Act 2013), Smile Foundation has been working with the corporate sector linking the needs of development initiatives with the business needs of corporate, to produce results on the ground.


Today, having partnered with more than 300 global organisations, we have been able to impact over 1.2 million lives so far in the hardest to reach villages and slums of the country.


Here are some of the reasons that make Smile Foundation the perfect on-ground partner for your CSR project:


Pan-India Presence with Wide-spread Rural Outreach


In keeping with its philosophy of ‘Real Work Real Change’, Smile Foundation has taken its intervention into the interiors of India, reaching the unreached in the remotest of rural areas and urban slums. Currently having welfare projects in more than 950 villages and slum clusters across 25 states of India, Smile Foundation is directly benefitting over 600,000 children and their families every year under its four core programmes – education, healthcare, livelihood and women empowerment.


Transparency, Good Governance & Efficiency


Smile Foundation has been evaluated by some of the most reputed Indian and international evaluators including INTRAC London, KPMG, India Development Foundation and PRIA, and has come at par with their expectations and norms.


Credibility and accountability have always been the benchmark for Smile Foundation and are achieved through the promotion of principles of good governance in its processes and practices. It has a four-tier audit and evaluation mechanism which reviews programmes and projects, internal operations, compliance of statutory norms and conducts an external evaluation to ensure the impact of various welfare projects, as well as complete transparency and accountability in utilisation of funds.


Highest Social Return on Investment


The organization is relatively young, and sprung up just over a decade ago. Despite this, it has already been able to channelize sizeable resources towards the crucial causes it works for. It believes in achieving the highest Social Return on Investment (SROI) by bringing innovation, sustainability, optimum utilisation of resources and a culture of excellence in all its ground projects through rigorous monitoring, and robust systems and processes.


Partner Involvement


When Smile Foundation partners with an organisation, it endeavours to get both the brand and its employees directly involved in its welfare initiatives. They do this by making their partners active participants and encouraging them to play a fundamental role in the process of bringing change at the grassroots. This effort to engage is what has made Smile Foundation one of the best NGOs for CSR in India.


Use of Technology


Smile Foundation deploys the best possible technological tools for effective monitoring of our system and transparency in our internal processes. Tools like Global Positioning System (GPS), Beneficiary Management System (BMS), and online reporting formats and software are in place to ensure proper implementation of our welfare projects. Through website, social media and other such media, we endeavour to connect our supporters, well wishers and the civil society, and keep them updated, with the progress of our work on the ground.


To partner with us, please contact Swatantra Gupta at 9999204061, or write to


Donating for Social Cause and Saving on Tax under Section 80G: The Paraphernalia

Have you ever donated to non-profit organizations for a social cause such as sponsoring the education of underprivileged children and their healthcare? Or are you geared up to donate for charity? If you are self employed or salaried and a part of your income is deducted as tax, here is your opportunity to save. Utilize your donations to gain income tax benefits and save on your tax. You enjoy dual benefits – help alleviate the cause you are donating for and get returns at the same time. All your benevolence and goodwill in the form of charitable acts will come back to you in the form of income tax benefits.


As per the Income Tax Act, 1961, not all donations are subject to tax deductions. If you have donated to an NGO that is not certified under Section 80G of the Income Tax Act, you may not be entitled to tax benefits. To save on tax, ensure that the NGO you have chosen for donating meets this criterion.


What is Section 80G?


The Income Tax Act, 1961 encourages charitable deeds. This government body offers donation tax benefits to donors under Section 80G. NGOs and Trusts having a 12A certificate are entitled to 80G certification. A 12A registration is a one-time exemption obtained by a Trust/NGO. The IT Department intensely scrutinizes every detail before granting such a certification.


Donations towards social causes are eligible for a tax deduction under Section 80G under the Income Tax Act. Corporate establishments and individuals looking to give to charity can avail a tax deduction only when the donation is in favor of NGOs or non-profitable institutions certified with 80G.


Scope of Donations for Social Cause in Context of Tax Saving


  • Irrespective of the source of income, any tax payer who has donated for a social cause to an eligible Trust/NGO can claim deductions
  • One is eligible for income tax deductions only for the amount donated
  • Only donations made in cash or cheque are eligible for tax deductions
  • If any donation is made in kind, in the form of medicines, clothes, food, etc., it is not eligible for tax deduction
  • One may donate out of taxable or exempt income
  • Under Section 80G of Income Tax Act, donations to overseas charitable trusts are not eligible for any deduction
  • Deductions can be claimed while filing Income Tax Return
  • Donations can be made by a resident Indian or an NRI, HUF or a company; deductions can be claimed on the donations made.


Limit of Deduction


Generally, the amount of deduction is either 50 percent or 100 percent of the donated sum, depending on the charitable organization chosen. The Income Tax Department has enlisted certain Trusts donating to which, one can enjoy 100 percent deductions. The govt. department has also listed few Trusts for which the extent of deduction is 50 percent.


For certain donations, the summative deduction is limited to 10 percent of the ‘Adjusted Gross Total Income’. Adjusted Gross Total Income is the gross total income (GTI) after certain adjustments. For example, Mr. Y’s GTI is Rs. 50,0000. He pays Rs 60000 for LIC and long-term capital gain (LTCG) is Rs 40000. Now adjusted GTI would be Rs. 500000 – Rs. 60000 – Rs 40000 = Rs. 400000. 10 percent of adjusted GTI of this amount would be Rs. 40000. In this case, if one makes a donation larger than 10 percent of the Adjusted Gross Total Income, the donation amount eligible for claiming a deduction would be capped at only 10 percent of the Adjusted Gross Total Income.


How You Can Claim Tax Deduction


You cannot claim deduction unless you furnish details and documents related to the donations you made. If you wish to enjoy tax benefits from the donated amount, it is mandatory for you to furnish proof of payment towards the NGO or Trust. As aforementioned, the said institution should be eligible under the Income Tax Act, i.e. registered with 80G.


When you donate, the NGO or Trust issues a stamped receipt. This stamped receipt has to be furnished when you file for income tax returns. The receipt must include the following details:


  • Name, address, and PAN of the NGO/Trust
  • In case of 100% deduction, Form 58 should be attached
  • The name of the donor
  • The amount donated, which should be mentioned in words and figures
  • Receipt should contain valid registration number of the NGO/Trust conferred by the Income Tax department under Section 80G with mention of dates of validity.


If an employee of a company regularly or partially donates for a social cause to an eligible Trust and the donation amount deducted from the salary, a deduction can be claimed. The employee should furnish a certificate issued by the employer while filing IT returns.


It is mandatory to furnish these details to claim tax benefits from donations for a social cause.




What you give comes back to you one day. That is the law of Karma. For charitable activities, you enjoy the returns without wait! When you sponsor an underprivileged child or several children for their education and betterment, the inner joy that you experience is sublime. It cannot be expressed in words. Besides, you contribute to nation building. Join hands in adding smiles to million souls across India!


Make a difference NOW! To contribute click here.


How Budget 2018 Can Bring a Marked Change in the Education Scenario of India

Many a government and municipal school across the country are deficient in terms of infrastructure and quality of education imparted. The government needs to tackle various issues ranging from upgradation of existing infrastructure and curriculum in line with 21st century teaching-learning techniques to regular training of teachers and monitoring of students’ development in terms of quality. This Budget 2018, the government has proposed several measures, the effective implementation of which can address most of the aforementioned issues to a great extent. Will Education Budget 2018 help India in achieving her target in the education segment?


Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan


Under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, 100 percent enrollment of children in both rural and urban areas were witnessed. This project focuses on the universalisation of elementary education. But are only 100% enrollments enough to create a literate India? Emphasis should not be given only on quantity but also quality. To transform the educational landscape of the country, imparting of quality education is the need of the hour. This Budget 2018, Finance Minister has mentioned about the quality factor in education and the focus to be shifted from enrollments to learning outcomes.


Key Highlights of Education Budget 2018


  • Allocation of 1 lakh crore rupees over the next four years towards spending for revitalising educational infrastructure across the country
  • Increase of education cess from 3 percent to 4 percent
  • Proposal for training of 13 lakh teachers
  • Holistic imparting of education with emphasis on quality from pre-nursery to class 12
  • Gradual move of schools from blackboard to digital board
  • A school under Eklavya scheme in every block that has 50% tribal people in any region across the country
  • Government funding in PhD fellowship for BTech students from premier institutes
  • Integrated B.Ed program for teachers
  • Creation of 18 new schools of planning and architecture in the IITs and NITs.


Ekalavya Model Residential School


The Ekalavya Model Residential School (EMRS) program started by the Tribal Ministry, Government of India has been functioning for several years. 163 priority districts having 25% or more Scheduled Tribe (ST) population have been identified by the govt. for the establishment of EMRS. Out of this, EMRSs have been sanctioned for 112 districts across India. While the central govt. provides one time Rs 30 lakh grant for establishing the school, thereafter up to Rs. 30 lakh per school annually, additional cost is borne by state governments.


According to Education Budget 2018, the government has decided that by the year 2022, every block with more than 50% ST population and at least 20,000 tribal persons, will have an Ekalavya Model Residential School. The government has decided to upgrade facilities of Ekalavya schools at par with Navodaya Vidyalayas. Emphasis will be laid in providing training in sports and skill development.


Digital Shift in Education


Digital technology holds sway in every sphere of life today. Education Budget 2018 strives to introduce digital technology in teaching-learning methods to improve quality of education. The Finance Minister proposed for a gradual shift from ‘blackboard’ to ‘digital board’. The government also proposes to use technology to upgrade the skills of teachers through the government’s digital portal ‘DIKSHA’.


Education cess Increase and Public-private Partnership


This Budget 2018, the government has increased the education cess from 3 percent to 4 percent. The increase of 1 percent cess will help the government raise an additional Rs 11,000 crore which will be used to fund government programs on education and health.


To align the educational system of government and municipal schools to the realities of 21st century learning techniques, the government is also looking at Public-private partnership (PPP). To achieve this objective, govt and private schools can work together. Any private or public organization with a revenue of 25 crore plus or earnings of 10 crore can fund govt. schools as part of their CSR activities.




The focus of Education Budget 2018 on learning outcomes is an important step towards improving quality of primary education. When the foundation of a tree is strong, the creation of robust branches, stems, and leaves naturally happens. Likewise, quality primary education will help create a literate India, and thereby creation of a superpower nation. There are lakhs of primary schools across the length and breadth of India. With training of teachers, gradual shift from blackboard to digital board, emphasis on holistic education, thereby holistic development of students, a stronger nation will be in the making. But it will take some time, so as the saying goes, ‘Rome was not built in a day’.


To know more about Smile Foundation’s education programme, please visit our website.


Women from Tamil Nadu Villages Sew up Past Wounds and Tailor New Dreams

I always thought my incomplete education would keep me from earning a decent livelihood. I have a family of five, including two younger sisters. I am the eldest child in the family. Both my parents work as daily wage laborers. They used to worry a lot as there I had no brother who could support the family financially.” Mamta’s story is no different from the many young girls and boys who inhabit the villages of Kanchipuram. Mamta’s parents had worked their entire life, earning and saving the little they could. Their lives were hard hit by the 2015 Chennai floods. Loss of homes, livestock and other belongings in the floods left little for the villagers. After the flood, the community people have been trying to put their lives back together. The damage was not only limited to the dark and dank homes with sodden belongings, covered in thick layers of mud. It was much beyond that.


To give a helping hand to the inhabitants in rebuilding their lives, Smile Foundation in association with PepsiCo Foundation launched a community development and rehabilitation programme in Mamandur and 11 other villages of Kanchipuram district, Tamil Nadu. One of the major highlights of the intervention was the Mamandur Vocational Training Programme, which encouraged women and girls from the village to enroll for a 3-month skill training course in tailoring and sewing so that they can have a dignified and independent livelihood.


Aiding by the hand – the trainer tutors women at the centre


“Initially I was apprehensive about joining the vocational training programme as women in our village only work as daily wage laborers at construction sites or stay back and look after their homes. Girls don’t get to study or train to get a job. When I attended my first class at the training center, I felt so good about myself that I was also capable of learning a skill and earning a decent income. With time I gained confidence in my abilities and as I practiced more, I could see a good future ahead for me. Once I completed my course, I joined a garment factory near my village. When I took my first salary home, my father proudly said I am more than a son for him”, shares a teary eyed, smiling Mamta. She hopes to open her own tailoring shop soon.


More than 235 women like Mamta from 12 villages in the district enrolled in the first two batches of the vocational training programme and successfully completed the course. Many smiling faces could be spotted during the convocation ceremony when the women graduated from the programme and were felicitated with certificates. To motivate and encourage the women in this new phase of their lives, and to give them a little extra support, they were gifted with a sewing machine each. The whole community, including dignitaries like Hon’ Minister of State for Industries, Thiru MC Sampath and Hon’ Minister of State for Electricity, Excise & Prohibition, Govt. of Tamil Nadu, Thiru P.Thengamani, came together to congratulate the women on their achievement and wished them good luck for their future. The women in turn shared their stories and experiences, and the confidence with which they spoke left the audience speechless.


“I don’t know what was harder – for me to lose my husband, or for my daughters to lose their father. Life did not allow us the time to even grieve. We were thrown out of the family home, where we had lived with his brothers’ families. Penniless, I roamed around with my daughters for days, asking for food and help. After a month, I got my first job at a tea stall. From then on, I started doing part time jobs, which would also give me some time for my daughters. But the pay was very less and survival was difficult. I would have endured the suffering, if it had not been for my children. I could not bear to see them hungry and sick. When I heard about the vocational training course, I decided to join. I had to spend more time away from my daughters, but it was for their good. Now I have finished the course and have also got a sewing machine. In the first week only I got five orders. This is a new beginning for me and my daughters”, shared P Vineetha, one of the successful women trainees under the programme.


Most of the women who completed their courses have found jobs at tailoring shops and garment manufacturing factories like Mamta, or have begun working from home like Vineetha. There are many who have joined the programme after getting inspired from the success stories of the women who have now become independent, confident and able to merit a secure and dignified livelihood. Indeed, the villagers of Mamandur have not only successfully overcome the aftermath of the floods, but have also found a positive hope for a better future.


Will Budget 2018 Allocation on Skill Development Create Enough Livelihood Opportunities?

Eighteen million: This figure constitutes the unemployed population of India! According to a NITI Aayog official, educated unemployment encompassing youth may be as high as 20%. Around 30.8% of India’s population aged between 15 and 29 years are NEETs (not in education, employment or training) as per a World Bank report. Will Budget 2018 fund allocation create enough livelihood opportunities?


The National Skill Development Corporation has trained thousands of youth under ‘Skill India’ initiative, a government funded program. Only less than half the candidates trained under this program could get jobs during the last two fiscals. Under the ‘Pradhan Mantri Kushal Vikas Yojana’ scheme, 30.67 lakh candidates were trained or undergoing training across the country until the mid of 2017. Out of this, 2.9 lakh candidates were successfully placed. The ‘Make in India’ project was launched to create entrepreneurial opportunities, employment, and thereby boost the economy. But it is yet a long way to go. Besides, the Modi government, after assuming office, created about 823,000 jobs. But is this number sufficient?


Only 10% of India’s total working population is equipped with vocational and technical education and training. The need of the hour is the creation of a competent workforce to be at par in the global market. How? India’s education system should be improved with focus on quality and skill development so that ‘employable graduates’ are churned out. With the roll out of Budget 2018 and considerable funds allocated for skill development and improving the quality of education, we hope enough jobs are created with creation of an equally competent workforce who can productively participate in nation building.


Key Initiatives under Budget 2018 for Livelihood Opportunities


  • Training of youth
  • Establishment of skill development centres in every district of India
  • PhD fellowships to be given to 1,000 BTech students under Prime Minister’s Research Fellows (PMRF) scheme. This will help stop brain drain and facilitate creation of technically skilled faculty, who will also be tuned towards research
  • Investment of Rs1,00,000 crore in next four years, major part of which will be utilized to step up investments in research and related infrastructure in premier educational institutions. For funding this initiative, the government will suitably structure the Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA)
  • The government has taken major initiative in setting up institutes of eminence. As declared by Finance Minister Jaitley, 100 applications have been received by the govt. from public and private institutions towards giving shape to this initiative
  • The government will set up a specialized Railways University at Vadodara
  • Setting up of two new full-fledged Schools of Planning and Architecture is in the government’s agenda
  • Establishment of 18 new SPAs in the IITs and NITs as autonomous schools
  • Govt. to improve quality of life in 115 aspirational districts across India by investing on skill upgradation, education, and other social services sector.
A livelihood training centre of Smile Foundation in New Delhi.


Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY)


The Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana was launched two years ago as a skill development initiative scheme by the Govt. of India. The program has been directed towards providing quality training to probable and existing daily wage earners besides giving them monetary awards and rewards. National Skill Development Council (NSDC) is the driving agency behind this program. Training programs have been developed on the basis of National Occupational Standards (NOS) by various Sector Skill Councils (SSC). PMKVY scheme has a target to train 1 crore Indian youth in between 2016 to 2020. 306 Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Kendra have been established for imparting skill training to the youth. This Budget 2018, the government has allocated considerable funds for setting up a model aspirational skill centre in every district of the country.


Generation of Employment


Finance Minister Jaitley during his address in the Parliament on Budget 2018 has emphasized on the creation of 70 lakh formal jobs this year. The govt’s focus, according to him, has been directed towards creation of job opportunities. As aforementioned, several measures were implemented during the last three years. To carry forward this momentum, the Government will contribute 12% of the wages of the new employees in the EPF during the next three years. This shall be applicable for all the sectors. Amendments in the Employees Provident Fund and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952 are underway. Women employees shall majorly benefit from this initiative.


Big fund allocation this Budget 2018 in the textile sector will boost employment opportunities in general. The Finance Minister declared allocation of Rs.7148 crore in this sector. Furthermore, significant allocation of funds in MSME and SME segments will facilitate creation of livelihood opportunities for many.


Proper implementation of schemes should be the priority for India to be a competent nation. More job opportunities – a superior India in the making!




Can Mobile Healthcare Bridge the Gap for the Poor in India?

With a population of more than a billion, delivery of good healthcare to every nook and corner of the country becomes complex and demanding. Sitting in metropolitan cities where we have access to world-class hospitals, one cannot imagine how difficult it is for a person living in a remote tribal belt of Arunanchal Pradesh, a hamlet in the middle of the Thar desert, or a village in the interiors of Bihar, to get the best medical care when in need. Why? Owing to some disturbing facts like these regions have on an average a whopping 3,000 people per doctor. Given the rough terrains, getting to the nearest hospital (setup miles away) is one of the biggest challenges faced by the inhabitants.


Unfortunately in our country, those with the greatest need of healthcare services have the greatest difficulty in accessing them, and are the least likely to have their healthcare needs met. There are many unreached rural regions across the country where there is a serious dearth of healthcare services. The hospitals are usually built in the city and very few doctors are appointed in these areas, leading to an extremely poor health scenario in the communities. There still exists a sizeable population in our country, which considers health to be largely a matter of chance and fate, rather than choice. Mostly it is because they really do not have a choice. The situation is no better for the urban poor, who have hospitals within reach, but are either left standing in the long queues outside public health facilities, or are unable to afford the huge fee charged by the private hospitals. For daily wagers, the situation becomes even more critical as they have to choose between earning a day’s wages, and taking a leave for a visit to the doctor – a difficult question for those living a hand-to-mouth existence.


In order to address the increasing healthcare concerns prevalent among the underprivileged population, it is important that we ensure effective reach of healthcare services for one and all. The idea is simple – if the people in these regions cannot reach a doctor due to unavailability, distance or other factors, the doctors can be made to reach them by means of mobile healthcare programmes/systems.


Delivering healthcare to full spectrum of the society


As per the Provisional Population Totals of Census 2011 in India, of the 1.21 billion Indians, 83.3 million people live in rural areas. Cities and towns with a population of 50,000 had a total of 42.6 million that is 22.6% of the urban population living in slums. A major proportion of these people stay in highly vulnerable surroundings that are overcrowded and have open drains, stagnant water and unhealthy drinking water. The deteriorating healthcare conditions in the underprivileged sections of the society is reflected in the poor healthcare indicators published in the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-3), which states that the Infant Mortality Rate was 42 per 1,000 live births in urban India.


According to a study conducted in an urban slum in the National Capital Region, there is high prevalence of risk factors (smoking, alcohol, lack of fiber intake in diet, physical inactivity, and obesity) that lead to non-communicable diseases. Even the availability of good government and private healthcare facilities in the urban areas, does not mitigate the risk factors as the urban poor remain deprived due to high cost and lack of proper assistance at these health care facilities. Creating an infrastructure where the health needs of every individual can be met through good hospitals and medical services will take time. Thus, mobile healthcare is the solution to delivering health services to the deprived and underprivileged urban and rural population in the country.


Smile on Wheels in Pune providing health care services in the Dapodi garbage dump


High quality care at low cost


Mobile clinics services ensure that good quality healthcare reaches to the vulnerable sections of the society. Being the first point of contact to healthcare for the underprivileged population, these services ensure better prevention and chronic disease management by spreading awareness. Reaching to the doorsteps of the deprived sections of the society, mobile healthcare ensures affordable healthcare services for one and all. Factors like financial issues, logistical constraints, transportation issues and long queues outside hospitals are things people no longer have to worry about.


Efficient healthcare delivery


A well-equipped mobile healthcare unit is capable of performing simple diagnostic tests, pre- and post-treatment care, lab testing, dental treatment and minor surgeries. Patients feel convenient to come to the mobile healthcare unit as they don’t have to travel miles. Studies have shown that mobile healthcare systems have been successful in identifying high rates of chronic ailments among the underprivileged population. This has subsequently led to improved treatment and prognosis. One of the major benefits of launching mobile healthcare units is the increase in awareness among the rural population. The rural communities are now more aware about prevention, screening, and chronic disease management.


Farmers and their families from a remote village in Kalahandi recieve check-ups.


The ability to move


One of the major advantages of mobile healthcare units is their ability to move. One healthcare unit is capable of serving multiple locations and thus caters to the healthcare requirements of a significant population. In order to keep the critical services available, a mobile healthcare unit can be moved from one location to another as per the need of the hour. Mobile healthcare services are thus an excellent alternative to bridging the gap between the available healthcare and patient volume in a region.


Understanding the growing need to meet the healthcare demands of the underprivileged population, Smile Foundation continues its Smile on Wheels mobile hospital initiative. Smile on Wheels not only provides free of cost and clinically advanced healthcare services to the poor and marginalized people in the urban slums and rural villages of the country, but also ensures prevention by spreading awareness. At present, 40 Smile on Wheels mobile hospital projects are operational across 17 states of India, covering more than 800 villages and directly benefitting more than 500,000 children and families.


Given the huge population and lack of affordable healthcare, mobile healthcare needs to be made an integral part of the Indian healthcare system. It is important that healthcare reaches to one and all by overcoming the barriers of location and affordability. Mobile healthcare is capable of reforming the present healthcare delivery structure in the country by getting to the doorsteps of the needy. The urban poor population of the country is exposed to a wide range of disease causing agents and lies at the risk of facing serious health issues. Therefore, there is an urgent need to provide affordable quality health services to these citizens. Mobile healthcare is a quick and effective means by which medical care facilities can be made available to all.


To know more about Smile Foundation’s healthcare programme, please visit our website.




Budget 2018: Fund Allocation in Primary Education Sector & the Challenges Ahead

Today’s children are the citizens of tomorrow, goes the saying. Where illiteracy is still a burning problem, does this maxim hold ground when thousands of children are still deprived of quality education owing to poverty and lack of facilities? No all-weather school building in slum localities! Irregularity of teachers’ attendance in remote locations! Late delivery of textbooks hampering studies! Dilapidated condition of many school structures! Lack of teachers! Lack of basic educational infrastructure! Besides, going by the latest technology, the smart classroom concept is not yet in place. These are only few issues rampant in every nook and corner of India. And these issues need to be dealt with effectively for the creation of a stronger nation. Tackling unequal access to education and building a robust education system at the primary level is the need of the hour.


The government has been allocating funds every budget for the education sector. Allocation of resources in this segment should be adequate. Here are possible outcomes that Budget 2018 can bring to the primary education segment.


Increase of Education cess from 3 percent to 4 per cent


The government has been levying a 3 percent cess to run government-sponsored programs in health and education.  This budget 2018, the government increased the education cess from 3 percent to 4 percent. The increase of 1 percent cess will help the government raise an additional Rs 11,000 crore. The government has announced the allocation of this additional amount with prime focus on education and health.


Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan


The government had launched the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan as a pet project last year. It focused on the universalisation of elementary education. This program had been allocated Rs. 23,500 crore in Budget 2017. It was a success with 100 percent enrolment. The mid-day meal scheme, which was part of the program, received an allocation of Rs. 10,000 crores. This Budget 2018, the focus should be shifted from enrollments to learning outcomes. The government is expected to allocate funds on this shift directed towards periodic monitoring of students’ performance and development. The government should adopt a robust assessment model for its effective implementation. It should be directed towards imparting quality education.


There are lakhs of primary schools across the length and breadth of India. To impart quality education, the focus should be on improving quality of teaching in schools. Teachers should be regularly trained and made accountable. While teacher-student ratio should be according to norms, quality control systems should be well in place to monitor development. The entire education system needs restructuring. This Budget 2018 allocation of funds should be comparatively higher compared to last year’s fund allocation in the primary education segment.


Public Private Partnership


In government run schools, dropout rate of students is very high. Lack of English medium learning and facilities are the key reasons. Educators are hoping for the government’s alignment of the educational system to the realities of 21st century learning techniques. It is not feasible with govt funds alone. This Budget 2018, the government is also looking at Public-private partnership (PPP) where govt and private schools can work together to achieve the above objective. Any private or public organization with a revenue of 25 crore plus or earnings of 10 crore can fund govt. schools to align to an international curriculum as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR). The research-oriented international curriculum will not only decrease dropout rate of students but also promote their creativity, communication skills, and widen their skills.


Considering allocation of funds in the education sector as a percentage of the GDP, the government fares lower compared to her BRICS peers. Most of the BRICS countries allocate a good percentage of the GDP towards education. India should increase allocation of resources in the education sector so that the goal of transforming the education landscape is effectively achieved.


A literate India, a better India should be the ultimate goal!

Insights Partners In Change

Good, Fast and Reliable Healthcare Is Our Right, and Here’s How We Can Get It

Phulmati is dressed in a bright yellow sari. But its glittery embroidery doesn’t hide the anxiety on her face. As she awaits her turn to see the doctor, the 50-year-old keeps glancing at the sheet of paper in her hand.


Thankfully, she doesn’t have to wait long. Phulmati is able to meet the doctor within ten minutes of her standing in the queue in front of the mobile health van stationed in Noida’s JJ colony slums where she stays. On being told that her hypertension was under control and she should continue with the medicines advised, the smile returns to Phulmati’s face.


Now she can return to work without any worries or lose a day’s wage.



This is the essence of such ‘mobile hospitals’. In a country where the poor must routinely make the difficult choice of giving up a day’s wages to get medical treatment, quick and reliable clinics close to their residences can be true life-changers.


India has a population of 1.21 billion people, of which 833.3 million people live in rural areas, according to 2011 census. Further, about 23 per cent of the population living in major cities and towns lives in slums.


Lack of infrastructure and a cheek-by-jowl existence in urban slums means a majority of these people stay in surroundings where open drains, unhealthy drinking water, lack of sanitary toilets and waste disposal systems increase their risk to infections and disease.


Bringing doctors to their doorsteps not only ensures quality essential healthcare services to underprivileged communities but is also in keeping with India’s efforts towards achieving the sustainable development goal to promote healthy lives and wellbeing for all.


To find more about the realities of running such mobile operations, we got in touch with the Smile Foundation, whose flagship health initiative is the ‘Smile on Wheels’.

Smile on Wheels in action.


“Smile on Wheels, our mobile hospital, provides clinically advanced healthcare services free of cost to the poor and marginalised people in the urban slums and rural villages in the country. It cuts down on the out-of-pocket expenditure that often slides a family into debt,” said Sanjeev Dham, chief operating officer, Smile Foundation.


At present, 40 Smile on Wheels (SoW) mobile hospital projects are running in 17 states, reaching over 500,000 families in 800 villages.


Last year, the SoW programme provided healthcare service to over three and a half lakh (3,54,088) people living in 465 remote villages and underserved slums. Of these, 60 per cent were women.


While the need for such services in villages is obvious, urban slums have been an important focus point as well. Communities living there, mainly migrants, are at high risk of both communicable and non-communicable diseases due to poor nutrition, sanitation and hygiene.


While cities do not usually lack medical services, the high costs of private health facilities exclude a majority of slum residents. And government hospitals are so overwhelmed by the volume of patients that many are daunted by the prospect of missing out on wages because they have to spend the entire day waiting for their turn.


This is where mobile clinics, like SoW, make all the difference.


The vans are equivalent to a mobile hospital, being equipped with an oxygen cylinder, nebuliser and ECG machine and are served by a doctor, female nurse and lab technicians who conduct pathological tests.


So, the community gets healthcare services without losing out on hard earned money.


And it does work. Phulmati didn’t have to waste time in travel or waiting her turn to seek healthcare services. She was served by one of Smile Foundation’s SoW. She could return to her job in a factory near her JJ colony slum, in Delhi, without having to miss a day’s work.


“I am a widow and with two children. I cannot afford to lose even a day’s wage because of my illness. I have pulled out both my sons from school and put them to work so that we can survive. Since they also give the medicines, I don’t have to worry about any expenditure. This van is a boon for me and everyone living here,” said Phulmati.


Rajendra Prasad agrees. As a vegetable vendor, he needs to be at work every day.


“Missing one day means a loss of Rs 300 at least. Since I have diabetes, I had to spend money on blood tests and medicines. Ever since the van started to come to JJ colony slum two years ago, I have saved money and time as they conduct free blood tests. I have to live with this disease my whole life. The medical van is a life saver for me,” said Prasad.


Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) like diabetes accounted for six in ten deaths in India according to the first state-level disease burden and risk factors estimate by the Indian Council for Medical Research, the Public Health Foundation of India and the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation released in November 2017.


It found that the share of NCDs in India in 2016 had risen to 61.8 per cent, an increase of 23.9 percentage points from 1990, underlining the need for more mobile health units.


Initially, it takes a while to get the community to access their services.


“Street plays, and community meetings were held to sensitize people on health-related issues and improve their health-seeking behaviour. Now, everyone knows when the SoW van will drive into their area. In the JJ Colony slum, all 25,000 residents know that Monday means SoW. Whether there is rain or sunshine, we get almost 70-90 patients each time. If our doctor finds that they need specialized treatment, they are referred to nearby government health facilities,” said Hitesh Kumar Choudhary, Project Coordinator, Smile on Wheels.


Besides diabetes and gastritis, most of the ailments are related to respiratory problems and cough and cold, according to Dr Amit, in charge of the mobile medical unit that visits JJ Colony among other slums.


This is not surprising considering air pollution, particularly in the national capital region, had crossed permissible danger limits. In 2016, outdoor air pollution had caused 6.4 per cent of India’s DALY or total disability-adjusted life years. DALYs is a measure of both premature mortality and disability due to disease.


Improving coverage of antenatal care among pregnant women to ensure safe motherhood and elimination of maternal mortality is another area of focus.


Pregnant women are counselled on pregnancy diets, newborn care, breastfeeding, immunisation and family planning. Multivitamins, iron, folic acid, and calcium tablets are given if needed.


Be it the Smile Foundation or any mobile clinic; the biggest challenge lies in the next step – ensuring their patients get due and respectful care at government facilities they have been referred to. This has not always been possible.


Developing greater rapport with the frontline health workers like the accredited social health activists (ASHAs), Anganwadi workers (AWWs) and the auxiliary nurse midwives (ANMs) in their areas of operation is helping to overcome some of these barriers.


Ultimately, all Indians have a right to health – and the faster and closer to home they get it, the better it is for them. As Smile Foundation would put it – it is a battle to bring back smiles.


(Republished from The Better India.)

To know more about Smile Foundation, please visit our website.