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Pragati for workers?wives
The large-scale multipurpose Godrej plant soon began to have repercussions over a wide economic field, with many indirect beneficiaries. Godrej used and continue to use the products of a large number of industries such as steel and power, materials such as paint, packing wood, cement, paper and non-ferrous metals, and services such as banking, insurance and transport. The screw industry, for example, benefits from the use at Godrej of billions of screws each year. In turn, Godrej supply materials to other industries. Steel tubing, for instance, goes into the manufacture of Indian bicycles, as well as several other products.
Family Planning was Pirojsha’s abiding concern, next only to providing education for workers?children. He realised that economic development depends on the balanced and planned use of existing human, capital and natural resources. A population growing out of proportion to other factors in the productivity equation creates a vicious circle of low income, drop in savings, less capital, less investment ?all of which act as a brake on development. In carrying this message to the workers, his son Naval found a sincere helpmate in Soonuben Dastoor (daughter of Dinshaw and Gulbai Dastoor) whom he had married on 16 January, 1947. Finding that her husband left home at 8.00 every morning and did not return till 8.00 in the evening, Soonuben wanted to do something to relieve his burden as well as occupy her time. With her active help, a Welfare Centre ?Pragati Kendra ?was opened at Vikhroli on 15 August, 1955 with Pirojsha unfurling the national flag.
A Family Planning centre followed in 1957. In the initial stages only advice and contraceptives at concessional rates were given. As the results were not too encouraging, the emphasis was subsequently shifted to sterilization. In 1962, a Family Planning exhibition was organised to bring about greater awareness among employees and residents. With the cooperation and support of Dr. G.M. Phadke, a vasectomy centre was opened with several residents volunteering to undergo the operation. In 1965, when the IUCD was experimented upon in India, a research centre was launched with the help of Dr. R. P. Soonawala and the Ford Foundation.
Volunteers were trained from among the workers to go door to door to propagate Family Planning. The angle was not how Family Planning would help the country, but how it would benefit the workers themselves and thereby the country. No financial incentives were offered to those who underwent vasectomy and tubectomy operations; good schooling and housing themselves proved to be incentives. Arrangements were made with the plant in-charge to offer out-of-pocket expenses to workers who practised Family Planning. No education was granted in Udayachal Schools to the fourth child of a couple. Each and every one of the approximately 7,000 employees was covered by the Family Planning programme through concerted efforts. Up-to-date detailed records were maintained of employees with the number of children, their ages and the planning method adopted. The Pragati Kendra too organised exhibitions, entertainment programmes, film shows and talks to bring home the importance of planning their families in their own and the country’s interest. The cooperation of union workers and their wives was also enlisted. The hard work paid off in the long run with two children per family becoming the accepted norm.
A representative of the Ford Foundation on a visit to Vikhroli expressed surprise and concern that so much attention was given to this aspect. Soonuben was able to convince him that India’s case was different from America’s, and that Family Planning was a dire need. On another occasion, a union leader took it upon himself to complain to the then Home Minister of Maharashtra, who promptly dashed off a letter to Godrej that too much attention to Family Planning would be tantamount to interference with personal freedom and that it would distract children from their studies. Godrej wrote back that this in no way interfered with workers?personal freedom, that persuasion and education were employed and not force, and that to learn about Family Planning was for the national good and beginning with children was the best way to serve that good. Nothing more was heard from the Minister concerned.
Pragati Kendra, being the nucleus of all Godrej’s welfare activities, has been in the forefront working with the employees and their families, providing valuable counselling, concentrating on developmental programmes of both women and children and creating awareness about environmental concerns. In addition to adult literacy, the Kendra provides training in gainful spare-time occupations such as making cane chairs, polishing chair-frames, batik, pottery-making, and so on. To help supplement the income of the families of employees, orders are secured by the Kendra from the company and work is distributed among the colony housewives.
The Kendra has also been involved in a cleanliness campaign to drive home the message of "Clean and Green Pirojshanagar". This was done through home visits, poster campaigns, interaction with the Mumbai Municipal Corporation and public education. Programmes were organised on the occasion of Vanamahotsav and World Environment Day. A Nature Club was initiated. Courses on ikebana and bonsai were also organised.