“The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of tiny pushes of each honest worker.”
- Helen Keller
This is the story of Dharmendra Kumar Kar, a Tech Mahindra employee, who believes that when Corporate Social Responsibility influences our individual actions, it amplifies the impact of our efforts.
Dharmendra has always wanted to make a positive change in the society and is volunteering since 20 years. When he joined Tech Mahindra 4 years ago, he immediately signed up for Employee Social Options (ESOPs) – Mahindra’s group-wide initiative that supports employees to volunteer for social and environmental causes. As part of ESOPs, he has been involved in various initiatives, including beach cleanup, Swachh Bharat, painting of school classrooms, health camps, teaching children and tree plantation. Environment being a cause closest to his heart, he dedicates around 2 hours a day to planting trees and restoring water bodies.
“We complain about pollution. If we step back and observe, we’re part of the problem, and we can play a part in solving environmental issues – all it takes is individual social responsibility!”
It started nearly two decades ago when Dharmendra took up his first job. He reckons not taking leaves for personal reasons, and instead applying for a 15-day off during monsoon to plant trees in his village in Odisha. His next stint was a Work from Home job, which allowed him to visit his village every two months and nurture these plants. He planted 72 trees for his mother’s birthday and 50 more on his brother’s 50th birthday. Today, he has extended this to the public at large by inviting them to plant trees in Kharghar (Navi Mumbai, MMR), where he currently resides – and where he along with a community of volunteers, nurtures these trees.
The water body restoration idea came the year before last, when he cleaned the beach after Ganpati visarjan, as an ESOPs volunteer. It occurred to him that while these one-time drives helped in cleaning the waters and beaches, the problem needed to be tackled at the root level.
“If I want a clean and green city, I have to start from home.”
He decided to start a personal project while volunteering for Mahindra’s CSR activities. He started by gathering his neighbours in Kharghar to clean the water body near his home, and maintained it on a daily basis. Today, his community has extended to all age groups (4-90+ years) in Navi Mumbai – with groups on Facebook and WhatsApp where they coordinate as well as share ideas on waste management and recycling. During festivals, his group visits schools in Kharghar, to further spread the message to children.
In Odisha, Dharmendra has formed 30 volunteer groups from 30 districts, has planted over 5000 trees, and conducted plantation and seed ball workshops in 10 schools, 2 universities and 5 colleges. He has been pivotal in transforming Kharghar from wasteland to wetland, with over 3000 trees planted (100+ within a month’s time) and through the conversion of a dead pond into a beautiful water body, in the past 2 years. He recently received the Water Hero Award by the Ministry of Jal Shakti, Government of India.
He is inspired by the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, and by Mahindra’s top leadership – primarily Tech M chief CP Gurnani and Anand Mahindra. Referring to a Tech Mahindra toilet cleaning drive, he adds – “If the founder of our company can clean a toilet, then what’s stopping us from doing our bit?”
For him, volunteering has been truly rewarding, and he is grateful to have inspired over 1000 individuals to become volunteers. He credits the volunteering ecosystem at Mahindra Group for further motivating him. He has pledged to devote 20% of his time and 20% of his income for the next 20 years to make a transformational change.
Dharmendra encourages everyone to take ownership and do their bit, adding that it will help us reduce our carbon footprint and help our city and planet become cleaner and healthier.
Employee Social Options or ESOPs is Mahindra Group’s program to enable and help employees in volunteering for social and environmental causes.