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OMC-Mitsui Covid-19 Community Outreach

The Covid-19 pandemic has hit India hard, and just as in Europe and America, the poor, especially in rural areas have been hit the hardest. India, a country of 1.3 billion people, went into a nationwide lockdown from 22nd March to 2nd June 2020, with strict enforcement of restrictive measures by Government and local administrations. All markets, shops and commercial establishments, except essential goods and service providers, were closed during the lockdown, and commute and travel severely curtailed. Moreover, a large majority of daily-wage labourers and street hawkers/vendors lost their jobs and livelihoods. Life came to a grinding halt.

In response to this unprecedented crisis, the likes of which has not been experienced in the last 100 years, the OMC team rose to the occasion to maintain uninterrupted operations across nearly 200 PV power plants and minigrid distribution networks in Uttar Pradesh, to deliver uninterrupted supply of electricity to about 200 towers and 20,000 minigrid customers. A Business Continuity Plan and SoPs tailored for the new normal were formulated and implemented by the company through the mechanism of a Crisis Management Team, with a highly responsive chain of command and simplified decision making during the pandemic.

As a distributed rural electric utility with a high-touch retail electricity business on the community side that is serviced by local personnel, OMC has deep roots in the community. It quickly became evident that the fallout of Covid-19 in our areas of operation extended beyond health and that economic distress was leading to hunger. Given the company’s large footprint in rural areas across 13 districts in India’s largest state, OMC decided to find ways of providing support through community outreach programme specifically targeted to provide essential supplies to the poorest of the poor.

The Community Outreach Program

To help rural communities whose life was becoming harder by the day, OMC launched a community outreach initiative in collaboration with our enlightened stakeholder, Mitsui &Co. Ltd, in Japan. Provisioning of basic food was identified as being an immediate and necessary succor, especially when access to food was a real challenge for the poor. The OMC team surveyed the villages in our operating areas and identified three thousand households in the areas surrounding our plants and minigrids, to be beneficiaries of the program. With an average family size of five members, the programme would provide assistance to fifteen thousand individuals.

A standardized food packet was designed by the team with inputs culled from WHO and WFP guidelines for food packages to balance nutritional content. The package was tailored for Uttar Pradesh, considering the staple diet of the area, the calorific value of the items, usefulness to locals, and considering the Covid-19 situation, access to supply.

Food Packet

In addition to food items, the package also contained soap and detergent to promote essential cleanliness and hygiene. In order to ensure timely delivery of supply, 3,000 food packets were locally source and packed while maintaining hygiene and sanitation.

Delivering the Food Assistance

The on-ground team of OMC delivered these food packets to the 3,000 most affected households within a time frame of 3-4 weeks, across 43 villages surrounding OMCs power plants. With the dedication of the teams, the food packets were reached the needing hands at the right time and we have completed the distribution by 17th of August.

Community Impact

Due to strict lockdown imposed by the government, access to other sources of aid was limited in the local community, and charities also faced limitations in reaching the impacted communities during this time. However, OMC could successfully execute the outreach program down to the bottom of the pyramid, due to the platform available to it as an essential service provider and due to its local presence in remote areas by virtue of the presence of its solar plants and staff.

The outreach program has provided much-needed immediate relief to the distressed segment of the rural society. It has also helped OMC to gain tremendous goodwill amongst the local population. It will also enable OMC-Mitsui strategic alliance to further cement its bond with rural community while conveying the underlying message of being a service provider with a heart for the community.

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