Public private partnership in social sector can bring a dramatic improvement in service delivery for Tharparkar communities
Interview with Mr Shamsuddin Ahmed Shaikh – CEO, Engro Powergen Limited
PAGE: Kindly tell me something about Thar Foundation:
Shamsuddin Ahmed Shaikh: Thar Foundation is a section-42 registered not-for-profit company. It works for development of Thari communities in 10 different sectors including Education, Health, Drinking Water, Infrastructure, Livelihood, Women Empowerment. Thar Foundations aims to make Islamkot first SDG’s achieving taluka in partnership with Govt. of Sindh and UNDP.
PAGE: What has your organisation done in terms of education for the Tharis?
Shamsuddin Ahmed Shaikh: The Thar Foundation has set up 24 school units providing free and quality education to the otherwise deprived children of the area. The schools are well-equipped with solar-powered electricity, safe drinking water, and washrooms facilities where trained teacher impart education as per the standards set by the civilized world backed by scientific research in academics. Also, the children are engaged in various co-curricular activities to help build their confidence and explore their potential in true spirit. These schools have capacity to accommodate approx. 5000 students. Thar Foundation has requested Government of Sindh to handover all schools of Islamkot taluka that we can manage and provide quality education to local communities.
The Thar Foundation has also collaborated with IBA Karachi and LUMS to help aspiring Thari students prepare for entrance test and attain quality business education financed by the Foundation.
Under need-based scholarship program, the Thar Foundation has supported some of the bright students who wouldn’t otherwise have been able to pursue higher education due to financial constraint – due to the Foundation’s support, students like Rehana Halepoto (Isra Medical University), Abdul Rauf (Mehran University), Girdhari Lal (Mehran University), and Aqib Naich (Mehran University) are now fulfilling their dreams.
In collaboration with the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), we are also running adult literacy centers where more 100 adult learners are seeking functional literacy.
PAGE: Kindly tell us about the medical facilities being offered to the local community by your company in collaboration with other entities:
Shamsuddin Ahmed Shaikh: We are running Marvi Mother & Child Clinic at village Tharyo Halepoto where we provide medical healthcare free-of-cost. The OPD of the clinic crosses 2000 patients every month.
The offshoots of our health program also include EPI (vaccination), Hepatitis screening, free medical camps for TB and eye diseases.
We have also started a similar operation in village Gorano to provide basic healthcare to mother and children to the communities of Gorano and adjoining villages. We are doing this in collaboration with Sindh Government’s health department.
The major part of our health interventions is establishment of a 250-bed Thar Foundation Hospital at Islamkot town where modern-day health facilities will be available to the people of Tharparkaras well as of other districts. The hospital is being established in collaboration with Sindh Government, Shahid Afridi Foundation, and Indus Hospital.
PAGE: How would you comment on the charity work in Pakistan?
Shamsuddin Ahmed Shaikh: People in Pakistan are known for their philanthropic generosity. Whereas government tries its best to provide basic facilities to citizens, gap of service delivery is widening due to burgeoning population and decay of public sector institutes. Local charity is bridging this gap to a greater extent. Private sector and individual citizens philanthropy is creating visible impact in vital areas of basic service e.g. education, health, food and drinking water.
PAGE: Kindly tell us about the employment offered to the local community in Tharparkar:
Shamsuddin Ahmed Shaikh: As of now, we have 3,462 employees in the project, out of which, about 71% of the employees are local Tharis – what is unique about this project is that we have 30 Thari women employed at the site.
When we started the operations in Block II, we couldn’t find skilled labor since the area has not had any industry historically. So what we did was that we partnered with different technical institutes and got Thari men trained in different skills including driving, scaffolding, masonry, pipe-fitting, painting, etc. As many as 1000 men have so far been trained in different trades and majority are now our employees at the site.
Under our Human Resource Development program, the first Annual Batch of 25 trainees completed successfully their on-job training at project site and have moved to China for 6-month training. Candidates for second batch have also been selected who would be on board soon.
In Thar Associate Engineering Program, the first annual batch of 30 students are pursuing diploma in associate engineering at Daharki, who would then be employed at Thar Block II project, subject to clearance of the required tests. Selection of the second batch of the program is under way.
PAGE: How could poverty be tackled in Tharparkar?
Shamsuddin Ahmed Shaikh: Tharparkar is one of the most deprived areas of Pakistan. It deserves a focused effort to improve lives of marginalized people. Luckily private sector has made a big entry after discovery of Thar coal. Government of Sindh is making significant investment in local infrastructure. Public private partnership in social sector can bring a dramatic improvement in service delivery for local communities. This area will witness an investment boom. Government of Sindh can utilize economic benefits of this investment for providing basic facilities to local communities which will have impact on poverty scenario. Poverty in Thar can be eradicated through multi-stakeholder partnerships. Thar Foundation has created a credible forum where all stakeholders can contribute their resources to eradicate poverty in Thar. Providing employment to local communities and enabling them for gainful employment through technical and vocations training can reduce poverty significantly.