Project Nishant, An Initiative Of Two School Girls Is Providing Employment To Mentally Diverse People
New Delhi: 28-year-old Aditya Chandrasekar from Uttar Pradesh’s Noida suffers from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). As a student, Aditya would struggle in keeping up with classroom activities and getting along with classmates. But, at home, when his mother Rajeshwari would give him undivided attention and teach, Aditya would catch up. At the suggestion of teachers, Aditya’s parents took him to a psychologist for an evaluation and there he was diagnosed with ADHD with a specific learning disability. Difficulty in concentrating was one of the challenges in Aditya’s learning skills. Talking to the Banega Swasth India team, Ms Chandrasekar said,
Aditya is an alumnus of The Khaitan School that is a sensitive education institute. They advised us to consult an expert at the National Institute of Public Cooperation and Child Development, under the Ministry of Women and Child Development. After the diagnosis, I left my job at the State Bank of India so that I could be with Aditya and teach him. I went to special educators to learn the techniques of teaching Aditya. My son went to Khaitan till class 8 and then shifted to open learning. During exams, we had to get a scribe for him because he can’t learn, recollect and reproduce a large amount of information well within the time frame.
After school, Aditya did graduation in animation followed by a course in hardware networking. During the COVID-19 lockdown, he took some online courses and learned to use Microsoft Office. Despite having the skill set, Aditya couldn’t get a job anywhere because of his learning disability and a lack of clarity in speech.
During medical tests in childhood, doctors did point out an internal issue with Aditya’s tongue but they also said that there is nothing to worry about right now. However, now his speech has been affected, said Ms Chandrasekar.
According to a report by Market Intelligence Firm, UnearthInsight, India has almost 3 crore people with disability (PwD) of whom around 1.3 crore are employable but only 34 lakh have been employed. To bridge this gap, two high school girls – Avni Singh and Tarini Malhotra – from Gurugram, Haryana have started Project Nishant.
Project Nishant is a platform that aims to provide mentally diverse people access to job opportunities. Talking about their initiative, 15-year-old Tarini, a student of class 10 of The Shri Ram School said,
Nishant means a new beginning and the Project Nishant aims to make a new beginning in an area of employment for neuro-diverse people and therefore, encourage their self-esteem, income generation capabilities and independence. We work as a bridge between employers and prospective employees who in our case are mentally diverse people looking for a job opportunity.
Taking us through the journey, Tarini said,
The idea traces back to 2020 when I and Avni volunteered for a school-sanctioned fundraiser and raised Rs. 1.35 lakh for Parivartan Special School. It is then that we were introduced to the pool of talent that is often left out and marginalised.
The duo spent the next eight to nine months conceptualising and researching and in July 2021, with the help of their school, they set Project Nishant up and in September, a website was launched. Explaining the user journey, 17-year-old Avni, a student of class 11 said,
Currently, we have 11 companies and five non-governmental organisations (NGOs) on board. The NGOs have a list of people mentally diverse people looking for a job. The job seekers, no matter if they are associated with any NGO or not, can ‘apply for job’ on our website and fill in a bunch of details including educational qualification, disability certificate and the number of hours they can work a day. Following this, our tech team puts these applications to the listing page where companies look at different profiles.
Since the start of the project, four candidates have been employed and four other recruitments are in the process. Aditya is one of the first beneficiaries of Project Nishant, currently working for Nippon Paint.
The Banega Swasth India team reached out to Nippon Paint to understand what made corporate support this young initiative. Ashish Mishra, General Manager and Head of Human Resources at Nippon Paint said,
Tarini’s father is with Nippon Paint and that’s how we were made aware of the project. We got associated with Project Nishant as part of our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative. While hiring Aditya, we checked his qualification and areas of interest to see if we can hire him for an IT role or into a Management Information System or analysis kind of role. After multiple rounds of interviews, Aditya was hired as an intern for a period of three months with six working hours a day. He got trained during the internship period and today, he is working with us as a full-time employee.
Mr Mishra informs that Nippon Paint is looking to hire more persons with disabilities, especially in the packaging division in one of their factories. When asked about the challenges of working with a person with a learning disability, Mr Mishra said,
We need to be sensitive enough and provide empathy and care to people with disabilities (PwD). I won’t say challenge; we knew that we will have to work slightly extra with Aditya but he picked up well and we are proud to have him on board.
To begin with, Tarini and Avni partnered with Phoenix Tech Consulting that provided them with technological infrastructure involving their website. The next step was to get NGOs like Tamana, Udaan and Radhka Foundation, working for the PwD population, on board.
Getting corporates was the trickiest part for us because companies are focused on profits and telling them to take on someone who they don’t maybe understand is a huge undertaking. Tarini and I had to be immensely prepared, well-researched and make pitches to a bunch of companies. At first, we used our personal connections to get companies on board. This helped us in two ways – firstly, in showing that we already have partners and secondly, we as a company are reliable and trustworthy because other companies have believed in us, said Avni.
Though the duo is currently caught up with their annual exams, the process of recruitment is on. The goal is to provide employment to 20 people this year. Going forward, they are also looking to offer scholarships to 20 neuro-diverse people, especially those who want to expand their skill-set and start their entrepreneurship journey.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.