‘With great power comes great responsibility’, soliloquised Peter Parker as he said goodbye to his lady love and ventured onto yet another mission to save his home city, New York! This is in the last scene of Spider-Man, the movie, released in 2002.
Now, in 2020, the context is different but the philosophy is not. It is not only New York or New Delhi, rather the entire world and the human race are battling the coronavirus ~ a deadly outbreak for which there’s no cure as yet.
It is novel crises such as this that test the mettle and greatness of an individual and organisation. It tests the ability to see beyond oneself and come to the aid of others without looking for material gains. No wonder, Larsen & Toubro, the Indian multinational conglomerate which prides itself as the builder of the nation, has risen to the occasion with all its might built brick by brick over the past 82 years.
None less than the Group Chairman, Mr A M Naik, set the tone of the company’s response in a letter to L&T employees. This, while announcing a contribution of
Rs 150-crore from the Group to PM-Cares, a special COVID charity fund that the Centre has created. “The Company and its people have always stood by the fellow citizens in their hour of need. I believe it is our duty as L&T-ites, and as relatively more fortunate citizens of India, to rise to the occasion yet again,” he wrote.
L&T employees, including those in Group companies like L&T Infotech (LTI), L&T Financial Services (LTFS), L&T Technology Services Ltd (LTTS) and Mindtree, quickly followed suit by donating two-days salary to PM-Cares. This accounts for several crores of rupees and will be matched by an equal amount of contributions by the Group to PM-Cares.
In addition to these direct financial contributions, L&T on its own took up a major responsibility. It decided to continue paying wages, supply food, offer housing and provide healthcare to its nearly 1.6-lakh contract labourers. This is costing around Rs 500-crore a month.
Had not L&T decided to stand by the contract labourers posted at project sites across India, this could have proved yet another nightmare for the government.
L&T’s charitable initiatives do not end here. Under a CSR drive for COVID, the company has so far distributed grocery packets to 1,966 families at Powai, Turbhe and other areas of Mumbai. Then through NGO partners, it has provided cooked meals to 8,000-odd underprivileged people in different parts of the city. Down south, in Tamil Nadu, the company is extending aids where these are needed the most. For two weeks in a row, it has provided 2,000 meals a day to doctors, sanitation workers, and patient parties stranded in various state-run hospitals in Chennai.
On the medical front, L&T has given the nation a commitment, which very few companies will dare in a situation like this. During a video-conference with Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi, L&T CEO & MD, Mr S N Subrahmanyan, stated that if assigned, the company can construct 300-bed special COVID Care Hospital anywhere in India in just three-four months.
The proposed hospital will have OPD, IPD, intensive care units, diagnostic labs, medicine shop, canteen and dormitories for doctors and nurses. The design will ensure that infections do not spread through AC ducts or washrooms. In fact, L&T is now in talks with various state governments who have expressed keen interest in setting up COVID Care Hospitals.
“We are supporting the Central and state governments in this critical hour and offering all possible help in India’s fight against COVID-19,” says Mr Subrahmanyan.
This apart, until now, L&T has pledged to the Central and several state government-run health facilities medical equipment worth as much as Rs 40-crore. The states that are benefiting from this are Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Telangana and Assam. The equipment already donated include 45,000 PPE jackets, 1.51-lakh N95 masks, 100 semi fowler beds with mattress, 29 ventilators, and 20 multiparameter monitors.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has categorically stated that extensive testing of people lies at the heart of curbing coronavirus. But then there is a shortage of testing kits the world over and laboratories are grappling with short supply.
Keeping this in mind, L&T has placed an order with Pune’s Mylab for 155 COVID test kits capable of testing 15,500 people and detect the infection in 2.5 hours as compared to imported ones that take longer. Mylab is an Indian firm which is the first to secure commercial approval for PathoDetect COVID-19 Qualitative PCR kit that it has developed. L&T has chalked out a plan to distribute 57 such kits to the Centre, 50 to Maharashtra, 35 to Tamil Nadu and 13 to Gujarat.
Above and all the centralised initiatives, L&T Group companies too have taken several steps to help the collective fight against COVID.
Mindtree, headquartered at Bengaluru, has contributed a sum of Rs 1 crore to Susheela Ramprasad Charitable Trust in Karnataka for testing 6,500 COVID samples at Neuberg Anand Reference Laboratories by procuring testing kits, PPE and other related items. It has also contributed to the procurement and distribution of 352,450 female hygiene kits for stranded migrant workers sheltered in schools, hostels and ceremony halls across Karnataka.
LTTS, the other Group company, has funded 180,000 masks and sanitisers for students in different parts of the country. These it distributed through an NGO partner. LTTS has also donated 4,000 PPE kits comprising gloves, masks and sanitisers to the police in Vadodara, the city in Gujarat where it is headquartered.
Group company LTI, headquartered in Mumbai, has donated a bus to Akshaya Patra Foundation. The bus is being used to ferry and serve meals to underprivileged children in these trying times. LTI has also undertaken a programme wherein it is imparting online training to several NGO field workers on COVID safety and overall project management. Once the training module is completed, it has plans to equip the NGO workers with protective gears before they can take to the fields.
The efforts are not limited to the company. LTI employee volunteers are imparting online lessons to rural school students in several parts of India to ensure continuity of learning during the lockdown. In the United States, where LTI has a significant business setup, it has launched an employee volunteering initiative. As part of this, the employees are donating for food, medical care and shelter of their neighbourhood communities.
Again, in Mumbai, the Group company LTFS has distributed 5,385 hygiene kits to the Mumbai Traffic Police personnel who are vulnerable to infection due to high-risk exposure. This has been done through implementing partner Habitat for Humanity. In the fight against COVID, LTFS has also put to use Digital Sakhi, its flagship CSR program for digital financial inclusion of women. It has engaged women entrepreneurs enrolled in Digital Sakhi in large-scale production of face masks and made the same available to people.
In the initial days of the nationwide coronavirus lockdown in India with effect from 24 March, the civil administration and police were finding it difficult to implement the restrictions. Due to lack of awareness or failure to comprehend the gravity of the crisis, people in several parts of the country were venturing out of home for one reason or the other. It was at this juncture that many state governments, for whom L&T has either implemented or is working on projects, approached for assistance.
In no time, L&T mobilised its Smart World & Communication (SWC) business unit and put in place a slew of measures using state-of-the-art smart and digital technology in as many as 20 cities. These include mobile command centre for police, artificial intelligence based video analytics, real-time crowd monitoring and control, vehicle movement restriction, public message dissemination, COVID call centre, COVID online health survey and thermal scanners for fever detection in public areas, etc.
The cities, where one or more of these measures have been put in place, include Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Prayagraj, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Visakhapatnam, Raipur, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Bikaner and Bharatpur.
Here comes a sample of the utility of the measures implemented by L&T: in Hyderabad, the administration issued an order asking people not to drive beyond 3-km of their residences even for buying essentials.
L&T devised an innovative way to help police enforce this. Using the existing machine learning based Automated Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) system, it is helping monitor all vehicles out on the streets in Hyderabad. The moment a vehicle crosses the 3-km limit, an automated alert goes out to the police. Furthermore, by integrating the Regional Transport Authority’s (RTA) database with the ANPR system, the vehicle owner(s) is readily identified and hence, the cops are able to send out a warning at once.