May 11, 2007
SOFTEN: Infosys staffers' initiative
IT professional S L Manjunath e-mailed the other day asking if I could help him identify some localities of the poor who might need the used clothes his friends on the Mysore Infosys campus had collected. First, I thought it was rather naïve of my young friend to have come up such request. Because, the poor are found everywhere in our country. I thought all that Mr Manjunath and his friends needed to do was step out of their swanky campus to look out for them.
On reflection I sensed their problem. Not all poor people need be needy for the kind of clothes Mr Manjunath and friends wish to distribute – old jeans, branded shirts, skirt and tops, and salwaar-kameez. Handing them out at random to alms-seekers in front of temples may not be a good idea. I have seen well-to-do devotees doling out their used clothes to the poor lined up in front of Raghavendra temple on Thursdays. In most cases the takers are not the end-users. And the discarded clothes find their way to the neighborhood flea market.
Mysore Infosys is an exclusive township, housing some 4,500 company trainees, who come from all over India and abroad for a 16-week training course. Many of them, given to an upscale lifestyle, often discard clothes and things they sparsely use. Manjunath and a group of his campus residents hit upon the idea of reaching out to the needy with clothes they collect on the campus.
They formed a Social Forum to Enable the Needy (SOFTEN), initially to help the economically disadvantaged children in Mysore’s corporation schools to acquire soft-skills such as proper communicating and analytical abilities and improvement of language skills, notably, English. During the current school vacation SOFTEN plans to run a ‘soft-skills’ course for the benefit of deserving Class X students from some local corporation schools.
Presumably, the idea for collection and distribution of used clothes is a SOFTEN spin-off. In advanced countries they have Salvation Army and thrift shops through which the collected clothes are distributed. Collection of clothes and other useful items from those on Infosys campus would be easy, given the initiative of spirited township residents such as Munjunath. The problem is in evolving an effective distribution system.
If an operating system with a clothes collection centre on the campus, and distribution outlets in the city, can be put in place in Mysore, it could serve as a working model for Infosys and other IT corporate townships elsewhere in the country. Orphanages and old age people homes would be natural outlets for consumer useables. Public-spirited individuals and institutions that can spare show-room space and a couple of volunteers could come forward to set up used-clothes outlets, run by volunteers.
NGOs such as Mysore Grahakara Parishat (MGP), Rotary and Lions Clubs, Institution of Engineers (which routinely rents out space for sales of books, garments, handicraft and other consumer items) can designate space for SOFTEN’s distribution outlet, where the poor and the needy could go to pick up the clothes they need.
It has been my observation that NRIs, notably young professionals, are given to discarding clothes, shoes and other serviceable consumer items as they go out of fashion, or when new styles and models are in the market. It would help if each NRI were to set aside five kg (out of their total baggage allowance of 60 plus kg) for bringing their used clothes on their every trip to India. The parcels of clothes they bring in could be deposited in drop-boxes set up at airports, to be picked up by the NGO coordinating distribution among the needy.
Crossfiled in zine5 and Desicritics.