Tata Consultancy Services (NSE: TCS), India’s biggest technology services company, and Bharti Enterprises, parent firm of Bharti Airtel, the country’s largest wireless provider, will spend 1 billion rupees each ($16.5 million), to build toilets for schoolgirls and people in rural areas.
The companies said in separate statements that they are responding to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call to corporations in the country step up and share the responsibility of a “Clean India” initiative the federal government is expected to launch on Oct. 2.
“The poor need respect and it begins with cleanliness,” Modi said in his first Independence Day speech, on Aug. 15, speaking in Hindi. Modi led his Bharatiya Janata Party to a landslide victory in India’s general elections earlier this year, raising hopes among businesses that he will put the country to work and get its economy back on the road to growth.
Indian companies should use their ‘corporate social responsibility’ budgets to prioritize toilets for schoolgirls, he said. “All schools in the country should have toilets with separate toilets for girls. Only then will our daughters not be compelled to leave schools midway.”
Bharti Enterprises will spend up to 1 billion rupees over the next three years through its development arm, Bharti Foundation, to improve rural household sanitation and build toilets for girls in government schools, according to a statement. TCS said it will build 10,000 toilets in schools in India.
“We firmly believe that achieving the mission of providing hygienic sanitation for girl students will have a tangible impact on the level of education achievement and development of India’s next generation,” CEO N. Chandrasekaran said in a statement.
The lack of proper toilets for female students in the nation's schools is seen as a big challenge to improving literacy rates among women in a society that typically favors spending on educating its male offspring. Modi also used his speech to slam the desire for male children among large sections of Indian society, pointing out that it has helped skew the sex ratio in the country to 940 girls born for every 1,000 boys.