Mumbai: The Confederation of Empowerment Initiative (CEI) has within a few months of its formation emerged as a singular non-profit international development agency (IDA) dedicated to providing resiliency solutions to developing economies around the world for the upliftment of the backward and the poorest of the poor. This is in sharp contrast to most non-government organisations whose work is narrowly confined to a single sector like education, health, child welfare etc. Another aspect where it differs from indigenous NGOs, especially Left-leaning ones, is that political activism has been kept out of its ken.
An MoU recently signed between the CEI and the Cambodia-based Asian Vision Institute (AVI) brought the IDA’s USP to the fore. AVI is the leading independent think tank in the land of the famous Angkor Vat temple. The CEI-AVI strategic alliance envisages the implementation and promotion of urban and rural resilience programmes, tourism and market-linked skill development, leadership development for social innovation and local governance, inclusive digital economy development, and technology transfer among others. A 10-year partnership to build a strong foundation of sustainability and holistic empowerment has been proposed.
CEI has been working for the holistic empowerment of the socio-economically backward, rural and tribal communities of the country. Various entrepreneurial development and training programmes along with development initiatives are in the process of being implemented in the interiors of Maharashtra, especially the tribal district of Raigad.
The non-profit company is the brainchild of the highly qualified disciples of the spiritual master, Rashtra Rishi Lahiri Guruji, whose Brahma Rishitatva Sadhana has been transforming lives wherever the IDA has been active. Himself a graduate of IIT Varanasi, young Guru Lahiri is a global risk management consultant with a number of leading MNCs. His disciples include top policymakers of India and various other countries.
CEI chief executive officer Shri Bhaiji (Salil Lahiri) informed this writer that the body’s own chief strategy officer Jas Sohl along with AVI chairman Sok Siphana, and Centre for Sustainable Development Studies (CSDS) director Keo Piseth had studied the socio-economic impact of all the empowerment initiatives of CEI across India since late 2018. Encouraged by the positive impact they felt the benefits of composite empowerment initiatives which would accrue to Cambodia could be extended to other Mekong-Ganga Cooperation countries like Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam. Several strategic sessions have already been held with the Indian Ambassador in Cambodia, Ms Manika Jain, on how best to put into action the alliance between the two IDAs.
Promoting Asian wisdom, Shri Bhaiji stresses, and highlighting the inherent advantages of the continent’s cultural diversity is the binding force of the alliance. Countries like Argentina, the UK, and Hungary have already expressed an interest in becoming part of this unique empowerment enterprise.
Though CEI, Shri Bhaiji says, was born out of the labours of a motley group of IT and marketing professionals, it could scarcely have come so far so soon without Guru Lahiri’s “samagra samriddhi mahasadhana” — a spiritual tonic for composite enrichment, not confined to financial betterment. Mental conditioning is intrinsic to the IDA’s proprietary resiliency solutions to bring social justice to the country’s backward regions. For an IDA’s work, unlike that of ubiquitous NGOs is not localised to a limited area or sector. IDAs need to implement multidimensional empowerment initiatives connecting diverse geographies.
Hundreds of villages have benefited from CEI’s well-rounded perspective, says Shri Bhaiji. Guruji’s guidance and macro approach proved handy in the creation of entrepreneurial ecologies in tribal demographies. It has helped in instilling productive consciousness in the work and personal lives of the needy. Quite apart from enabling people at the bottom-most rung to transcend complex social problems such as regressive caste-based divisions and discriminations, linguistic chauvinism, regional disparity, political groupism, and apathy towards the sufferings of others. Mental outlooks have begun to change with the realisation that selflessness, fearlessness, and egoless are essential to overall happiness.
Take the case of Shashikant Pavar. A year ago, he was a youth belonging to the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Group (PVTG) within the most backward scheduled tribes. He hails from a community and a village living in abject poverty with no access to drinking water, housing or electricity. Today he has graduated into an entrepreneur with the help of CEI resources and training. He runs a small vegetable business which helps him earn Rs 300-400 per day, and holds no grudges against anyone.
Then there is Ravi Pavar of Jambhulpada village in the Sudhagad tehsil. He is CEI’s project officer and salaried employee. Ravi belongs to katkari tribe which also comes under the PVTG umbrella. He and his friends have been trained in implementing various brick kiln projects, agro-entrepreneurship initiatives, and conducting field surveys for ayurvedic enterprises.
Other tribal youths have participated in implementing CEI’s Aadhaar/ration card camps and other financial inclusion programmes. They have helped CEI emerge as a last-mile deliverer of various government programmes for rural and tribal welfare. Also on the anvil is the implementation of various educational and nutrition projects in various ashram shala (government-run tribal residential schools).
Shri Bhaiji and his team are clearly men in a hurry.
Featured image on top: (first from the left) Ravi Pawar, CEI project officer at Karjat, Raigadh, Maharashtra