Telecom major Bharti Enterprises plans to set up 1,000 village schools for underprivileged children to catch them at a young age and steer them towards vocational training, company head and group Managing Director Sunil Bharti Mittal said here on Tuesday.
"Through a foundation - Satya Bharti School Trust - set up with a capital of Rs 2 billion, we are planning to establish primarily schools in 1,000 villages for underprivileged children, particularly girls," Mittal said on the sidelines of the ongoing India Economic Summit jointly organised by the World Economic Forum and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).
Fifteen such schools are already operational in Ludhiana, Punjab. By the beginning of the next academic session in April, 100 schools would have been made operational in Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh.
After the initial focus on northern states, Mittal said the plan was to set up schools in villages across the country.
"We have written to members of parliament to suggest areas where we could set up village schools which will provide free education up to class six along with mid-day meals. We will later help to provide links to middle and high schools or stream them into vocational courses," said Mittal.
Within one year, Mittal is hopeful of having all the 1,000 village schools operational. Each school would enrol around 150 students.
Being taken up as part of its corporate social responsibility, Bharti Enterprises' new activity fits in well with its foray into rural areas with telecom and retail linkage services through farming activities started in Punjab.
Mittal shares the view that the largest growth for the company, whether in telecom or retail venture, would come through focus on rural areas.
This has seen it chalk out special telecom packages for rural areas to hook villagers to mobiles and telephone links at 40-50 paise per minute tariffs.
On the agriculture front, the company is operating a 5,000-acre farm in Punjab and has plans to foray into Uttaranchal to grow horticulture produce catering not only to overseas demand but also supply through its own proposed retail network with Wal-Mart.