Case studies

Vijay Tanwar

Age: 44

Occupation: Manager – Health, Workplace Interventions & Public Relations, SNS Foundation.

Family: Lives with wife and sons aged 13 and 11.

Vijay Tanwar - the man who lives for others

Vijay Tanwar has been the outreach worker with Gurgaon based NGO, SNS Foundation, for over 12 years, implementing the on-site worker welfare programme for Punj Lloyd. 

It was in 2007 that SNS Foundation took up the mantle to launch the Life Enrichment programme at Punj Lloyd’s construction site at Medicity, Gurgaon. Vijay recalls that while he had worked on several CSR projects for various companies, this was the first time he worked with construction workers. 

"We initiated the programme for HIV/AIDS awareness but the turnout for the group discussions was dismal. The reason was the stigma of HIV/AIDS but then I spent a lot of time with the workers, trying to break the ice and understand their dilemma".  

Vijay also realised that there were several other events in the lives of workers which could impact their predisposition to diseases, and more specifically HIV/AIDS. As the outreach worker for the project, Vijay quickly advised Punj Lloyd to rename the programme. After discussion at length, the team called it ‘Life Enrichment’ as the objective was to help workers in more ways than one.

“It is a remarkable feeling to be able to save a life or teach people to live their life to the fullest. Often it is simple psychology. A lot of ills in our society exist as people feel unwanted or unimportant. They then succumb to alcohol or other bad habits.”

Vijay observes how in a construction industry for instance, a worker lives with the belief that his life has little or no value, hence his death will have no impact on anyone. Once he finds a social cocoon around him and realises that the company and even the nation truly cares for his welfare, he practices what he is taught, for example with regard to safety measures and abstinence from bad habits.

I have now rolled out the Life Enrichment programme in many Punj Lloyd construction sites and every time a fresh spade of issues surface. People view us with caution. Employees and workers likewise cannot understand our interventions initially.

I spend hours living with the workers in their personal quarters and being one of them, to unite them and educate them on simple things. I ask them: ‘If this was your house, who would clean the toilet for you?. I have realised that simple things like street theatre have a far more powerful impact on the minds of workers than planned speeches.Vijay has moved to newer sites, but still gets many calls from workers across the country.  Some of them are good friends and like to update him. Some have told their new employers to conduct similar activities for worker welfare as Punj Lloyd does.

“I feel very proud when they call me. This is the true measure of my success! The most satisfying moment for me was when I was able to convince the commercial sex workers in the area to come for screening.”

Vijay’s inclination towards social work started early, as he explains: “It was in me from childhood. I enjoyed doing social work. In school, I opted to be an NCC cadet. I loved volunteering during pulse polio or road safety campaigns, among others.” Eventually Vijay undertook a Masters degree in Social Work from Allahabad University, and went on to a Diploma in HIV/AIDS and Family Education from IGNOU. Planning to undertake a Ph.D next, Vijay also hopes to capture his interactions with the workers whom he has got to know very closely in a film.

His work on ‘Life Enrichment’ has been a great professional and personal learning. From limited interactions previously, the programme has enabled him to work with a wide range of people, from corporates, workers, hospitals, labour commissioners and police, to HIV-positive people at state and district level and various other linkage clusters.

Vijay credits his organisation, SNS Foundation, as the secret to his success in the field and especially its Executive Director, Indira Varadaraja, who he says has mentored and encouraged him every step of the way. But as much as Vijay loves his work, it’s not without a downside. Working in the field takes him away from home for long periods, meaning he misses out on life at home.

“My wife says I am doing well for the world but don’t have enough time for my own family. She is right and I must give my family quality time, especially as my young boys, 13 and 11, are growing up. But my experiences in recent years have taught me that I can impact the lives of so many people and, by not giving my best, I shall be depriving those who need guidance and handholding”.