Tata Power and IHCL organise first multi-sectoral ‘National Roundtable Workshop on Neurodiversity’ with focus on Autism Spectrum Disorder

Tata Power Community Development Trust (Tata Power CDT) and the Indian Hotels Co. Ltd. (IHCL) jointly organized the first National Workshop on Neurodiversity in Mumbai with a focus on Autism Spectrum.

The workshop brought together representatives from the Tata Group, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India (GoI), The United Nations, practitioners and domain experts from the field of neurodiversity to deliberate and implement phygital interventions and support programs in Tier 2, and Tier 3 cities and rural India. A series of pre-consultation with experts from the field were carried out to put forward challenges and recommendations for working group to deliberate in the workshop. Several ground visits to early intervention centers in different regions were also conducted, along with a Disability Tech Expo event with set of experts to get maximum possible range of insights from the sector.

According to estimates by the Indian Council of Medical Research, India is home to more than ten million individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

The event aimed to create a collective platform for key actors to optimize existing efforts, cross-pollinate and enable required support ecosystems for early diagnosis, acceptance & care by leveraging the combined power of technology, people, corporate and Govt. schemes networks. The roundtable served as a prelude to form a National Working Group that will work jointly with key actors in this space including the Government of India – for taking forward sustainable value-adds & support programmes’ integration in the current system.

The day-long brainstorming session was part of Tata Power Community Development Trust’s PAY AUTENTION initiative, India’s first phygital Autism Support Network. The session saw participation from K. M. Chandrasekhar, Independent Director, Tata Power, and former Cabinet Secretary, GoI; Dr. Praveer Sinha, CEO&MD, Tata Power; Puneet Chhatwal, MD & CEO, IHCL; Rajeev Sharma, Joint Secretary, Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, GoI, who pressed upon the need to enable cross-sectoral collaboration among government, corporates and not-for-profits to strengthen the pan-India support ecosystem for ASD. They also urged the academic/research institutions and social enterprise incubators to contribute to as ecosystem enablers by plugging in innovation and inclusive phygital solutions, where viable.

Dr. Praveer Sinha, CEO & MD, Tata Power said, “Tata Power’s Pay Autention network strives to mainstream individuals with Autism and Neurodiversity. This workshop co-hosted with IHCL, will speed up our efforts to develop a pan-India ecosystem of services in the area of Neurodiversity which is severely constrained by lack of awareness, a weak support system and subpar diagnostic facilities.”

In alignment with the company’s D&I policy, Tata Power aims to bring people with Autism to the mainstream and groom, mentor and hire interns and associates with neurodiversity. The company will support them in enhancing skill sets, persona and facilitate an inclusive and accessible workplace environment.

Puneet Chhatwal, MD & CEO, IHCL said, “We are glad to join hands with Tata Power for scaling up the Pay Autention network for Autism and neurodiversity support by leveraging IHCL’s vast footprint and volunteers across the country. In line with Paathya, IHCL’s framework of sustainability and social impact measures, we believe in making inclusivity mainstream. At IHCL, we are committed to empower the neurodiverse community through focused skill training in line with our diversity and inclusion mission.”

Rajeev Sharma, Joint Secretary, Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (Divyanjan), Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, GoI presented the schemes & key initiatives of the Government aimed at building an inclusive and equitable society with equal opportunities for the growth and development of people with disabilities. He also mentioned the keen interest of Hon’ble Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi in empowering the divyangjan and making them an equal partner in country’s journey of growth. He said, “The government has taken various steps like setting up cross-disability early intervention centers across regions and has increased the number of disabilities from 7 to 21 (including Autism Spectrum Disorder) under the RPWD Act, 2016. This milestone initiative has paved the way to augment support for a large number of neurodiverse people across the country. I appreciate this endeavor which aims to bring together a robust support ecosystem for Autism and I believe this will go a long way in driving inclusivity.”

G. Vijaya Raghavan, Honorary Director, Centre for Autism and other Disabilities Rehabilitation Research and Education (CADRRE), and Ms. Foram Nagori, Head – CSR, Tata Power addressed the delegates, who were later divided into focus groups to deliberate on critical themes like early detection of ASD and timely intervention, making mainstream education sector inclusive, and deploying progressive technology and scaling through Hub and Spoke Models. Jyoti Kumar Bansal, Chief Branding, Comms, Sustainability & CSR , Tata Power summarized the key next steps that emerged from these deliberations and encouraged the group to continue working collaboratively to further systemic improvements and integrated actions.

Gauri Arora from the United Nations Resident Coordinator’s Office shared her experience on building cross-sectoral networks and the need to identify priority areas. Dr. K. Vijay Raghavan, Former Principal Scientific Advisor to the GoI shared his insights on research and technology efforts in the field of neurodiversity. Mr. Ferose V R, Senior Vice President and Head of SAP Academy for Engineering, Founder of ‘India Inclusion Summit’ and founder of SAP’s “Autism at Work”, shared his experience and learnings as a parent and from hiring talent with autism and advising on enabling supportive environments in many other corporates.

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