Opinion | Anant Ambani’s Vantara Brings Animal Spirits and Generational Shift in CSR

opinion | anant ambani’s vantara brings animal spirits and generational shift in csr

About 200 rescued elephants live here, besides lions, tigers, leopards, crocodiles and numerous other animals.

Jeebe daya kore jei jon

Shei jon shebichhe Ishwar…

…goes Swami Vivekananda’s immortal quote in Bengali. It loosely means: whoever extends compassion and service to animals is serving the Divine itself.

When a member of one of the richest and most powerful families in the world becomes the voice and limbs of the most voiceless and vulnerable creatures, divinity or not, it reinforces one’s faith in mortals.

Everybody is talking about Nita and Mukesh Ambani’s youngest son for a reason. And that is not just because Anant Ambani is getting married to Radhika Merchant in Jamnagar later this year.

It is chiefly because he has set up the world’s largest rescue and rehabilitation centre for injured, abused and tortured animals. The open zoo-like facility in Jamnagar named Vantara (star of the forest) is spread over 3,000 acres — nearly half of Lutyens’ Delhi — and houses over 2,000 species of wildlife.

Most of these were rescued from near-death conditions and the squalor of cages. They were brought here from across the world. About 200 rescued elephants live here, besides lions, tigers, leopards, crocodiles and numerous other animals. The nonprofit provides livelihood to 3,000 people, mostly caretakers.

It is comforting to see the younger generation of Ambanis so rooted in dharma and ancient Bharatiya thought exhorting respect and care for animals. Lord Krishna got the name Giridhar Govardhan after holding aloft the Govardhan mountain with his little finger to protect every creature in Gokul from the wrath of Indra, the God of storm, rain and thunder.

From Rigveda to Yajurveda, Manusmriti to Puranas, compassion for animals flows untrammelled.

Anant Ambani’s rescue and rehab mission brings a certain wholeness to the Reliance business universe and infuses it with a thousand happy sighs of innocent, tormented creatures. Anant says his mother inspires him the most, and that she is the silent force behind his Vantara initiative. He says his soon-to-be wife Radhika is equally passionate about animal rights and welfare. And he credits his father Mukesh Ambani and grandfather Dhirubhai Ambani for instilling a sense of service in business.

The initiative does give Corporate Social Responsibility a different dimension altogether. It lifts CSR from the realm of the perfunctory to the warm drama of flesh, blood and soul of our co-creatures.

Instead of outsourcing CSR to in-house or hired agencies, here is a promoter-scion building an empire of empathy himself; surgery by surgery, free step by free step, tree by tree.

Also, this is the kind of CSR with which late millennials, Gen Z, and Gen Alpha of a new India can vibe. It marks the end of an era in which Indians were obsessed with merely surviving or struggling to fix their standard of living. This is a Bharat in which basic needs are being taken care of, endemic poverty is almost dead, and the collective mind is freeing up to think of others. Not just others within our often-vain species, but also outside it.

From the world of corporations, Anant Ambani is among the first to quietly book an address in that space.

Abhijit Majumder is a senior journalist. Views expressed in the above piece are personal and solely that of the author. They do not necessarily reflect News18’s views.

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