Shallu Jindal, the new chairperson of National Bal Bhavan, promises to revamp the institution in three years. She chatted with Karan Bhardwaj about her plans for sports, museums and recreational activities
Shallu Jindal, a well-known classical dancer, is busy flipping through files these days that keep coming to her table every morning.
Meeting new people, overseeing construction work and at times, getting stern with labourers, is part of her daily routine. Shallu has been appointed as the new chairperson of National Bal Bhavan, a reputed institute set up by Jawaharlal Nehru for children. The institute has had the honour of having some of the best known personalities as its head.
“I am honoured. When I look at the list of former chairpersons, I realised the magnitude of responsibility,” said Jindal as we met her in her office.
The new job is not a cakewalk for her as she found several loopholes in the institute on her first day itself. “When I joined, I found that things were amazing but they were in dilapidated condition. The museums here, such as Science Museum, Discovery India, Hamara Bharat Museum, sports facilities, toy train all are in 90s era. So it is important to upgrade these facilities. I aim to modernise the system and make it the Bal Bhavan of 21st century while keeping the history and legacy intact,” she said.
The institute, which has free membership for under-privileged kids, has fantastic facilities which are not popularised yet. It boasts of central Delhi’s only skating ring. Toy train is one-of-its-own-kind feature.
“I want more children to come and avail the services. I also want to expand the canvas of sports such as badminton, carrom, chess, table tennis. We are also making a rock climbing wall. There’s a nice aviary here which is not kept well. Children institutions all over the world are in fabulous shape. I want to recreate that here,” she says.
How are you going to deal with bureaucracyIJ
“The process changes when the person who wants to get things done is extremely committed.
For instance, I wanted to upgrade the wall which faces the route of toy train. The train ride is not a pleasurable experience due to an ugly wall, undone trees, debris and garbage. So I wanted to renovate the route while painting the journey of India on the walls. So I called street artistes to paint it. When these artistes came, they complained that the staff was not cooperative. I walked with them for three hours and got the work done. After that, I could see the change in attitude of staff. They now know ‘this woman means business.’ Another instance, toilets are not in good shape. The staff blames children for it. So we put up posters and educated children,” she said.
While museums may take time, she has set deadlines to complete tasks like upgrading horticulture, planetariums, setting up of signages and maps.
Shallu, wife of industrialist Navin Jindal, is also urging corporate world to invest in the institute as their CSR. “Our company would contribute 50 per cent in the budget for setting up museums. At the same time, there are other corporates who are willing to donate funds. So I don’t thing there will be monetary problems,” she said.
A number of times, apolitical figures find it difficult to adjust with the laidback bureaucratic procedures and systems. Unlike corporate world, where professional ethics and impeccable presentations earn you brownie points, dealing with government projects is no child’s play.
“But I am trying to strike a balance. There are hurdles in passing the budgets or get them allotted from the government. So I look up to corporate backing in that sector,” she shared.