WHY INDIA NEEDS AGGRESSIVE CSR IMPLEMENTATION?

India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. The demographic dividend is a boon with large young population. It is one of the largest democracies in the world ensuring basic rights and plethora of opportunities to progress and prosper. It’s also a country struggling in addressing some of the basic social issues and the development needs are immense. The governance practices and policies are on the progressive lines, one of them being Corporate Social Responsibility provisions in the Companies Act.

It is a matter of fact that the new provisions of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in the Companies Act will increase the level of CSR giving in India and therefore opportunities to improve social indicators.Aim of the paper is to dovetail why India needs aggressive CSR implementation with an understanding of various social development parameters, browse through some opportunities to complement government efforts and intensify efforts to accept the changing perspectives.

Address Skewed Social Indicators

The United National Development Program (UNDP) ranks India relatively low, 135th rank in Human Development Report index.India’s performance continues to be below global average in most of the Human Development Index (HDI) indicators like life expectancy at birth, mean years of schooling, expected years of schooling and even per capita income. Some key indicators to worry about are: mean years of schooling 4.4 versus 7.7 years of global average, 62.8% adult literacy rate against global average of 81.2% and 6.5 physicians per 10,000 people vis-à-vis global average of 34.

Economic Survey 2013-14says that Human Development has to be taken into account in formulating and implementing social sector programs. The survey also states that the available large demographic dividend has to be nurtured, groomed and tapped. A healthy, educated and adequately skilleddemographic dividend is critical to tap the existing potential and it calls for huge investments in social infrastructure, skill development and empowerment of women.Therefore, one of the ways of augmenting such massive investments is to tap CSR funds.

Therefore, India needs aggressive CSR implementation to address long overdue skewed social indicators, support and augment government social development programs with changed perspective in flexible operational limits and acceptance and mover ahead with changed perspectives. It is a step closer in achieving an equitable, harmonious society with building vibrant economy marching towards global power. 

Augment Government Social Development Programs

It’s high time that government opens up some of the below programs for funding and project implementation under the gamut of CSR Act. These government programs have shown significant improvement in lives, potential to create impact and have opportunities to scale-up operations. It also helps in larger participation, execution and brings innovative monitoring practices. There is no better way to showcase a perfect example of Public-Private Partnership (PPP).

·         Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS): The program aims to tackle malnutrition and health problems in children below 6 years of age and their mothers.

·         Rajiv AwasYojana (RAY): Urban housing program to ensure every citizen has access to basic civic infrastructure and social amenities and decent shelter.

·         Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JnNURM): City modernization program meant to improve the quality of life and infrastructure in the cities.

·         Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY): The scheme seeks to preserve and rejuvenate the rich cultural heritage of the country.

·         National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM):The mission helps organize rural poor into Self Help Group and make them capable for self-employment.

·         Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA): 100 days of guaranteed rural wage employment for unskilled manual work.

It can address India’s challenge to deal with multiple and sometimes overlapping government projects. The need of the hour is to evolve newer approaches to revamp, reorganize and convergence of socialsector schemes. Corporate collaboration through CSR will certainly bring systemic processes in addressing complex issues of overlaps and duplication of programs. It also helps CSR to grow beyond mere meeting the legal compliance and make meaningful contribution.

Flexible Operational Limits

India is country of extremes. There is a mismatch between the regions with high levels of economic activity and some areas lacking most critical social indicators such as public health, poverty and unrest. One of the operational issues for companies in implementing the CSR Act is limiting to their physical geographic locations. In the context of special categories of companies such as e-commerce, business outsourcing and virtual service providers the physical location of a company may become obsolete and may even hinder them taking up strategic CSR. The Act should enable Companies to go beyond their physical locations and provide scope to expand operational limits where it matters the most. It also helps in reaching out to the far flung areas and amplifies aggressive implementation of CSR. It certainly helps in addressing the issue of regional imbalances, both social and economic. 

Acceptance of Changed Perspectives

Times have changed in the recent past for the good. CSR is moving from mere charity and donation to a more strategic function. It is time that Corporates hire seasoned professionals for managing CSR. The times have gone by where it was common for a generalist or a head of Human Resource to split time between CSR and other responsibilities. Given the context of challenges India faces, investment in personnel with background in designing, monitoring, executing and evaluating comprehensive sustainable solutions to social problems is imminent. The role of a CSR professional is growingmulti-folds with not just social responsibility, but also plenty in the larger area of sustainability.

One of the reports says that there is one NGO for every 600 people in India. However, it is surprising to note that most of the Corporates do not find eligible partners for program implementation. Institutional and capacity building programs for NGOs are also equally important to reduce the trust deficit between Corporates and NGOs on the aspects of transparency and designing the programs.Premier educational institutions have picked up the steam and offering top notch CSR programs. However, there’s hardly any time to wait and watch. It’s time such institution numbers multiply and pump as many seasoned social sectors professionals who can articulate proposals, deploy projects and track and report the impact. This space is also in dire need of specialists such as architectures,civil engineers, conservationists, ecologists,environmentalists, historians, urban planners,wildlife experts and etc.

Therefore, India needs aggressive CSR implementation to address long overdue skewed social indicators, support and augment government social development programs with changed perspective in flexible operational limits and move ahead with changed perspectives. It is a step closer in achieving an equitable, harmonious society with building vibrant economy marching towards global power. 

 

About the Author

Nirbhay is associated with Corporate Social Responsibility. 

Community Posts