Dr. A. Prabaharan - Dean, Nehru Memorial College - On CSR and related issues

CSR Times: How do you rate current CSR practices in India?

Dr. A. Prabaharan: CSR practice in India is basically plough back capital.There are companies that have strong social commitments to society like TATA. If they wanted to be really commercial they would have been the number one company in the world.Though they manufacture everything from salt to software, they are still unable to become India’s number one company, reason being they have a soft corner for social development.It is one of the oldest companies in the country. There are companies that havecome up in the past two to three decades and they are more commercialized. For most of them, CSR is ploughing back the capital in theircompany. Every private company has capital that it invests in the business, and2% of the profitearned goes towards CSR. The money is spentthrough a particular foundation. In many cases, these foundations are headed by the spouse of the boss of the company. So in thisway, companies plough back the capital in the same network. It is not really beneficial to the societybut just an eyewash. Having said that, not all companies that work towards the benefit of the society are insincere. There are people who are doing good work, so CSR is a good initiative if done with good intentions.Currently it is not achieving 100 % of what it is meant to, so even if it achieves 30% it’ll be great but now it is only at 5% or 6%.

CSR Times: And what are the major concerns related to social work and its implementations? If we take CSR as an example, what according to you are the areas of improvement?

Dr A. Prabaharan: India is a vast country which cannot be developed by corporates alone.  The Bombay plan which was launched in 1944when Congress leaders like Pandit Nehru and Vallabhai Patel called upon all the big corporateleaders like TATA,Birla and others in the corporate sector to take over the Industrial Development to help the country to move forward. Do you know what they answered? They said “No we can’t get involved in there, it is a Government Responsibility, and it’s too big we can’t govern it.”The opportunity was given to the corporates as early as 1944 but then corporates were not ready because during the early period India was not developed. Also they felt that they could notget into a field, where they are not good at. They wanted to grow under the shadow of the Government. So in the sense, corporates can develop the country as a partner but they cannot execute single-handedly.

CSR Times: So what are the areas of concern and what are the domains that corporate and community should focus upon?

Dr A. Prabaharan: There are three main pillars of a country namely Executive, Legislature, and Judiciary. The fourth pillar is media.But I find that the fifth pillar most important which isthe corporate sector. So there are these five pillars and maybe someday NGO’s will be added as the sixth pillar too. But for now I feel that along with executive, judiciary, legislature and media, corporate world forms the main pillars of National Development. So neither corporates nor the government can undertake social development independently. All of us need toget together and engage in social development.

For that we need to have mainobjectives. Take the example of Jhunajhun district in Rajasthan. About 50% of India’s wealthiest people like Birla belong to the Jhunajhun District in Rajasthan. But if you happen to visit the place, you will realize it is still one of the most backward districts in the country.During the early days there was a concept called Community Development which means there is a small community within a large community that is responsible for taking care of the entire community. It is called Decentralization. Each corporate should try and develop the area within which it functions along with concern for the environment.

Unfortunately it is more like a predatory role where instead of developing the local area companies are exploiting local resourceslike land and water. The ruthless exploitation of natural resources has made the locals helpless and poorer. A few decades ago there was no water shortage in Kerala. But the continuous extraction since the past 30 years for making soft drinks has resulted in acute water deficits. The continuous mining of the sands in some areas has resulted in ecological devastation and continuous flooding too. Corporates should become more responsible and understand the importance of developing the nation. A nation cannot develop on its own. We need to do that collectively. The government is doing its job but corporates must collaborate with the Government and they must ensure development together with ecological safety.

CSR Times:  Most of your research is related to globalization. How canGlobalization and CSRgo hand in hand in India?

Dr. A. Prabaharan: Globalization is a fancy term. Ithas been there since the dawnof mankind.But this is a fancy phase and nobody is speaking about now.There are so many forums likeG-7,G-20, BRICS, NATO, OECD, OPEC, UN General Assembly, andThe Shanghai Groupamong many others without which globalization would be very difficult. But then to make these groups effective and toensure that the global welfare is the objective there must be genuine players. Each Prime Ministermust have a genuine idea. Every global organizationmust developgood rules and they must be safeguarded. These rules must also be followed and protected because if we follow the rules then there is no problem in the World.

CSR Times:Most of the players are talking about evaluation andimpact assessment. So what methodology do you suggest in social service so that one can measure the impact and then find out which are the areas we need to improve and act on?

Dr. A .Prabaharan: My concern is that some fraud elements are becoming more efficient than those who are responsible to catch those frauds. The problem intensifies when people doing wrong in the community are getting efficient by the day. There are so many people who are commercializing their activities in the name of social service. They are making money and are putting people in trouble too. So what I suggest is,planning and implementing stricter laws. Also police and vigilance department must become free from corruption. They must make sure that people who are misusing their social service labels are caught and punished immediately and sternly.

About Dr. A. Prabaharan

Dr. A. Prabaharan has more than 15 years of experience in research, teaching, administration and cross cultural management. He has been keenly researching globalization, digital society and global development for more than a decade.

He received his Ph. D, M. Phil and M.A degrees in sociology from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and B.A Philosophy degree from Madras Christian College.

A first class student from school to university, he received President of India Gold Medal Jitendra Rodricks Gold Medal, Queens Medal, and other 25 gold medals for his academic and leadership achievements.

He has lectured in more than 25 countries and was awarded several fellowships. A widely acclaimed writer and speaker at the global circuits.

A prominent leader from school days and was elected with huge margins of votes in his college and university for the top student bodies.

Dr. A. Prabaharan is currently the dean of Nehru Memorial College, Puthanampatty, Tamil Nadu

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