Does Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), undertaken by Corporates including public sector ones, have potential to transform rural lives ?
Certainly, there is huge potential under CSR activities. We need a human-centric solutions for improving the lives of rural folks. Now the companies need to spend 2 percent of their profit on CSR and this fund will mostly go to rural areas as Corporates do undertake such activities nearby areas where their units/plants are located. However, we need smart spending under CSR and by that I mean it should focused on the basic needs. Is there any point to construct a building first if you want to impart education in a village ? Why can not a company initially rent a building to start a school! There are many such issues and we need a focussed approach to resolve these.
Do Companies need to rope in NGOs for CSR activities?
I strongly advocate partnership and meaningful partnership would yield better results. I have seen NGOs working relentlessly in rural areas of Rajasthan. We feel tired at times but they do not. Moreover, they have certain expertise, credibility and associations with the local people.So making them partners would make the task of social transformation a bit easy. However, big companies with strong manpower and expertise should take up CSR activities of their own unless it is necessary to partner some NGOs at some places. There is a need for building an environment of trust with the local partners while engaging with them in their development.
Are you satisfied the way public sector companies are moving in this (CSR) direction?
Economic change would impact everybody including rural people. For this change to happen, the government needs support from everyone. Companies support government in initiatives such as the Swachh Bharat Mission. They have taken initiatives which would contribute in the development of rural areas. Efforts of public sector enterprises towards subsidizing the cost of education, public health, building infrastructure, providing drinking water has certainly improved the quality of life of people. We need to widen the scope.
How does the government support Corporates?
The government has liberalized CSR and given freedom to the public sector companies to innovate their CSR initiatives to contribute in nation building. It is a great opportunity and the world is also looking up to how India is experimenting with this opportunity.
It is not only funds that are important, but the way in which we leverage our inherent expertise and the human resources to innovate and spend in the areas where there is maximum incremental impact is also important. Companies should leverage this opportunity and build bridges by bringing together different stake holders for the cause of nation building.