India is full of diversities. On one hand, it is one of the fastest growing economies in the world while on the other hand a significant number of its citizens struggle to make both ends meet.
The Planning Commission of India has declared recently that percentage of people living below the poverty line has declined to 21.9% in 2011-12, from 29.8% in 2009-10. It is evident that government is making all efforts to improve the systems and infrastructure and has also facilitated collaborative efforts with Corporate to speed up the economical growth of the country.
The corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives aim at an inclusive growth for the companies and various stakeholders in the value chain. With more and more corporates in India participating in CSR initiatives, it is seen that the investment in such activities have increased in recent years. These activities are expected to increase manifold by the passage of the Companies Act, 2013 where CSR has been formally introduced to the dashboard of the Boards of Indian companies.
According to a media report, the Corporate Affairs Minister Sachin Pilot said, “This money would not come to the government of India. It is the companies’ money and they can spend as per the decision taken by the CSR committee of their board. But they must report the same,” Pilot said. “Our assessment is that if every company that is qualified for doing the CSR does so, then Rs 15,000-20,000 crore would be spent in a year in various projects such as environment, skill development, water, sanitation etc. We have left the canvas very wide as we thought it would not be proper to make it restrictive.”
He has asked companies to see the new law as an investment opportunity to create a better work environment, rather than a forced expenditure. This applies to the companies with turnover of Rs 1,000 crore and more, or net worth of Rs 500 crore and more, or a net profit of Rs 5 crore and more. The industry has responded positively to the reform measure undertaken by the government with a wide interest across the public and private sector, Indian and multinational companies.
Water-A basic necessity, a right
How can CSR initiatives be designed? Let’s begin with an exemplar in this direction. Under the scanner is the 4000 MW Mundra UMPP, developed by Coastal Gujarat Private Limited (CGPL), a wholly owned subsidiary of Tata Power Company. Located in the Kutch region of Gujarat, the CGPL project is spread over 6 catchment villages primarily Tunda-Vandh, Mota Kandagra of Mundra; Nanabhadia, Tragadi and Modhva of Mandvi Taluka of Kutch. Its activities have now been extended to the entire block.
The company is partnering growth in and around the region since its establishment in 2012. Many initiatives have been undertaken by the company to involve the local villagers and fishermen communities and engage with them.
The company realized the scarcity of water and is currently working around providing clean drinking water to the local villagers. The Kutch region is a water scarce region where the main source of water is ground water. The villagers had to walk 1-2 Kms every day in order to collect drinking water. To address the issue, CGPL installed ‘community reverse osmosis plants’ in villages and schools with the support of Tata Projects. The initiative has been named as ‘Swachh Jal’.
The system desalinates groundwater and provides drinking water to the communities as well as school children. RO plants have been installed in 16 villages in Mundra region that includes Mota Kandagara, Nana Bhadiya, Tragadi, and Gundiyali. A water committee has been established to manage the day to day activities and operations of RO plants established for communities. A minimal charge is taken for each 20 litres of pure drinking water which helps Village Water Committees to cover the expenses on R.O. maintenance. The water charge is levied intending to grow a sense of ownership towards the project and make it self-sustaining.
RO plants have also been installed in 12 schools with the support of WASMO. These RO plants are managed by the school authorities with the active support of WASMO. Any problem which arises is mitigated through intimation to a toll free number which has dedicatedly been placed by WASMO.
Has CGPL been able to deliver? The answer lies in the response of the local people who witnessed the process and actually experienced the impact.
Geetaben Mahendrabhai, 40 years old, Tunda village is convinced that Swachh Jal initiative has changed the destiny of his village. “The RO plant set up by CGPL has benefited us as illness like stomach aches and joint pains have drastically reduced. The approach of CGPL for developmental work is unique and under this program employment to the local people has been assured, who come to deliver the water at home”.
The CSR activities benefit both the communities and the corporates in a number of manner like, the confidence of the communities on the corporate is increased and they eye them as a partner in the development of the region. The corporate also enjoys enhanced reputation in the region. Other factors like employment generation are beneficial to both the parties in terms of attracting labour from nearby region. Many corporates even source a part of their raw materials as a part of their CSR initiative.
Experts claim that ethical conduct of companies also influences the buying pattern of the customers. Investors, too, apparently prefer to remain loyal to industries which are known for their ‘ethical concerns’.
A successful CSR initiative, therefore, translates into improved financial performance and sometimes even leads to greater productivity.
The CSR activities in Mundra are a wholesome initiative undertaken by Tata Power. Many such initiatives are being undertaken by other corporates as well. However, this year will lay a milestone as we will see more companies walking into the space, some by choice and some by the directive.