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Op-Ed

Corporate social responsibility (CSR)

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By EMN Updated: Jan 06, 2014 9:46 pm
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Dr Sedevi Angami

[dropcap]K[/dropcap]ohima has a landmark. It is called BOC. It stood for a fuel station. In earlier times, it was the only fuel station in the whole of Kohima. It had two fuel dispensing machines. The surroundings were dirty, dusty and full of puddles filled by waste mobile oil. The owners of this station never bothered to make it a pleasant place with overhead shades or plaster the parking area to make it neat. They had the monopoly over fuel in Kohima but did not give back anything to the place. The fuel station closed a few years back as more people developed better facilities around the city.Tata started off with steel. They have a cool advertisement. They talk about all the social and charitable projects they undertake in the country. At the end of it all, it closes with – We also make steel. Tata Trust now funds many worthy causes. They also govern the way Indians live. We drink Tata tea, wear Titan watches and Tanishq jewelry, buy stuff from Pantaloons, get our gadgets from Chrome, talk on Tata Indicom mobile network, drive Tata vehicles and stay at Ginger hotels – all Tata enterprises. Their social input seems to be paying off – apart from their market savvy culture.
Shell which is one of the largest oil companies in the world extracts oil from Nigeria one of the big oil producing countries. It ravaged the country for many years. Nigeria did not benefit from its oil except some wildly rich folks. Today, it advertises itself as a socially responsible company contributing to many worthy causes around the world. British petroleum (BP) seems to have caught on the same idea.
Bill Gates the once richest man of earth (and still a young man) put most of his earnings into the Gates foundation which funds a huge amount of social projects across the globe. Warren Buffet the then 2nd richest man and now an old man of 85 gave almost all of his personal fortune to the Gates foundation. When Lakshmi Mittal the 4th richest man was asked his opinion on this concept, he said – it was crazy. Gates and Buffet learnt the joy of giving early in life.
America is the greatest country on Earth today. Its multicultural people are the most creative and innovative people. Americans give to the world with phenomenal generosity. Children give out of their pocket money to feed the hungry in Africa. America takes. It also gives.
India has some of the most number of millionaires in the world. India does not give in proportion to its wealth. We do not have a culture of giving. It is mainly a culture of hoarding. We started spending just a few years back when Manmohan opened up the economy.
The Government of India has now passed an order saying that all companies/ corporates need to undertake CSR or corporate social responsibility projects. It comes from the concept that if you take from the land, you must give back to the land. You cannot just exploit the place and run off with your profits.
Today companies utilize CSR for various reasons. It helps them
• Get a good public image as a responsible organization with an interest in society.
• Helps them save on taxes
• Sell their products more as people would like to buy from good kind hearted responsible companies.
• Some do have a genuine interest in the country and people.
Closer home, how could we utilize and implement CSR. Why is CSR important?
Any unequal country will have more problems. As long as there is a disproportionate gap between the rich and the poor there will always be heartaches.
Wealth could be acquired through hard work and just means or corrupt ways. The end product of course is wealth that is visible.
If wealthy people give back to the land in a good proportion, others will not grudge them their wealth. The scripture is full of examples of instructions to wealthy people.
1. Look after your servants well – The Roman centurion and book of Philemon
2. Do not pick up the left over’s after your harvest so that the poor can glean from them.
3. Give and it shall be given unto you. Give cheerfully.
Wealthy people in Nagaland could practice CSR by
1. Creating scholarships for poor deserving students in select good schools. Rs 10,000/- per month will pay the fees of 20 children @500 per month.
2. Build concrete roads for at least about a km near their houses. (This will cost less than the lobsters they serve during their children’s weddings). The colony people would be very grateful.
3. Contribute to making the market sheds in their localities pucca so that they and their wives could walk through lovely paths when buying fish and vegetables ( instead of apologizing to their foreigner friends who come visiting)
4. Get their servants and domestic helpers to be educated in various crafts or correspondence courses so that they are empowered and uplifted.
5. Socially responsible organizations could raise an army of 10,000 volunteers to develop a 5 year long term strategy to clean Dimapur or other towns. Naga Blog did a similar event once. Raise funds for the same.
6. They could invest in low cost high quality patient and relatives guest house at some of the hospitals in the state under their parents names. This would be an immense help.
7. Create funds for Cancer patients to avail of basic chemotherapy and radiotherapy in some hospitals.
8. Sponsor the education of at least 5 orphans each in some high quality school. Some of these orphans might one day save the lives of their own children.
9. The recent step of Kuda villagers to mend the potholes of the main road is laudable.
10. Rich and well known schools could invest in developing similar schools – one each in the Eastern Nagaland areas or at least partner with some good people or the Catholics there to deliver education. No point calling those areas backward. It is our responsibility. We were fortunate that the missionaries first came to us. It is shameful for Kohima and Dimapur dwellers to live in comfort when our brothers languish in other places in this very tiny state of Nagaland.
The Government will never have enough resources to do what individuals or communities can do to help themselves.
The alternative to Corporate social responsibility is to live selfishly, look after number one – me and my immediate family and party members. When crime increases, we then have only ourselves to blame.
The health of a good society depends on how we treat the least and weakest amongst our members.
We have only one life to live. It is a very short life. Let us live it well and give back to the land that has given so much to us.

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By EMN Updated: Jan 06, 2014 9:46:01 pm