Corporate houses and PSUs can help bring a transformation in the northeast by promoting sports through CSR
GN Bureau | October 27, 2015
The northeast region of the country has been struggling with several socio-economic problems. Lack of education and employment opportunities in these states are creating further tribulations. However, the corporate social responsibility (CSR) has given a hope to people of the region to deal with many of these problems. To explore the possibilities of CSR in sports and skill development, Indian Chamber of Commerce along with the department of public enterprises, union ministry of heavy industries and public enterprises and Manipur government organised ‘CSR Conclave 2015 – Northeast Perspective’ focusing on sports and skills, in September in Imphal, Manipur.
After the opening note by Indian Chamber of Commerce director general Dr Rajeev Singh, a series of discussions on CSR in sports and skill development were held. Chairman, northeast chapter of SCOPE and Director (P), NEEPCO Limited, Satyabrata Borgohain suggested developing sport academies in the region stating that the region has enormous potential in sports apart from tourism. He also suggested setting up a skill development centre under the central government where the CPSEs can train youngsters.
Numligarh Refinery managing director B Padmanabham discussed various CSR initiatives undertaken by his PSU. “We have been practising CSR much before it became hype,” he said and shared two CSR practices of Numaligarh Refinery. “First, we react to situations, for example, during floods we provide food, housing material and other relief materials to victims. The second approach, an important part of our CSR, is sustaining changing societies by actually bringing a paradigm shift in the people working in our refinery.” As part of the CSR initiatives, the company is promoting skill development, education in the rural region, where it helps schools in building infrastructure, provide scholarship and promote girl child education.
The Brahmaputra river is a blessing for Assam but it has its own problems. During floods, the PSU facilitates ambulance speedboats and medical boats, equipped with doctors and medicines, to provide medical aid to people living in island areas. He also discussed an important pipeline project of preparing ethanol from bamboos: Numaligarh approached the Manipur government for procuring Bamboos for which some state government officials suggested them to set up the plant in Manipur. “We are excited to put a plant in Manipur and are looking forward to the state government’s support.”
Principal secretary, Manipur, Suhel Akhtar underlined that skill development and employment opportunities should go hand in hand. “Skill development is important but if you are not able to provide employment it does not serve any purpose. We should be in a position to provide employment if it cannot come from the government side. It has to be from either private sector or public sector. We have started some training in the state and we are in the process of collaboration so that we can place our people.” Meanwhile, Akhtar stressed on the need of a strong disaster management centre in the state. “We need strong communication system but the government alone cannot do it, so it can be done if it gets support from corporates as CSR for capacity building and creating infrastructure.”
Manipur additional chief secretary (elections) and in-charge chief secretary (works), O Nabakishore Singh, expressed his concerns over the adverse effects of corporates on people and environment and why CSR should be mandatory to address these concerns. “Ignoring environment or people will create unsustainability in business. In order to make business sustainable we need to take care of people and environment. If people are adversely affected, their capacity becomes much less,” he said.
Secretary, department of public enterprise, India, Ameising Luikham highlighted the important provisions of the new Companies Act and emphasised on sports infrastructure facilities in the state to address various challenges. “As far as Manipur is concerned, the state is skilled in terms of sports and has high potential in the sector. People from the state have participated in national and international sporting events. We have very small sports academy here, which is not enough. State departments along with sports associations can take charge of opening more academies and take these to district levels. With the continuity of two percent funding per year we can support boxers, weight lifters and other sport persons of high potential.” He also said that Manipur is facing huge unemployment. People from the state are working in metros. These people will come back to the state if they get opportunities in the state itself even in relatively lower salaries. “We have to see how Manipur will march forward as far as CSR is concerned. There is a large pool of money available so anything is possible,” he concluded.
Parliamentary secretary (tourism/sports/youth affairs), Manipur, Prithviraj Singh said there is a need to change the perspective of students and parents. He also stated that any state government cannot provide jobs to all educated people alone. “Therefore we need to think beyond the government sector where the role of corporate sector comes in.” He also suggested learning from countries like Singapore and Korea, which despite of the low population are able to perform well in sports. “We should compare the sports budget of our country with other countries leading in sports, and unless and until we give financial security to athletes nothing much will change.” He also requested corporates to support the sports academy of the state. He suggested opening BPOs by corporate houses so that they would get skilled and loyal workforce at lower cost apart from generating jobs for youth of the state. He further said that Manipur is known for its hospitality and this sector can also be explored.
During the technical session chaired by additional secretary, department of public enterprises, Madhukar Gupta, many core issues were discussed. Commissioner (commerce and industries), Manipur, VK Dewangan, highlighted the priorities of the state government. Sonal Desai, general manager CSR, HPCL, shared the scope and opportunities to invest in CSR sector. Chief general manager (HR), IOCL, Bubhuti Pradhan, shared the issues and challenges of implementing CSR projects after the enactment of the Companies Act, 2013. Director, ministry of corporate affairs, Seema, shared various provisions of CSR in the new law with opportunities in the region. Former captain of India B polo team, Bimol Singh, identified prospects of sports in the northeast region. An interactive session highlighted exemplary work done by various organisations in the state.
Summarising the conference,Madhukar Gupta said, “We have to start looking for more new ideas. People earning much less than us are contributing to the society more than we do.” He urged the corporates to go for projects which cater the weakest of society. Giving an example, he said, “There are people in jails who are not convicted but are accused and undertrial. I asked an organisation to see to their needs such as food, medicine, etc. When I sought response from the organisation, they told me that the inmates now eagerly wait for them every Sunday. Hence, people who are more deprived value more. And those who are working in fields know more about the kinds of projects required and how they should be designed.”
Answering a question on the process of getting CSR funding from corporates and other formalities, he made it clear that there is no form required to be filled up and there is no prescribed format. The CSR project funding can be applied by writing an email in simple language along with the estimated cost and impact of the project.
On the issue of noncompliance of CSR, he said companies are bound by certain regulations and there are provisions under the Companies Act. Companies that do not comply with the norms are liable for prosecutions or penalty. They have no other option but to comply with the norms of the act. Yes, there are issues; every committee is not wise enough for anything of any act. So some new amendments keep coming.
Governance Now was the media partner for the event.
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