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CSR law: A way to reduce trust deficit between NGOs and Companies

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By Jaideep Sarin

Manesar:  With companies that fall under the ambit of the new guidelines of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) likely to report about their activities from next month, the trust deficit between them and NGOs is likely to reduce, a senior functionary in this field said.

“Over the years, a fairly large trust deficit has developed between NGOs and corporates (over CSR activities). Corporations, for their part, find it difficult at times to place their faith in NGOs. Their hesitation relates largely to issues of ethics and implementation capabilities.

“The new legislation will lead to a synergistic partnership between corporations, NGOs and the government which would also allow for greater transparency in the operations of all three agencies,” Bhaskar Chatterjee, director general and chief executive officer of the Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs (IICA), told a media outlet in an interview.

“Government data can help guide CSR agendas into areas it is most needed, corporations have experience making sure the projects are streamlined and costa conservative, and NGOs have experience and knowledge of marginalized and underserved areas of society as well as experience in operational transparency. If a symbiotic relationship can develop between corporations, NGOs and the government, socially responsible programmes will have a measurable impact faster and more efficiently than if there is less transparency and no trust,” Chatterjee said.

The new CSR rules under Section 135 of the amended Companies Act, 2013 came into force from April 1 last year. Companies falling in the ambit of the new rules were mandated to spend two percent of their net profit (average of last three years) on CSR activities.

Rough estimates indicate that nearly Rs 25,000 crore (over $3.5 billion) could be spent by companies in CSR activities in the first year (2014-15) itself.

“Presently, it is estimated that nearly 14,000 to 16,000 companies are likely to come under the ambit of the CSR legislation. Actual expenditure will become clearer after companies do their CSR reporting and audited results are made available in the public domain from September onward,” Chatterjee said.

Except for large corporates and old companies, most of the companies falling under the ambit of the new rules are first-timers who do not have much expertise about CSR.

Corporate Social Responsibility
credits: willnevergrowup.com

Chatterjee pointed out that the spirit of the new CSR rules was not to have the government control the CSR funds of companies engaged in the activity.

“The role of the government is to create an enabling environment so that companies are motivated, encouraged and inspired to undertake meaningful, impactful, sustainable and result-oriented projects and programmes on the ground. The purpose and spirit of CSR law is not that the government is to use or control any funds either for management of CSR or for doing CSR management in any way,” Chatterjee pointed out.

The IICA, which is under the ministry of corporate affairs, was set up to provide a holistic think tank, capacity building and service delivery institution, operating through effective partnerships with corporates and professionals and institutions. It has set up a CSR Implementing Agency Hub to create an extensive database of the implementing agencies. It has also launched new courses to meet the burgeoning demand for trained CSR professionals from the corporate, public and NGO sectors.

With the new rules in force, the CSR sector activity is likely to be streamlined in the coming years.

“There was a time when development and corporate sector functioned in a mutually exclusive fashion. In fact, many a time, they found – and continue to find – each other as an adversary. The changing milieu, however, is encouraging them to come to the same table. The business regulations in India have already created a platform for NGOs to play a part by recommending the implementation of CSR projects through NGOs and development sector agencies,” Chatterjee said.

(IANS)

 

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Women In India Turn To Technology To Stay Safe From Harassment

Police in many Indian cities are also encouraging women to use apps to register complaints

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Women, Harassment
Women stand at a crowded place in the southern Indian city of Bangalore, Oct. 9, 2006. Safety is the biggest concern for women using public and private transport, according to a survey Thursday. VOA

New web and phone apps in India are helping women stay safe in public spaces by making it easier for them to report harassment and get help, developers say.

Women are increasingly turning to technology to stay safe in public spaces, which in turn helps the police to map “harassment prone” spots — from dimly lit roads to bus routes and street corners.

Safety is the biggest concern for women using public and private transport, according to a Thomson Reuters Foundation survey released Thursday, as improving city access for women becomes a major focus globally.

“Women always strategize on how to access public spaces, from how to dress to what mode of transport to take, timings and whether they should travel alone or in a group,” said Sameera Khan, columnist and co-author of “Why Loiter? Women And Risk On Mumbai Streets.”

#MeToo, Victim, Harassment
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) politician M.J. Akbar takes the oath during the swearing-in ceremony of new ministers, July 5, 2017, at the Presidential Palace in New Delhi. The Indian minister and veteran newspaper editor announced his resignation, Oct. 17, 2018, while still insisting that the accusations of sexual harassment are false. VOA

Reported crimes up 80 percent

Indian government data shows reported cases of crime against women rose by more than 80 percent between 2007 and 2016.

The fatal gang rape of a young woman on a bus in New Delhi in 2012 put the spotlight on the dangers women face in India’s public spaces.

The incident spurred Supreet Singh of charity Red Dot Foundation to create the SafeCity app that encourages women across 11 Indian cities to report harassment and flag hotspots.

“We want to bridge the gap between the ground reality of harassment in public spaces and what is actually being reported,” said Singh, a speaker at the Thomson Reuters Foundation’s annual Trust Conference on Thursday.

India, Harassment
Students and teachers of Jawaharlal Nehru University participate in a protest demanding suspension of a professor accused of sexual harassment, in New Delhi. VOA

The aim is to take the spotlight off the victim and focus on the areas where crimes are committed so action can be taken.

Dimly lit lanes, crowded public transport, paths leading to community toilets, basements, parking lots and parks are places where Indian women feel most vulnerable, campaigners say.

Stigma attached to sexual harassment and an insensitive police reporting mechanism result in many cases going unreported, rights campaigners say.

Apps are promising

But apps like SafeCity, My Safetipin and Himmat (courage) promise anonymity to women reporting crimes and share data collected through the app with government agencies such as the police, municipal corporations and the transport department.

Students and teachers of Jawaharlal Nehru University participate in a protest demanding suspension of a professor accused of sexual harassment, in New Delhi
People hold placards at a rally condemning the rapes of two girls, aged 8 and 11, in Ahmedabad, India. VOA

“The data has helped in many small ways,” said Singh of the Red Dot Foundation. “From getting the police to increase patrolling in an area prone to ‘eve-teasing’ to getting authorities to increase street lighting in dark alleys, the app is bringing change.”

Also Read: Women And Girls In Poor Countries Are Using Contraceptives More: Report

Police in many Indian cities, including New Delhi, Gurgaon and Chandigarh, are also encouraging women to use apps to register complaints, promising prompt action.

“Safety apps are another such strategy that could be applied by women but I worry that by giving these apps, everyone else, most importantly the state, should not abdicate its responsibility towards public safety,” Khan said. (VOA)