Corporate India’s Doubtful CSR or Affirmative Actions?

Many a times, I wonder if the companies and the association representing them genuinely are concerned about the people’s woe or it shades only crocodile tears when pressed to comment. I am all against reservations. But there are always some jobs that can go to some really financially deprived class.

Some ministers were hell bent on bringing in a reservation for SC/ST in private companies. PM also emphasized rather appealed to do something for the deprived class. Industry’s representatives found a smart way of avoiding commitment on reservation and talked of affirmative actions on the line of American affirmative actions. Industry also agreed to take steps to create employment options for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. It never wanted that to be legislated or made mandatory.

As reported, the promised affirmative action of the corporate India “hasn’t gone anywhere”. As even the big industrialists were involved, none of the ministers dare to displease them. According to the information known through press, even the group of ministers, formed five years back to look into it, hasn’t gone anywhere. Some says the group followed an approach- “let sleeping dogs lie.”

But I wonder why can’t the industry start some voluntary initiatives on its own under its CSR or philanthropic activities that it keeps on advancing through media.

It is unfortunate that only 579 out of about 7,000 CII members have adopted the self-imposed code. Out of Assocham’s 2,50,000 direct and indirect members, only 50 have signed up the code of conduct inked by CII-Assocham in October 2006. Let the industry understand its dangerous consequences with the changing social awareness. If one day something like food riots start in India, it will affect the industry most. And perhaps that is one of the reasons why small and big corporate houses are going for acquisitions abroad in such a big way.

The industry- almost all associations agreed for creating educational facilities, particularly related to skill development. Even in good old days, say sixties, many companies including Hindustan Motors (HM) where I worked and TELCO (present name Tata Motors) that I kept on visiting since my IIT days, had very good training facilities for apprentices in different trades though mostly those which were needed for the internal requirement of auto manufacturing.

The government thereafter started setting up the industrial training institutes (ITIs). And many companies employed the passing out candidates. It was a good initiative. But then with the slowdown in industry and complacency in the system, the skill standard of the institutes deteriorated. And very soon with the boom in economy today, it is difficult to find skilled persons. The industry faces an acute shortage of trained manpower. Even the construction industry faces today the shortage of skilled masons, plumbers, electricians and carpenters.

The industry in its affirmative action could have certainly taken up the task of skill building in big way from the rural level itself. All middle and high schools throughout the country could have the facility of trade training to build skilled manpower instead of creating a mass of just unskilled menial workers. Instead of providing charity to build dharamsala and temples, the industrialists could have taken of the task of building the institutions starting from the trade schools to engineering colleges. India requires at least 100,000 trade schools.

The Finance Minister has kept on mentioning about the up gradation and adoption of the Industrial Training Institutes by the private companies right from his 2004 budget speech. The industry has adopted only 300 ITIs, and the expected result is still uncertain.

Can one believe a CII report? “In the first year-22,580 candidates from the SC/ST communities (against the target of 10,000) have been trained to make them more employable, and 1,594 candidates are being trained to become entrepreneurs. And, in 2007, 531 scholarships were handed out to students in premier educational institutions.”

Is it not too little and too late too?

Sometimes, I wonder why a state such as Rajasthan could remain poor on human development index with the majority of industrialists and businessmen coming from the state. Should the industrialists be not ashamed of Rajasthan’s rating regarding education and healthcare?

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