CSR, India Inc. and Rural Education

The winter session of the parliament passed the new Company Bill that has mandated India Inc. to spend 2 percent on CSR, Corporate Social Responsibility. As per one of the estimates, Indian companies may have to collectively spend close to USD 2 billion (about Rs 8,700 crore) a year on CSR programmes. “There are about 1,227 Indian listed companies who have posted profits for the last financial year. The total aggregate profits posted by these companies for the last financial year works out to Rs 4,37,167 crore,” According to a report.

For long I am appealing to India Inc. to focus fully on educating and skilling the under-privileged children in rural India leaving other fields for the government. I firmly believe with education and education only India can get over all its problems. It will also help the companies in getting better and more productive human resources and committed consumers. CSR can start with a creativity centre, and a library in each of the village schools and with ensuring to develop at least one employable skill in upper classes before any student passes out school final or class XII. Skills may range from nursing, stitching, and hairdressing to driving, masonry, plumbing or fitting or electrical repair.

Indian government has taken up a big task of creating 500 million skilled labour forces. However, it needs badly a proactive support from corporate India. Every company on its own or joining with others in the same or complimenting business sector must set up a training centre to prepare the employees required in future. This practice was quite prevalent in our days in 50s and 60s. I worked for Hindustan Motors and was very much familiar with many companies such as Tata Motors and HMT. All these firms had good training centres that prepared manpower for the industry through training in different trades. Tata Motors that used to be called TELCO in those days used to send the toppers in the training schools to its collaborators plants in Germany.

As reported, even today some of the progressive companies are having well-equipped and manned training facilities. However, the demand of skilled hands is huge. According to a 2010 Economic Times report, construction sector in India is expected to face a potential labour shortage of 170-180 million people by 2022. Moreover, the skilled workmen are in shortage almost in all countries. So a number of companies in the business are setting up facilities to train the manpower in skills in demand in these sectors.

As reported, L& T has established a training institute that is training thousands of workers across several states, and is planning to launch further vocational training for positions such as millwright fitters, transmission line tower erection fitters, tiling masons, and surveyors.

Future Group recently formed a public-private-partnership with the rural development ministry to train – and place – 32,000 below-poverty-line youth from rural areas in 19 states over a one-and-half-year period.

However, the main thrust of CSR must be on providing good education for the students in rural schools by setting up schools there or through takeover of existing schools. As I have observed at least in Bihar and UP, the government schools are just defunct. Teachers are hardly interested in educating the students. The government may claim anything but the dropouts up to class XII are dismally high and the quality of the output is still more worrying. Some of the industrialists are attempting to attend to the situation through their foundations;

1.Shiv Nadar Foundation has started two schools, one in Bulandsahar Sahara and Sitapur in UP.

2.The Azim Premji Foundation (APF) plans to start 1,300 schools across the country- two per district – which will be free, impart education in the local language and be affiliated to the state board.

3.Bharti Foundation will reach out to more than 2,00,000 children through 500 Primary and 50 Senior Secondary Satya Bharti Schools across the country. Currently 242 Satya Bharti Primary Schools and 5 Senior Secondary Schools are operational, reaching out to approximately 30,000 children and recruiting over 1200 teachers across the states of Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

Many more must be running educational institutes.

I wish the private sector and philanthropists realize the dismal situation in rural India, particularly in backward district and take initiative to educate the masses there.

Rural India, particularly the Hindi belt has some unique problem. One most important one is media of instruction. The students have a totally different mother tongue, be it Bhojpuri, Magahi, or Maithili or some other one spoken and heard at home. In school, they are taught in Hindi or English. The language teacher must work hard to make them proficient in them. It can be eased using latest well- designed audio and video aids. Similarly, the imparting the knowledge of mathematics and science, that are the foundation subjects for higher education that the country needs. With Internet coming up to the village scheme, the educating may further ease. May be very some voters will translate the education materials made available free by the reputed Khan Academy to even the kids in even the rural schools.

Let the India Inc must take the mandated CSR with a mission and not only to write a section in the company’s annual balance sheet with data to satisfy the regulatory requirements.

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