From the desk of Editor- in -Chief

Is Corporate Social Responsibility a litmus test for NGOs only?

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is the buzzword now days in the NGO sector. After the CSR law, many Institutional donors and foreign funding agencies in India are withdrawing citing the reasons that enough resources are available in India in philanthropy. Many also agreed to contribute 2% of their profit for social cause- few willingly and others because of the law of the land. Definitely, a window opened for civil society- a ray of hope when a major source of funds was drying up. In early 2000, it was an awkward situation- for both NGOs as well as Corporate. How to identify a good and credible NGO- was a question each Corporate was asking. And how to approach a Corporate? And where? Each NGO was struggling to get their leg into CSR funding as hardly anybody had past experience. Language and orientation of both the sectors were totally different.
One was “for profit” sector; another was “not for profit”. One was keen to talk about conventional charity, services and visible issues like education, health while the other was talking about rights of marginalized, capacity building and governance. In a way, it was obvious that it was going to be a forced marriage between the two. But even in the forced marriage, there was a cave of huge trust deficit. The main problem is that the two entities are not engaging in “Partnership” rather getting more into a “vendor” relationship. Corporate usually ask one question: How to find a good NGO- which is not corrupt? They ask for due diligence and expect the NGO to be very professional in conduct, reporting and financial management and at times also expect “return on investments” in social programs.

Battle against human trafficking

By Lakshmi Sharan

Trafficking is one of the most rampant crimes in a labour-surplus and developing country like India. Unfortunately we have not been able to tackle the issue, lack of stringent rules in the country being a major deterrent in holding the atrocity.
Recently, India’s first comprehensive anti-trafficking bill, seeking to deal with the crime from the point of prevention, protection and rehabilitation, was tabled and passed in the Lok Sabha. In this context, NGO Prayas, in collaboration with IWG (Interim Working Group), organized National Consultation on Human Trafficking: “Survivor Speaks – Words for Action”. Prayas is deeply committed towards addressing the issues of the deprived and exploited children, youth and women for the last 27 years, as it is a humanitarian development organization and has been working at reorganizing and rebuilding the lives of children who are trafficked, helpless and homeless. The Interim Working Group is a working group of 18 organizations that engage regularly on anti-trafficking and other related issues.
Notably, human trafficking is the third largest organized crime after drugs and the arms trade across the globe. The 2016 NCRB Statistics suggest that 8,132 cases of trafficking were reported across the country with the number of victims rescued being 23,117. 45% of these victims were trafficked for the purpose of ‘forced labour’, followed by ‘sexual exploitation for prostitution’ (22%) etc.
“It is a very pathetic condition that children and young women are brought from rural areas or sometimes even other states, to be engaged as domestic help in households or various small-scale establishments in urban centers. Many of these people eventually get exploited economically, physically and also sexually. To address this, we have been constantly engaging for a comprehensive anti-trafficking law in the country which could guarantee better institutional support to the victims as well as ensure that their rights remain protected,” says Amod K Kanth, Former DGP, Chairperson, DCPCR, General Secretary, Prayas, JAC Society.


During the interactive session organised by the Prayas Juvenile Aid Centre (JAC) Society, 11 survivors from 11 states narrated their ordeal.
Deva, a survivor from Tamil Nadu’s Erode district and an engineering student said, she was accidently trafficked. She was lured by an agent who promised her a job at a spinning mill in Tirupur. She wanted to pursue her studies but due to financial constraints, she was advised by her mother to work. When she reached Tirupur, she was tortured and physically abused. She was made to work for more than 12 hours a day.
“I realised that I was not the only one. Several girls like me were trapped. I was 12 when I was lured with false job promises. Even when we went on sick leave, we were made to work extra and were not paid. When we approached the police, they blamed us for taking up these jobs,” she added.
A 21-year-old woman from Chhattisgarh participating in the conference voiced out that she and her family were forced into bonded labour.On the pretext of giving jobs, she and 13 others from her village were taken to Odisha and later, “sold” to a landlord.
“One boy came to my village saying that he will marry me. He took me away from home and left me with this lady, who he claimed was his mother. I never saw him after that day. I understood later that I was sold away to this woman for Rs 40,000. This boy was a trafficker. The lady forced me into prostitution. I kept resisting but they didn’t listen and continued to rape me. I found many girls like me who were pushed into prostitution. Some were as young as 10 years.
There was no way to escape from there. All of us felt so desperate that we wanted to die. The only way one could be freed from this place is only when the police raid such a place and rescues them. They are so cruel that they abandon anyone who contracts diseases like AIDS or HIV,” shared a survivor who is living in a Home run by Hope from Andhra Pradesh.
Lok Sabha MP Manoj Tiwari, who is also the Delhi BJP chief, during the interaction said that he did not go into the details of the bill, but having heard the stories of the survivors, definitely supports the legislation.

“Why should we be punished for their crime?”

“I was lured by an aunty named Rajini. She came to our village promising me a job in the city. She took me to a temple and I was married away to a man. I understood that she sold me for Rs 55,000. This man was mentally deranged and he used to lock me up in the house and forced me to do all kinds of wrong things. I was sexually assaulted innumerable times and if I refused I was made to undergo physical and mental torture. Today, I have been rescued but there are so many girls like me who are still suffering.
I have come to this forum to appeal to the government for anti trafficking legislation. The law should take care of the victims as there is a stigma in the society after we go back to our homes. So it is important that we are compensated enough to take care of ourselves. Today I have escape but the criminals are still roaming around and we have been punished. What troubles me most is we have been ruined even though we haven’t committed any mistake. But those traffickers are out on bail and enjoying their lives today. Why should we be punished for their crimes?”
Lalita, a minor narrates her ordeal who was sexually assaulted repeatedly, until she was rescued after a raid by the police.


CSR Satyagraha is the single thread to weave capitalism into socialism: Sudhir Sinha

By Seema Jairath

Corporate Social Responsibility in India is currently being done for the sake of compliance with the Law. As a consequence, the real purpose of CSR to make lasting development impacts for those who need the services the most is being lost to glamour and commercialization. The present scenario calls for bringing about responsible, transparent and an integrated approach in the CSR domain so as to bridge the gap of social inequality.
Against this backdrop, Sudhir Sinha, Founder of CSR Inc., a CSR think tank firm, launched CSR Satyagraha on October2, 2017 in Sabarmati Ashram to bring changes in the current CSR structure of India.
In an exclusive interaction with The Bridge India, Sinha, shared the challenges that motivated him to come up with the initiative, his plan and strategy for the domain in the coming future.

TBI: You have had an illustrious career as a social activist, worked with the Tatas and Reliance – you architected the company’s CSR. How has the experience been?

SS : Since the first day I joined Tata Steel, I worked as an internal whistleblower. I remember one incident very prominently. We were feeding some tribal children from Tata Steel side. The programme intent was very good. Before my joining, the team had taken the decision to reach out to these children with gur, chana and some milk. But the problem with this programme was its design. As per the design, these children were fed only one day in a week with this meagre meal. It was sad that when our vehicle would reach the village premises, these children would come running to us with their empty bowls. My question then was, ‘with this weak approach, how will it help the children to meet their deficiencies’? That moment the realization dawned upon me that ‘we are damaging and harming something’. It is important to understand that every development initiative has some underlying effects.
I always practiced and weighed any committed activity before implementing. If it demonstrated positivity, went ahead, and if negative, then dropped it. Today, many companies, even philanthropists are working towards feeding children but the prime motive should remain to meet their deficiencies rather than making them dependent on somebody else. Gladly, the team at Tata understood my point and dropped the activity, since at that time it was not possible to redesign it differently.
Therefore, those working in companies as CSR managers or heads, have to take the responsibility to see if the activity will benefit the community.

TBI: What are the aberrations with the current ways of CSR being pursued by Corporate.

SS: It is important to raise voice on wrong doings in the CSR domain. I am not against this Act but on how it has been formulated. It is compromising with the ‘spirit of the act’ of CSR. Firstly, if the company is not aware of the meaning and scope of CSR and if it is into transactional CSR, it should be made transformational.
Secondly, their internal CSR champions need to reorient themselves to drive the CSR agenda in a different direction.
Thirdly there are the Consulting organisations. Since the Act came into being, there is business for them. These consulting firms do not have required capability to provide services to the companies, while companies are dependent on someone who can guide them. Thinking that they know CSR, people become consultants. Ignorant consultants are also harming the sector.
Also there are many organisations into award-giving, ratings and reporting. I know companies that are commercialized and give awards without undertaking proper vigilance. Awards are now sold in CSR.
And the last is, the media reporting. I think, there is lack of orientation and availability of adequate information on CSR to be reported. Covering only the spending of the companies, is not enough, it is important to highlight the impacts of their CSR activities.

TBI: What inspired you to launch the Satyagraha campaign? Why the name Satyagraha?

SS: In 2014 there was conflict going on within me. I was contemplating upon whether I should continue with what I am doing as CSR champion, or do something which will have larger impact on the CSR space.
I am a hard-core follower of Gandhi philosophy and even spent some time in Gandhi’s Ashram in Sevagram. Gandhi ji was a transformed leader, and he worked on transforming leaders. I was reading the book Satyagraha, and felt, if I want to transform the CSR scenario in society; I need to transform the CSR stakeholders first. So, I adopted Bapu’s instrument ‘Satyagraha’. This is how I conceived the idea of launching Satyagraha to clean up the wrong doings in the CSR domain. This is just a beginning. I want to make it a people’s movement. It should not be associated with my name but people from different corners of the country should come to forefront and take it forward.

TBI: How do you think the Gandhian way will bring transformation among business leaders, CSR practitioners, influencers and policy makers?

SS: There has to be one thing which goes well with all stakeholders. I needed a common link to bind all the stakeholders and that one thread is ‘Satyagraha.’ Satyagraha is not against any company or stakeholder; rather it is to make CSR work for poor, marginalized, vulnerable and weaker sections of the society. Every stakeholder has an agenda towards CSR and if there is problem, it is our duty as practitioners, to take care of the problem. Satyagraha has this unique character to bring all on a common platform to work towards the common agenda of working for the society.
Simultaneously, we need to highlight the erroneous doings. Satyagraha is there to identify such execution and guide on to either drop it, or work differently to have positive impact. So, one should do things in acceptable way morally, ethically and legally. Legal is already in place due to laws and acts, but Satyagraha is there to ensure adequate and satisfactory work done morally and ethically, which is slightly missing somewhere. Companies need to be very sensitive with the utilisation of funds being invested and reinvested in the communities. Maximum benefit of the communities should be the only outcome.
The other aspect is, you need to invest resources in the markets and then these products are supposed to benefit communities. Perhaps, India has not reached that stage. Maybe this will happen in the next 10-15 years.

TBI: What do you plan to achieve through Satyagraha?

SS: CSR should be directed towards poor. Commercialization and marketing should be stopped. Satyagraha is against four things – commercialization of CSR, marketing of CSR, glamorization and glorification of CSR. How can one be insensitive to glamorize poverty, hunger and disease? Satyagraha aims at proper conceptualization of programmes by companies in consultation and involvement with the communities before implementing it. Only then, communities will admire companies and their work. There is need to have social equity thereby bringing companies and communities together and thus, bridging the gap of inequality. Companies should start working towards weaving capitalism into socialism. Satyagraha is about making companies accountable and transparent for all their acts. Satyagraha is also engaged with the government for amendment of policies. We have started organizing Stakeholders Panchayat and have begun with the first one in Delhi to be followed by Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Ranchi, Bhubaneshwar, Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad. The outcome of the first meeting was unbelievably positive. I must appreciate the maturity and the understanding of all the participants. They were all engaged in the debates and came out with recommendations for Ministry of Corporate Affairs. Also, Satyagraha is going to stand against the wrong system of award-giving.

TBI: How do you think CSR Satyagraha’s intervention will change the CSR in the country?

SS: Although, Satyagraha is formed to bring reforms but reforms will not come overnight. There is a huge challenge. There is a big chain of stakeholder groups. Nevertheless, Satyagraha will consistently work towards a change through engagement process. And, I am sure the change will be phenomenal.

The avant-garde for women in weaving sector

By Gaurav Mandal

Twenty seven –year old Ratla Kumari is a busy woman weaving the traditional Maheshwar sari. She is contented with her employment with Rehwa society, which ensures the education of her children apart from taking care of her livelihood.
“Traditionally, weaving was largely in the hands of men. Due to technological development, our men were losing their jobs and were moving away to other odd jobs to support our families. Our traditional weaving was dying. Thanks to Sally Holkar and her Rehwa society which introduced women into weaving and revived our handloom. Beyond employment, she has taken care of our children’s education, which we could have never dreamt of providing,” says a jubilant Ratla Kumari.


Sally began small by supporting women weavers on her poignant discovery of how Maheshwar weaves were dying. “With 12 looms and 12 frail women, I started the Rehwa Society in 1978. After few years I started Women Weave where I partnered with NGOs to create livelihood for marginalised through weaving,” says Holkar.
What is imperative to note is that these women she worked with knew nothing about weaving and the challenge was to train them and keep them motivated about it. “All these women were illiterate and victims of child marriage and domestic abuse. All these women bestowed upon the dream of providing their kids a better life and the best opportunities,” says Holkar. Thus, Women Weave was started to make handloom a profitable, fulfilling, sustainable and dignified income-earning activity particularly for women in rural areas of India.
“At Women Weave, a community of weavers are connected to the potential customers. The women who don’t know anything are not just provided with crafts skills training but with the design and business skills aspect as well,” says Sukhna Kumari, a weaver at Women’s Weave.
Started in 2003, Women Weave teaches its women hand spinning and weaving. An Artisans Board for Community Participation has been formed to facilitate decision-making and future direction for these rural women. Usually each and every woman who has been trained in weaving is associated to different ongoing projects.

Gudi Mudi Khadi Project

Through the Gudi Mudi Khadi Project, WomenWeave links organic and non-organic cotton farmers with unemployed local women of Maheshwar to create unique, contemporary khadi textile. The objective of this linkage is to ensure sustainable income and better lives for the weavers in the area in spinning and hand weaving of the local cotton.
The project has been activated to sustain earth-friendly, tightly verticalized production that makes sense for Central India’s cotton growing area, India’s unique craft heritage, and growing international fashion consumer preferences for localized production and transparent supply chains. In this regard, WomenWeave’s Gudi Mudi project could be seen as a leader of the global slow fashion movement.
Women Weave has targeted to uplift women who are divorced, widowed, separated, handicapped, and agricultural labourers with no family income. Thus, the project has been empowering the weakest and poorest section of women of the area.
Currently the project is also focusing in the scale-up of Khadi in villages surrounding Maheshwar by approaching those villages first that have no weaving tradition but grow cotton. The first such unit has already been established in Itawadi village that has given employment to 18 women who were formally employed only as wage labourers in the agricultural fields. Also raw cotton will be procured from the marginal farmer. This would help to achieve improved financial self-sufficiency and demonstrate additional examples of social-entrepreneurship.

The Handloom School

“Today, the handloom sector is on a critical moment. It is the second largest source of livelihood for rural women and also it is our country’s cultural treasure, hence we started The Handloom School,” says Holkar. “With the launch of this school in 2013, WW has developed earlier training programmes in “barefoot” business, computer skills, English, and design, to begin a more holistic, progressive and formalized curriculum that will support and cultivate the next generation of handloom weavers and weaver-entrepreneurs. With this, a number of next generation children of weavers from Maheshwar are pursuing degrees in textile design and fashion from institutions such as National Institute for Fashion technology. Through other NGOs, the organisation helps Kota and Chanderi weaver in Rajasthan, Kumaon and Maharashtra. “Weavers in Kumaon had no exposure to weaving at all. They always indulged in wool making. Today they have learnt to weave with cotton and linen,” emphasises Sally Holkar.
Other major projects are Khatkhata project and Synergy Project which indulges traditional weavers and hand block printers to contemporary designs.

Women, Child Care and Empowerment

To improve the quality of life of these weavers, Women Weave under the See To Weave Programme has been organizing eye camps on a regular basis since 2003 in Kota-Rajasthan, Chanderi, and Maheshwar as poor vision results in slower weaving time, headaches, and revenue-reducing mistakes.

Camp for health and fitness

Women Weave also takes care of its weavers with anaemia awareness camps wherein the HB count of all the women at the Gudi Mudi centre is regularly checked and a lecture on causes and cure for anaemia is given. Those found anaemic are given preliminary medication. With the help of these camps women gained wisdom that spending on nutritious food decreases their chances of falling sick and spend on medication, and increases their ability to be self-reliant.

Day care centre & Child education initiative

At WW’s Gudi Mudi weaving centre in Maheshwar, a simple day care centre for the children of spinners and weavers working with the Gudi Mudi project has been set up. The early childhood education of more than 130 youngsters is sponsored by WW. The centre is an effort to ensure that in their role as weavers, women don’t need to neglect their role as mothers. Knowing that their children are safe, close by, and well taken care of enables them to work better as well.
According to Sally Holkar, her mission has been successful due to the shifting of weaving from men to women, and re-positioning men in other ways that still link them to weaving.

The writer is recipient of two national awards.


‘Skill India’ initiatives

Training over 300 plumbers Pan-India

Jaquar Group, the leading ‘complete bathroom and lighting’ solutions company announced the skill development and training of over 300 plumbers on World Youth Skill Day.
The training will be imparted to these plumbers through 10 specialized training centres which are spread across India. The centres will train unemployed youth in specialized skill sets and develop them as trained plumbers. With nearly 60 years of experience in the bathroom industry, Jaquar Group as part of its CSR initiative has undertaken plumber training as a core agenda. The Programme would not only help the plumbers generate livelihood but will also support Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Skill India initiative.
Rajesh Mehra, Promoter & Director, Jaquar Group said, “There is a lack of skilled workforce in plumbing in India and with the poised growth of real estate, this shortage needs to be addressed. Jaquar Group is trying to meet the need of the hour and empower today’s youth.”

Technical training in automobile industry

Skill Development is one of the verticals of Maruti Suzuki India Limited’s corporate social responsibility programme. MSIL is providing training to students and trainers through various workshops and industry exposure. Experienced Japanese trainer was also invited to impart technical training recently. Through the programme the company aims to impart knowledge to students on latest automobile technologies as well as train them on soft skills. More than 17,500 students have benefited from Maruti Suzuki’s Skill enhancement initiative in Automobile Trade.

‘Strong Need to Enhance Capacity of NGOs & Corporates to work in Synchronisation to create impact at Grass Root level’

By Soma Chakraborty

Post implementation of the CSR Act in India, the corporate sector is witnessing tremendous influx of proposals from NGOs for partnerships in the corporate social responsibility activities. However, in spite of the presence of nearly 32 lakh NGOs in the country, corporate firms and PSUs rue that only a handful of them match their expectations to carry out their CSR activities. So what went wrong? The Bridge India in this report analyses the issue.
Today, all NGOs, be it domestic or international, are eying the two per cent of the CSR funds, but experts opine that still an important concern for the companies remains to choose NGOs with appropriate amount of resources, knowledge, and capacity to carry out CSR projects and ensure that their money is well spent.
In order to plug this loophole, it is very important for the NGOs to scale up their capacity, experts opine.

Capacity Building

To deliver on the development agenda, it is important to invest in capacity-building of the NGOs. There are gaps in various areas of NGO management ranging from governance to compliance and overall management to reporting.
However, unfortunately, most of the NGOs do not give emphasis on their capacity building. So much so that many of them are heavily dependent on experts to design their proposal and even writing their reports, observers say.
Ironically in most of the NGOs, including the international ones, key tasks such as the needs assessment of a project are conducted by clerical staff members who are not aware of the issues in depth.
Needs assessment is a vital element of a project cycle as it provides information on which decisions are made. Needs assessment align the expectations and intentions of the company with priorities identified by the community that it seeks to benefit as a key stakeholder.
According to domain experts, the need assessment should ideally be done by a development professional or at least by someone who is trained.
“Registering an NGO is very easy. Due to which there is mushrooming of such organisations for over the years. However, one has to keep in mind that social work is a highly specialised subject. It is a very systematic work. When an NGO is working on a particular subject, it needs to have expert knowledge on that issue. The key people should have proper training to handle such projects,” says Vishwajeet Ghoshal, Director at Prayas Juvenile Aid Centre Society.

Getting The Right People On Board

There is no denying the fact that there is a massive crunch of qualified and experienced development sector professionals in India. This is one of the major issues which NGOs face in their work and need to be addressed.
The projects devised by NGOs are quite complicated most of the times. They require people to go right amidst the most backward and marginalised communities, engage with them and work with them to craft solutions for their problems.
To do all this, NGOs need people with a sound understanding of the socio-economic scenario of India.
Observers opine that the working conditions, including the wages paid, for many of the NGOs’ employees deny them the very rights they are employed to safeguard for others.


Establishment Of Credibility

NGOs need to showcase some serious work to establish their credibility. Experts believe that in order to bag good CSR projects and generate the right quantities of funds to execute the projects, it is vital for NGOs to function professionally. Many NGOs in India do not like to open up about their finances and activities. Not only can this lead to a loss of potential donors but can also dent their reputation.
“NGOs have to understand that the two per cent of the profit which the companies are investing for CSR are also their hard earned money. If they are investing the money, they have the right to know how much impact is taking place on the ground,” a highly placed official in the CSR department of a business firm said.
Experts opine that there is a need for a rating system to be in place for NGOs which ranks them on the basis of the seriousness of their work and their transparency towards getting audited and scrutinised.

With recent Government crackdown on several NGOs, the corporate sector says it is important for NGOs to achieve and maintain a high degree of transparency in not just their work but also in their financials. Any good NGO worth its salt must work with impeccable integrity, they say.
However, many NGOs lack far behind as far as compliances are concerned. “The financial and legal documents of the NGOs should be updated from time to time. Each and every penny which is coming into their account should be judiciously utilised. Corporate firms want social returns on their investments,” a CSR department official says.
“Today companies are demanding high standards from NGOs, especially in project monitoring. It means that NGOs need to devote more time to monitoring the projects rather than carrying them out,” he further adds.

NGOS’ Perspective & The Way Forward

In their defence, NGOs argue that they have very limited financial capacity to train people and hire good professionals.
Experts say though it might be a genuine concern, one cannot deny the importance of capacity building. Effective capacity building benefits both the company and the local stakeholders by generating inclusive processes that strengthen trust and build commitment and good relationships.
Capacity building requires careful planning to target the right people and build the right skills at the right time. And one way to address the issue of lack of fund is that the NGOs can partner with several institutions which can organise workshops and training programmes for its people. Training programmes focusing on leadership development, behavioural training, managerial skill development and opportunities for vocational learning can be offered to the employees.
Sometimes corporate firms also invest in NGOs to build up their capacity. Some progressive philanthropic entities such as the Azim Premji Foundation and EdelGive Foundation provide direct support and grants to non-profit organisations to utilise their potential, apart from sharing knowledge and operational expertise.
Also the NGOs can incorporate practices such as compensation benchmarking, performance management and training-need analysis for all employees, experts say.
Besides, they say, by offering benefits like financial help in times of a family crisis, free medical facilities in affiliated hospitals and aid to school going children of employees, NGOs can attract good talents. An example in this case is the Gujarat-based NGO, Society for Education Welfare and Action-Rural. The SEWA-Rural promotes work-life balance through multiple initiatives that include time off for parents to support their wards appearing for board exams and special leave so that employees can attend camps for holistic living.
At the end of the day, what will keep NGOs going is their work done with professionalism and seriousness, experts emphasise. Hence, it is vital for NGOs to enhance their capacity and do some truly serious work for the cause they stand for.