Having strayed into the mundane world of business journalism, the misfit gets a high from politics, cinema, theatre and street food, especially in the bylanes of Old Delhi.

Aditi Nigam

A job half done

| Updated on April 15, 2013 Published on April 15, 2013

Corporate social responsibility or CSR works almost like a cleansing agent for big companies – they get a feeling of being chastened, a bit like after feeding the poor outside temples or dargahs or confessing in churches.

There is no denying that some corporates in India are doing their bit to pay back the society, even if the fields that they carefully choose are somehow aligned to their core business interests. So, we have cases of a camera company working on eye care, a pharma company doing CSR in health care, a mining company investing in environment and so on.

While corporate intentions are seemingly noble, one wonders whether ‘fly by night’ CSR is good or bad for the society in the long run, especially in a counry where the Government has been absent when it comes to providing basic sanitation, especially in village interiors. In the short-term, however, things do look rosy for CSR beneficiary.

A recent visit to a village in Tonk district of Rajasthan was revealing. An international non-Government organisation and a company have joined hands to help villagers lead a healthy life, especially women and children. They have been helping the villagers construct dry latrines. The aim is good -- to make these villages open defecation free, which is proving to be a boon for girls and women, who narrated how it had made a difference to their self-respect and health.

But, one elderly woman’s woes set the mind thinking. She was among the first in the Muslim-dominated village to have built a dry latrine, but now the excreta was overflowing. “What do I do now? Who will clean this?” she said squeamishly. She lamented the absence of a particular Hindu 'caste' in the village, which was'supposed' to do the cleaning up. Some village elders even felt that open defecation was a better option, as the soil took care of the excreta.

With this CSR project ending its three-year term soon, one shudders to think what the village will look like once all the toilets start overflowing.

It is only the Government that can step in and do its bit. But, that’s a tall order, as over 60 years after Independence, a majority of India’s population still defecates in the open.

As for such CSR initiatives, eventually these leave a feeling of the ladder being pulled away once a person has climbed a wall!

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Published on April 15, 2013
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