India presently holds a positive demographic trend. Significant spending on public welfare can create better employment oppurtunities for the country’s young job seekers. Education is a key sector.
Amartya Sen in his book ‘Readings in Human Development’ (2003) explained how enhanced healthcare and educational systems ensure capability expansion and increase productivity. The role of the state in creating social infrastructure in the form of schools, colleges, hospitals and sanitation facilities cannot simply be wished away. Additionally, India has been the first country to ensure mandatory Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) spending by corporates and other profit making organisations. Through CSR funds, corporates are to spend on the social sector – ensuring development and creation of social infrastructure. The Section 135 (1) for CSR in the Companies Act, 2013 was introduced to enable companies to build social capital through a regulatory structure.
According to the Economic Survey 2019-20, the central government’s total budgetary expenditure in development for social infrastructure has increased marginally – from 7.6% of GDP in 2018-19 to 7.7% of GDP in 2019-20. Of the overall spending on the social sector in 2019-20, the education sector received 3.1%, the health sector received 1.6% and other expenditure on social services received 3.1%.
This meagre expenditure contradicts with India’s aim of ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all by 2030. According to the Human Development Report (HDR) 2019, India’s position in the latest Global Human Development Index (2018) stood at 129. There is significant space and need for developmental organisations and corporates - through CSR programmes - to get involved in building India’s social infrastructure.
CSR in social infrastructure
Eradicating hunger and malnutrition, promoting health care and sanitation, endorsing education, enhancing vocational skills for better employment opportunities are some of the key areas of CSR activities in India. Such projects are either directly being handled by corporates or are being implemented by developmental organisations. Over the last five years, the nature of CSR activities has undergone a massive change. It is now more focused on enabling and empowering the recipients rather than on providing relief in distress. Providing for skill development by building schools and ‘enabling and offering’ employment is now a key area of CSR projects in India.
Shormi Roy Choudhury, Head (East), Tech Mahindra Foundation, told BE, “The Tech Mahindra Foundation, the CSR platform of Tech Mahindra has opened its arms for creating strong social infrastructure systems across India. The foundation is supporting ‘Karo Home’ in Mumbai, a place that offers treatment to female cancer patients of ages 13 to 29 years. The Tech Mahindra School of Nursing, Banasthali in Rajasthan provides nursing training. The foundation’s projects in the education sector include the SMART Academy for Healthcare in Delhi and Chandigarh and the SMART Academy for Digital Technologies in Visakhapatnam that provide certificate courses in graphic and web designing, web development, digital marketing, 2D animation, UI development and logistics and supply chain management to poor candidates at significantly lowered rates. Some of these students, pursuing skill development courses from our institutions are offered jobs in our company.”
According to the CSR Journal, Vedanta (Rs 309 crore), Infosys (Rs 342 crore), Mahindra & Mahindra (Rs 93.50 crore), ITC (Rs 306.95 crore), and Reliance Industries (Rs 904 crore) are some of the corporates spending the largest amounts on CSR projects for creation of social infrastructure. Tata Steel’s ‘Thousand School Program’ was awarded as the ‘Most Impactful
CSR Project’ in 2018 by the Odisha state government. The same journal also informs that during 2018-19, Indian Oil’s CSR fund allocation of Rs 490.60 crore was one of the highest among government organisations. Indian Oil spent the entire budget on projects for providing safe drinking water and protection of water resources, ensuring healthcare and sanitation, enabling education and on providing employment-enhancing vocational skills.