Jul 14, 2023 11 min read
Delivering Happiness through CSR
The idea of Corporate Social Responsibility is not new to India. In olden times, wealthy business owners would ensure the welfare of deprived communities around them. Corporations have always taken pride in considering the socio-economic development of the nation as a shared responsibility. Different religions have been encouraging their followers to take up acts of charity and ensure the well-being of those in need.
Ours is a vast country with a huge scope of development. Working in this diverse ecosystem, CSR practitioners are bound to wonder whether their efforts would amount to something substantial. Even the projects run by Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited, one of the top 30 CPSEs to contribute towards CSR, are eventually but a drop in the ocean. When such thoughts arise in the mind, I am reminded of a folk story that was sung by Saint Kabir and also has its roots in the Buddhist culture.
Once upon a time, a parrot used to live on a tree in a forest. One day, the woods caught fire which started spreading rapidly. The animals and the birds of the region began to flee. However, the parrot could not bring himself to fly away from his beloved tree. In a desperate attempt, the parrot flew to the lake nearby and filled his beak with water to pour on the tree. He flapped his tiny wings and started flying back and forth. The birds around started asking him, “How will your efforts ever make a difference?” to which he responded, "I must do the best I can in the given situation."
The conversation was witnessed by the rain God who happened to be passing by. Watching the parrot’s relentless commitment, he was deeply moved. A tear trickled down his cheek and we all know what happens when the rain God cries! It rained like it had never rained before in the region and the entire forest fire was doused! The efforts of one small bird made a difference to the entire ecosystem.
While working in the CSR ecosystem, we must always remember the story and work with the attitude -I must do the best I can in the given situation.
Currently, our country is uniquely positioned in terms of its demographic composition. Almost half of our population is less than 25 years of age which has the capacity to transform the destiny of the nation. It is pertinent to present this section with support and opportunities to live up to its full potential. With an ambition to create the required ecosystem and tackle developmental challenges, India became one of the first countries to roll out regulation on CSR through the introduction of Section 135 of the Companies Act, 2013 on April 1, 2014. The effectiveness of bringing this regulation can be assessed from the fact that more than Rs 1.27 trillion were dedicated towards CSR efforts in the country from 2014-15 till 2020-21.
Over the years, the Government of India has been working at fine-tuning the approach towards CSR. There is a focus to leverage the strengths of the industry rather than limiting its role to financial contributions. In 2018, The Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) organized a CPSE Conclave. Basis one of its recommendations, it was decided to adopt a central theme each year for the implementation of CSR activities by CPSEs.
HPCL has always acted as a Responsible Corporate Citizen. Much before it became a legal mandate, we have been implementing well-designed CSR projects for the upliftment of marginalized communities. These activities have touched thousands of lives across the length and breadth of the country. We are driven to maximize the impact of our projects till the last mile.
In HPCL’s experience, the common themes have acted as a wonderful anchor. They bring focus and synergy to the developmental efforts made by CPSEs and align them with the national priorities. In turn, these national priorities are considered drivers to achieve Sustainable Development Goals in India.
The themes for CSR activities by CPSEs for the last three years revolved around Health and Nutrition. It became especially relevant during the unprecedented times of Covid. CPSEs were able to extend quick and effective healthcare support during the time period through CSR. HPCL extended Covid relief initiatives like the Supply and Installation of Pressure Swing Adsorption Oxygen Generation Plants in various states, the Operation and Maintenance of Covid Care Centres, the Installation of Medical Ventilators, the Distribution of Oxygen Concentrator set in the affected areas to save many lives and families from distress.
Proper and adequate healthcare facilities are still inaccessible to many sections of society. HPCL has sought to address the issue through some strategic interventions ensuring basic healthcare facilities for the less privileged.
In our country, there are many areas where basic medical facilities are not accessible to those who cannot afford them. Under “Project Dhanwantari”, the medical needs of people residing in remote rural areas are met through Mobile Medical Vans. These vans have medical professionals to offer consultation/referral as per each case.
Another significant intervention is “Project Dil without Bill” which provides support to conduct free-of-cost heart surgeries. Saving the life of one person can make a considerable difference in the lives of many, especially in the case of an earning member of the family. The project is run for patients with weaker socio–economic backgrounds, giving preference to children. Awareness and follow-up camps are also conducted in various cities and towns to reach out to needy patients.
To see the ability beyond the disability and ensure equal opportunities and dignity for the differently-abled requires effort, awareness, and mobilization. It is in this spirit that HPCL through this program supported the therapeutic needs, inclusive education, and vocational training of differently-abled children through Project ADAPT.
“I always knew that I wanted to become a doctor, and pursuing that dream brought me from Kargil to Srinagar. I got to know about the Super 50 programme through an advertisement,” shares MsTaslimaNaaz, a proud beneficiary of our Kargil Ignited Minds Project.
HPCL supports education endeavours in the field of medicine and engineering in the Kashmir Valley, Leh, and Kargil Districts. We have joined hands with the Army to provide mentoring and coaching to aspiring students. This year, 128 of the students coached under these Super50 projects qualified for NEET 2023 (Medical). “My sister is an engineer and I am so glad I made her and my family proud,” Ms Naazexclaims with eyes full of dreams.
The cumulative CSR Expenditure in the first seven years of the country was reported to be the highest in Maharashtra. Nearly Rs.18,608 crores were spent in the state which is the highest contributor to India’s GDP. The five states of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh together account for one-third of the CSR expenditure in the country. Therefore, the Government of India could consider the allocation of geographical regions to different CPSEs for the balanced and sustainable development of the country.
Additionally, we must share our best practices and relevant stories to empower others. HPCL has been actively using its communication channels including social media handles to this effect.
The awards bestowed on HPCL in the past year include National CSR Awards 2020 by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Govt. of India, and the Swachhta Award 2022 by MoPNG, ET Ascent National Award for excellence. They bear testimony to the immense benefits reaped by our society through the CSR efforts undertaken by HPCL.
The efforts made under CSR would multiply multifold when citizens adopt ISR i.e. Individual Social Responsibility. We should not only depend on institutions and ecosystems to make a change but rather hold ourselves accountable for it. Such a change of behavior will have a rippling effect.
As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Man becomes great exactly in the degree in which he works for the welfare of his fellowmen”.
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