Biased India Inc

J&K needs to be their preferred CSR investment destination

Sajad Bazaz
Srinagar, Publish Date: Dec 15 2017 11:08PM | Updated Date: Dec 15 2017 11:08PM
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So we have once again sought proactive engagement of major corporate houses from across the country with Jammu and Kashmir to channelize substantive investment to the State. “I would request you to start engaging with J&K and its people, to help us put the State on a faster path of development and growth,” Dr Haseeb Drabu, Finance Minister,  told the business tycoons from India Inc present at the 90th Annual General Meeting of Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) a few days back.

It’s a known fact that one of the major impediments to the overall economic growth of our state has been step-motherly attitude of the major corporate houses towards the development of the state.  Interestingly, this India Inc contrary to its core competencies is quick enough to be part of any political debate around Kashmir, but always shamelessly turn its back whenever asked investment support within their competencies in the state.

Precisely, socio-economic and to a large extent political scenario of the state would a different landscape to present than what the state is confronted with at present. Some five years back the government of India (GoI) bundled out top corporate bigwigs of the country including  Ratan Tata, Chairman of the Tata Group of Companies, Kumara Manglam, Chairman of the Aditya Birla Group, Deepak Parekh, Chairman of HDFC and Team Lease co-founder Ashok Reddy to the valley. It was a move to attract investment from India Inc and create jobs for valley youth. But these corporate bigwigs punctured the hope when they listed peace in the valley as pre-condition for investment. The group listed peace and stability as precondition to investment.

Precisely, India Inc has developed a habit of visiting to the valley to take stock of miseries which people have been facing for decades. They display caution and leave with a promise of a helping hand. And this ‘helping hand’ never sees light of the day.

Kashmir will remain a conflict zone till a permanent solution is carved out. Here fortunes will continue to turn like a wheel- sometimes there will be peace and prosperity at its full swing and sometimes there will be turmoil. So what can these corporate bigwigs do here? Of course investment here is loaded with huge risk. But this doesn’t mean they have no role here. Under their corporate social responsibility (CSR) banner they can take up projects to support the local socio-economic sectors, like they do in other states in health, education and other key sectors.

For example, we have an economically powerful cultural industry - handicrafts industry - where a huge chunk of our population is associated with tiny, cottage and village industries sectors. Over 6 lakh people are directly linked for their livelihood. Our artisans’ skillful craftsmanship has captured the hearts of people across the globe. But over a period of period, our artisan community has been struggling for support to their craftsmanship. In the prevailing environment, the craftsmanship has most of the time failed the artisan community to even feed their families.  

It’s not adequate and timely financial assistance alone which can change their fortunes, but they need social protection. Examples galore where a craftsman became victim of some dreaded diseases like tuberculosis etc. because of the conditions in which he was working. Since being underpaid and unable to bear the medical bill, most of the times the ailing artisan succumbs to these diseases.

Here lies the scope for India Inc to use their CSR arm to revive the sector and bring prosperity to craftsmen. I don’t think at the moment Kashmir needs their hardcore investment. Let them support core sectors of our economy through their CSR window to prove themselves as true corporate citizens. If a corporate based in Europe eyes communities in India for its CSR activities aiming to mitigate their sufferings, why Indian corporates or for that matter global corporates cannot bring J&K under the ambit of their programmes. I fervently believe, J&K state is the most deserving state to have lion’s share in CSR budget of the corporate world.

Now the question is who will on this account bring J&K into the focus of the corporate world? Let me reiterate, it is the state government which needs to tailor and launch strategically designed awareness campaigns across the India Inc and global companies to motivate them to make J&K as their preferred CSR investment destination with assured enhanced brand value. However, to make this programme successful and later sustainable, the government has to set politics aside.

(The views are of the author & not the institution he works for)

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