Exclude Tobacco companies from CSR

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CHENNAI: Cigarette, beedi and kattha manufacturers should be kept out of the corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives, as it would help them promote their brands and earn good will, they should instead be asked to pay their CSR contributions directly to state and central governments for welfare schemes, a PIL filed in Madras high court has said.

CigaretteThe PIL, filed by S Cyril Alexander, state convenor of Tamil Nadu People’s Forum for Tobacco Control (TNPFTC), pointed out that as the CSR scheme which took effect from April 1, companies are mandated to spend 5% of their profit after tax (PAT) on various welfare, development and relief activities. In the bargain, they are allowed to use their brand names and company logo, which is an opportunity to promote their brand name and create a good will.

While welcoming the legal obligation companies had been put under the CSR regime, the PIL said: “Allowing the tobacco industry to take part in CSR scheme would result only in promotion of their brand names, and would totally run counter to the very purpose and object behind the introduction of CSR scheme. In turn, it would only push up the expenditure incurred by the public exchequer towards health, environment and social welfare.”

Cyril said regular CSR norms should not cover tobacco industry, as promoting tobacco goods under CCR schemes would harm public health and well-being. Narrating the deaths and disabilities caused by tobacco products, which result in heart attacks, strokes, cancer and other diseases, the PIL said that in India about 1 million people die of tobacco use every year. Noting that there are 275 tobacco users in the country, he said, “if this present trend continues, tobacco alone will account for 13% of all deaths in India by 2020.”

Calling for excluding the tobacco industry from the CSR regime, the PIL said they should instead pay the amount to state and central governments which would spend the funds on meeting the medical expenses of people affected by tobacco products, and for furthering the National Tobacco Control Programme (NTCP) initiatives.

On Monday, the first bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Satish K Agnihotri and Justice M M Sundresh issued notice to the authorities, returnable in two weeks.

[THE TIMES OF INDIA]

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