NEW DELHI: Four Central PSUs mainly oil companies have collectively contributed over Rs 121 crore towards building of Statue of Unity– statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel – in Gujarat, as a part of corporate social responsibility (CSR) spend during the fiscal year 2016-17.
Their annual reports revealed that the public sector oil firms– Oil and Natural Gas Corp. (ONGC), Hindustan Petroleum Corp. Ltd (HPCL), Indian Oil Corp. Ltd (IOCL) and Oil India Ltd (OIL)—recorded contributions towards the – Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Rashtriya Ekta Trust- SOU project as part of their CSR activity in FY17.
These contributions resulted in three-fold jump in CSR spends by the top 100 National Stock Exchange-listed firms by market capitalization in FY17 under National Heritage initiatives as compared to the previous fiscal year.
As per independent research, reports of 92 companies were available until 18 September. The data shows a total of Rs 155.78 crore was spent on national heritage initiatives in FY2016-17, compared to Rs 46.51 crore in FY2015-16.
The SOU project aims at building 182 meters (392 feet) tall, the World Largest Statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel at the Sadhu Bet Island, approximately 3.5 kms south of Sardar Sarovar Dam at Kevadia in the Narmada district of Gujarat. The monument will have development oriented Initiatives like Development of banks of River Narmada up to Bharuch, Clean Technology Research Park & Agriculture Training Centers, Schools, colleges and universities for tribal development, Education Research Centre and Knowledge City etc. It said that the project activities will boost tourism and facilitate development in the surrounding tribal areas.
In October 2013, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was the then Gujarat chief minister, laid its foundation stone. The project is proposed to be constructed at a cost of about Rs 2,989 crore with a targeted completion date of October 2018.
The CSR spends on SOU was criticised as a violation of the intention of the CSR law & Companies Act of 2013 by Amita Joseph, Director Business Community Foundation (BCF), a civil society organization working on promoting responsible business practice
“This is taxpayer money, and both public sectors (companies) and governments need to be accountable,” she said, describing the case as one of misplaced priorities in a country that is in desperate need of better education, healthcare, basic amenities, safety and public infrastructure.
Bhaskar Chatterjee, former Director General and CEO of the think tank Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs (IICA) said the national heritage category was introduced into the CSR rules in order to bring businesses within the development ambit, and allow them to work for national development programmes.
“It is one of the few items which do not relate to the poorest of the poor, but the idea was to see how the corporate sector could contribute to the preservation of our cultural heritage.” (Mint/India CSR Network)