Premji Against law to Promote Charity

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NEW DELHI: Billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffett , who are in India to promote their philosophy of corporate philanthropy, have found corporate India enthusiastic to the idea. However, the super rich among India’s business community have expressed reservations about any legislation that would make philanthropy mandatory.

“We have met 70 people last evening and we see a lot of enthusiasm in Indian corporates about philanthropy. I am quite optimistic that these families will do extraordinary things with the good fortune they have received,” Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said at a press meet held after consultations with Indian corporates on the need to donate liberally for social causes.

“It’s clear there’s some great thinking going on about philanthropy. India has historically produced some of the most important philanthropists the world has known. I’m certain it will continue to do so again,” said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and chairman of Microsoft Corp.

On Wednesday, the day the two American billionaires were in Bangalore, G.M. Rao, Chairman of the GMR Group pledged $340 million towards education and vocational training for the underprivileged. “Today’s gathering of India’s leaders has been an excellent opportunity for us to discuss the part we can all play in contributing to equitable and sustainable development of India,” said Azim Premji, chairman of Wipro Ltd.

“Speaking for myself, I’m completely committed to supporting the larger ambition of catalysing social change that builds a better society,” Premji said. But on the ground, it remains to be seen how the Richie Riches of India Inc loosen their purse strings.

Premji who last year had set aside shares worth about $1.95 billion in his software services giant Wipro Ltd towards funding education for the poor said he is against any legislation that would make it mandatory for corporate India to earmark two per cent of a company’s revenue towards corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities.

“I am not for making corporate social responsibility mandatory,” Premji said at the press meet. “I will see a guideline rather than a legislation. When it is mandatory, there can be a lot of abuse that can take place as there is no clear guideline on what is CSR and what is brand promotion,” Premji said in response to a query whether he feels making two per cent CSR mandatory a good move towards promoting philanthropy.

“I don’t think you generate CSR by putting statutory requirements. I think there is enough social consciousness among the larger companies to drive it on the basis of what they consider their responsibility,” Premji said.

In the new Companies Act, the Centre has proposed that corporate houses must spend two per cent of their revenues on CSR activities. However, Indian corporate leaders are opposing such a legislation saying that this will create “unnecessary” hassles for them. Due to this opposition and huge pressure from the corporate lobby the government has failed to present new Bill in the current session of Parliament.

In April 2010, the government had issued CSR guidelines for all central public sector enterprises (PSE).

Forcing charitable feelings
1. Govt in the new Companies Act has proposed that corporate houses must spend 2% of their revenues on CSR
2. Premji is against legislation, which would make it mandatory for corporate India to earmark 2% of firms’ revenues for CSR
3. Indian corporate leaders oppose such a legislation saying this will create unnecessary hassles

Courtesy: Mail Today 

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