India CSR Network
AHMEDABAD : Dr Bhaskar Chatterjee, whose untiring efforts led to the legislation of Section 135 in the Companies Act, related to corporate social responsibility (CSR), had been ‘dissuaded’ not only by corporate bigwigs but also by intellectuals from going ahead with his mission.
This came to light on at the 25th TS Rajan Memorial Lecture that he delivered at the Institute of Rural Development-Anand (IRMA). But, Dr Chatterjee said, ” When you have an idea, explore it to the hilt and pursue it” This is what he did as he spent months doing his research and finding ways of rooting CSR firmly in the Indian soil.
Dr Chatterjee is now Director-General and CEO of the Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs (IICA), set up by the Union Government in 2008 to act as a think-tank and capacity building nucleus for corporate regulations and reforms. He is credited with evolving and structuring a framework for CSR for public sector enterprises and authoring the amendment to the Companies Act, known as Section 135.
The Act, first of its kind globally, had been hailed as the largest and the most ambitious CSR experiment ever, affecting between 16,000 and 25,000 companies and involving an expenditure of Rs 15,000 crore to Rs 28,000 crore annually on activities defined in Schedule VII and falling under the area of social development.
Speaking of his journey into CSR, Dr Chatterjee touched upon his experiences with the tribal community and marginalized classes as an IAS officer in Odisha.
In the process of evolving the framework and guidelines for what eventually crystallized into Section 135, he said, he was appalled by two factors: one, nobody was asking ” How much is being spent on CSR? ” and two, CSR was seen as a form of charity or donation activity.
In a bid to divest CSR of its intermittent character, he came up with the idea of “Strategic CSR” whereby the latter would be conceived as a mandatory project or programme on the part of companies.
(This report first appeared in the Hindu Business Line)