By Suresh Kr Pramar
Governments in India, Centre and in the states, have fared poorly in the Responsibility test. Despite the high level of economic development these government have failed to provide for the wellbeing of all its stakeholders (read Citizens). Widespread poverty, high infant mortality rate, inadequate health and education facilities for its most vulnerable citizens, increasing acts of corruption and rising crime and extremist violence are indication of the lack of responsibility among governments in India.
Jawahir Adam and Michael Hopkins of MHCInternational Limited, a CSR research and Consultancy Company based in London and Geneva, have developed a National Social Responsibility Index (NSRI) which measures whether citizens are treated fairly and whether the State looks after their well-being. According to the NSRI India was placed at 69th position in 2010 among 180 nations.
Corporate Social Responsibility is about the way companies meet their wider obligations, both to employees and to the wider community. It is about businesses treating their stakeholders in a socially responsible manner. National Social Responsibility is about Nations treating their key stakeholders in a socially responsible manner.
The key stakeholders of a Nation State are the citizens and their trading partners. As such NSR is about whether citizens can participate in the decisions that affect them, are treated fairly and whether the State looks after their well-being.
Though there is considerable recorded literature on Corporate Social Responsibility little of this has been applied to the social responsibility of governments. If CSR is about treating the stakeholders in an ethical and socially responsible manner then National Social Responsibility (NSR) would be about treating the stakeholders of a nation in an ethical and socially responsible manner. Applying the tools of CSR to governments, including governments in India, shows that most, lack social responsibility.
Governments, like business houses, have stakeholders. In fact the list of stakeholders for governments is larger and more populated than those of individual business houses. Treating the stakeholders responsibly is essential if a corporation wishes to succeed. In the case of a government one would think that a Government would need to treat its citizens responsibly, morally, fairly and strive for their wellbeing if it wants to retain power.
The government’s portfolio of stakes holders include not only the voters, who put them into power, but also their employees, the goods and services providers, international governments and organizations, to name just a few. NSR can therefore be defined as: A State that treats its citizens fairly, looks after their well-being, and is respectful to foreigners – immigrants as well as their trading partners.
To measure NSR Jawahir Adam and Michael Hopkins used measures the freedom of the country (participation),the extent of corruption (fair treatment) and life expectancy at birth (well-being) For the former they used the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index which is based on electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation; and political culture has been used. And life expectancy at birth is drawn from the 2007 UNDP Human Development Report. The third indicator used is the nation’s transparency and uses Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index.
Of the 180 countries for which data was collected in 2010 the richer countries dominated the leading positions with Sweden and New Zealand sharing the Number One spot, closely followed by Denmark, Norway and Iceland. The bastions of democracy came further down the list with the UK at 17,the USA 19TH and France 21th. The rising economic powerhouses, the BRIC group of countries, Brazil, Russia, India and China, came 54th, 130th, 69rd, and 107th respectively.
According to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2007 Democracy Index India has been placed at 35th position with an overall score of 7.68. According to the Index India with a score of 9.58 for electoral process and pluralism was better placed than most of the nations occupying the top position in the index, including the United Kingdoms and the USA. With a score of 9.71 the country was again better placed than most of the western democracies. The Economist Index however gave India only 7.50 for functioning of government, 6.67 percent for political participation and 5.63 for political culture.
According to the latest Global Human Rights Watch World Report “India, the world’s most populous democracy, continues to have a vibrant media, an active civil society, a respected judiciary, and significant human rights problems.” However India is yet to repeal laws or change policies that allow de jure and de facto impunity for human rights violations, and has failed to prosecute even known perpetrators of serious abuses.
India has been described as a vibrant electoral democracy with an abysmal human rights record. A United Nations study says that India has failed to properly protect Dalits and tribal communities. Between 2001-2002 as many as 58,000 cases of victimization of Dalits were reported. A report has pointed out that every 20 minutes a Dalit is victimised in India. The condition of women ad children, particularly those belonging to the backward classes continues to worsen.
The recent spate of terrorist and communal inspired violence has further damaged the government’s pretences of being a responsible government. In state after state terrorist operate without fear killing and maiming innocent people. According to official statistics 13,500 civilians and terrorists have died during the past decade in terrorism related violence. Almost every part of the country has experienced terrorist violence. The record keeps getting worse year after year with violence authored by communal forces, and terrorist making life of the people increasingly unsafe.
India’s record of social responsibility has suffered because of its poor record in its efforts to eliminate poverty. A recent report of the World Bank suggests that despite sustained high GDP growth, India is home to roughly one-third of all the poor in the world. The Report claims that India has 456 million people, or around 42 percent of its population living below the new international poverty line of $ 1.25 a day. The number of Indian poor constitutes 33% of the global poor –pegged at 1.4 billion people.
Despite repeated claims of progress by the government, there was no significant improvement in access to health care and education.
“The 2011 census data revealed a further decline in India’s female/male sex ratio, pointing to the failure of laws aimed at reducing sex-selective abortions. A series of honour killings and rapes rocked the country in 2011 but there has been no effective action to prevent and effectively prosecute such violence,” it said. Maoist forces continue to engage in killings and extortion, and target government schools and hospitals for attacks and bombings. At this writing the Maoists had killed nearly 250 civilians as well as over 100 members of the security
forces in 2011.
Mentioning the anti-corruption movement of social activist Anna Hazare, the report says it brought the government to a standstill, with widespread street protests and sit-ins demanding legal reform and prosecutions. “Activists working with two prominent efforts to address poverty and accountability – India’s rural employment guarantee scheme and right to information law — came under increasing attack, facing threats, beatings, and even death,” it said.
India continues to be listed among the world’s most corrupt countries. According to Transparency International India, with a score of 2.8 was placed at 83 position in a list of 133 nations. Interestingly the survey listed Courts, Customs, Education System, Political Parties, Police, Tax Revenue, among the most corrupt departments in the country.
Mentioning the anti-corruption movement of social activist Anna Hazare, the report says it brought the government to a standstill, with widespread street protests and sit-ins demanding legal reform and prosecutions. “Activists working with two prominent efforts to address poverty and accountability – India’s rural employment guarantee scheme and right to information law – came under increasing attack, facing threats, beatings, and even death,” it said.
There is a total loss of faith in the general public with those who are governing the country and the ability of the government to tackle corruption. A whopping 55.8 per cent of those surveyed in India felt that corruption in the country would increase not decrease over time. There is a strong feeling that economic development in India will go hand in hand with an increase in corruption of all types, because there is more money to play with.
(Suresh Kr Pramar, Trainer, Writer, CSR Consultant and the Executive Director, Centre for Training & Research in Responsible Business is a veteran journalist presently actively involved in promoting CSR through his publication CRBiz and by conducting workshop on Corporate Social Responsibility. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org