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Corporate Social Responsibility And COVID Response

The exigent socio-economic condition and discriminatory health infrastructure made our country struggle to deal with brutal virus infection looming large over population across different age groups, economic conditions and urban-rural divide.

In these unprecedented times of global COVID-19 havoc in India, CSR has emerged as a ready tool to fund the drive to deal with COVID crisis which caught India unprepared. India mandated CSR spent in the year 2013 by incorporating amendment in the Companies Act 1956 and the CSR activities are broadly mentioned in the schedule VII which are to be undertaken by Companies as per section 135 of Companies Act.

The exigent socio-economic condition and discriminatory health infrastructure made our country struggle to deal with brutal virus infection looming large over population across different age groups, economic conditions and urban-rural divide. The WHO declared the outbreak of COVID-19 a pandemic on 11 March 2020 alarming all the countries to prepare themselves for catastrophe and on 23 March 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) issued a circular which clarified that the spending of CSR funds for activities relating to COVID-19 would be considered as eligible CSR expenditure and Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund (PM CARES Fund) was created on 27 March 2020, following the COVID-19 pandemic in India. As far as preparedness on the scale of fund is considered India facilitated constructive engagement with the corporate towards the fight against COVID-19 and corporate boldly took on the challenge with almost all big companies started diverting their CSR fund in response to COVID-crisis. India opened a channel to aggregate the fund from corporate towards fight against COVID while at the same time PM-CARES was also developed largely through CSR fund.

PM CARES FUND CONTRIBUTORS         Contributions in Rs(cr)

Private sector                                             5565

Public sector                                              3249

In the first wave of COVID-19 in 2020, Corporate effectively started integrating pandemic response in their ongoing projects in livelihood, rural development, skill development, education, health and Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) and many companies have in response adopted a hybrid approach and set good examples by lending their support to the government in manufacturing PPE kits, ventilators, face covers, masks, and sanitizers besides their CSR activities in response to crisis. Tata Trust in its rural outreach programme induced COVID-19 necessitated health and safety precautions and practices across India. In the second wave of COVID 19 attack India was marred with the extraordinary oxygen demand with as many as 3 to 4 lakhs cases were registered on daily basis for almost 30 days. This time health infrastructure was enormously burdened with the demands of ICU beds and oxygen supply. The Ministry of Corporate Affairs on 2021, April 22 clarified that CSR funds can be utilized for setting up makeshift hospitals and temporary COVID care facilities and hence many make shift hospitals were established in the different parts of India. When India was struggling with oxygen crisis many steel plants like TATA steels, JSW among many steel companies ramped up manufacturing liquid medical oxygen(LMO) to combat the acute crisis but with poor logistics, the drive could become as strong as its weakest link consequently costing human life losses.

CSR has emerged as a potent tool to fund the fight against COVID-19 yet India needs to priorities and strategize appropriately to utilize the funds optimally and deliver effectively. Rural India is gravely affected by COVID-19 with significant spread of infection in villages. In the backdrop of inadequate health facility, illiteracy and poverty there is a need of collaborated intervention of government, corporate and NGOs by utilizing strong network of existing system MNREGA for the last mile delivery of COVID-relief items leading to emergence of remarkable deliverance of essentials like vitamin C & Zinc tablets, masks, PPE kits, oximeters etc while the ongoing projects in the development areas can also be used to reach out to rural India for the required COVID attention. Undoubtedly concerted efforts by the corporate through CSR have strengthened the drive against this devastating attack of COVID-19 second wave in India and many organizations have risen to the occasion by donating generously and the positive interplay between organization and society has become evident once again. Community will be immensely benefitted if the Government considers the vaccination drive of employees in Company as CSR while providing the vaccines directly to the company. Government has mobilized significant CSR funds in the COVID-19 response but much to the desire of robust monitoring and evaluation of such funds to enhance effectiveness and minimizing malpractices.

Author: Dr Beena Lawania

About The Author: 

Qualified CSR professional with doctorate in Strategic CSR. Published papers on CSR in International Journals. With ever learning attitude, possessed with executive course certificate in CSR from ISB, Hyderabad and certificate course on reporting framework from GRI Amsterdam. She has keen interest in CSR consultancy on matters of CSR policy, activity, measurable outcomes, monitoring and evaluation.

She is trained in CSR by IICA, Ministry of corporate Affairs, Government of India. She is a Consulting Advisor to a Company Foundation and Vice President, Strategy and Sustainability, Waste to Art Private Limited.(First company project was Waste to Wonder Park, New Delhi)
She is involved in social work like health camps for under-privileged people; sanitary napkins vending machine installation, and career counselling to economically-weaker students while advised NGOs on their projects.