Odisha is the bellwether of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) partnership in-state growth. Many firsts to its credit, the state has been able to trigger discourses around CSR and resulting policies and mechanisms. It is widely
acknowledged that Odisha was the first state in India to pioneer a CSR White paper and a CSR monitoring council. And on 19th May it heralded a CSR Watch, a joint initiative by CYSD & FIDR with the active participation of the industry, civil society, government, community and the academia.
In the last four years, more than 1700 Cr has been deployed under CSR by about 270 plus companies. The geographic spread of the CSR support to the communities across Odisha is not equitable and is difficult to be made so under the prevailing circumstances. If one-third of the districts of Odisha get almost all the CSR resources then the onus is on all of us to participate in the design of the CSR programs, not ignoring the ‘ask’ of the communities in diverse areas and themes. The needs of the geographies and demographics vary, quite obviously. Hence the deployment plan should also be equally elastic. But this requires in-depth analytics by a neutral forum before conclusions are made.
CSR is not the only fund’s source that could augment the district and the state development. There is DMF (District Mineral Fund), District development budget and other sources to compound available resources. Who crafts the district plan and how inclusive is the process? This neutral forum CSR Watch could stitch together a more professionally prepared district plan by spending exclusive time and up-to-date expertise on the same. A district plan is a quintessential preamble to the state plan and its soul. If we aim to achieve a comfortable double-digit SGDP in the coming 3-4 years and sizeably increase Odisha’s contribution to the national GDP, then the District Development Plan needs to be sharper. Much more qualitative and consistent exercise.
Today if CSR is contributing to about 1-2% of the state development throughput in absolute numbers, its scope to provide Odisha with a Development Lab in each district and sub-district is limitless. We have the natural resources and we also have specific industrial zones to develop specialised manufacturing clusters and export capabilities. With an increase in revenue, CSR’s play in the development of the communities is going to grow exponential. But can we ensure that CSR is more demand-driven? Need to be based and not whimsical and token.
Deep dive research, data collation and analytics can help shape CSR to be deservingly referred to as the ‘third wave’ of development, at least for Odisha. After the public programs and then the foreign aids, here is the time to mainstream business in state human development. This requires the convergence of minds, rooting out of inter/intra agency mistrusts and developing a culture of unflinching neutrality. CSR Watch is intended to imbibe, disseminate and develop the synergistic vehicle of development in the state.
Human development is the core and a budget of 1.2 Lakh crores (18-19) for example would have more ‘absorption’ if the development needs are better targeted. Development economics need a technically competent, non-aligned,
inclusive coalition to walk hand-in-hand. CSR Watch is one such conceptualisation – to bring in industry, civil society, government, academia and the community to think, develop, assist, watch, analyse, report and disseminate that sincere smile in every family. It is not only about watching but participating.
After all, it is all about reaching out to the last mile but with a fresh and measurable perspective.
Let’s resolve to give everyone a rightful place under the sun and keep reimagining development.
(A joint initiative of CYSD & FIDR)