By Aparna Mahajan
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives for India’s rural development are of immense significance and contemporary relevance. With a large chunk of India’s total population, nearly 67% residing in rural villages of the country, which lack most basic amenities and infrastructure, the CSR agenda and task for nation building and development is mammoth.
Among the activities covered under the Schedule VII of Companies Act 2013, which may be included under the companies CSR policies, rural development projects are enlisted as one major area of CSR programs. Efforts for improving the lives of rural populace in terms of access to facilities like education, healthcare, sanitation, livelihoods, water availability, agricultural improvement etc. are some key focus areas that require attention of multi- stakeholders. The onus of scaling up the rural development interventions and initiatives at macro-level, lies with the state undoubtedly.
However, the role of corporates in fulfilling their social responsibilities in the vicinity of their operational plants and addressing to the needs of rural neighbouring communities is imminent, for being a good corporate citizen, and acting beyond compliance. The value addition in rural development can be enhanced by corporates through their resources and skills sharing, and employee volunteering in rural villages, through building partnerships with implementing agencies/NGOs working in rural space.
Working with rural communities and partnering with them requires both, an indepth understanding of the village-level issues and enabling solutions for the pertinent concerns, which can be facilitated through the rural NGOs having relevant community connect and related competencies and strengths. Such organizations act as a bridge between the communities and the stakeholders, helping the rural communities to empower themselves, through their capacity building and facilitating them to get access to government rural programs/benefits. Effective rural governance with active citizen participation is a vital tool in making the empowerment happen. Together with varied stakeholders – government, NGOs and corporates through PPP (public, private and people) partnerships, innovative, replicable and scalable models of CSR in rural development can be executed.
Through its work in rural development, since inception in 1999, S M Sehgal Foundation (SMSF), Gurugram, a public, charitable trust registered in India, has been aiming to strengthen community-led development initiatives to achieve positive social, economic, and environmental change across rural India. The Foundation envisions every person across rural India empowered to lead a more secure, prosperous and dignified life.
With support from donors and partners, SMSF has worked along with the communities in rural India to address the pressing challenges of water security, food security, and social justice. The core programs of the Foundation encompassing water management, agriculture development and good rural governance are spread in various villages of the six states where it is presently working in Haryana, Rajasthan, Bihar, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.
SMSF works with a range of multi-stakeholders – government, international organizations, NGOs and corporates leveraging partners’ strengths for support to specific thematic projects and programs. Several rural interventions have been done in many villages in the domains of integrated water management/rainwater harvesting, safe drinking water, sanitation and water for schools, improving agriculture productivity and livelihoods of small and marginal farmers, rural school renovations, community- led development for empowering rural citizens and strengthening village institutions, life skills/digital literacy, awareness programs through community radio broadcasts, etc., to name a few.
A commitment to rural development by empowering the rural masses, and led by its vision and mission, SMSF is poised to scale to new heights, working together with partners in progress of rural India, and joining hands with like-minded organizations having shared values and principles.
(Aparna Mahajan, Director, Partnerships and External Relations, S M Sehgal Foundation, Gurugram. Information available on website : www.smsfoundation.org)
About Aparna Mahajan: Aparna Mahajan Director, Partnerships and External Relations, S M Sehgal Foundation, has several years of experience of working in industry, development sector and with United Nations. She has worked on diverse areas in social and rural development, with a focus on CSR, building partnerships and collaborations with multi-stakeholders. She has a Master’s degree in Business Administration (MBA), and World Bank Institute, USA, certificate in corporate social responsibility and sustainable competitiveness.
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