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Opportunities for CSR in North East

The concern of the North East development are not a few but many. The governments have been investing resources, but more needs to be done. A huge opportunity awaits corporate to give a helping hand to government policies through CSR. Some are already doing it, but more needs to be done.

Understanding the sectoral and regional variations help companies and the government identify measures to direct the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds in North East like any other part of India. The North-East part of India comprises eight states; Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Sikkim, Nagaland, Mizoram and Tripura. Reports and studies have indicated the need for more equitable distribution of CSR expenditure across the regions, especially the North Eastern and the Northern Hilly States. Northeast has been a challenging environment for decades and has faced several threats of influx and insurgency turmoil. Therefore development h a s comparatively been slow in major areas, but it has been seen that few organizations could break the backbreaking barrier. It has used opportunities in relation building by supplementing the government efforts through CSR initiatives. The North East states have the least focus, with less than 2 per cent CSR expenditure in 2018 as against 25 per cent concentration of backward districts, according to a KPMG survey report. But this is set to change with many corporate and public sector companies diverting their CSR funds to North East.

CSR can play a vital role in the region’s development, which is predominantly tribal. CSR can help in their social and economic inclusion and promote economic growth. The areas where corporate and PSU CSR funds are being diverted include Sanitation, Healthcare, Renewable energy, Digital Education and Skill Development and other livelihood initiatives. Recently, various stakeholders in the Start-up ecosystem, such as incubators, accelerators and other venture funds, have emerged in the North Eastern Region (NER), leading to many Startups in tourism, agriculture, spices, and handicraft. The CSR Stakeholders have identified that Northeast has enormous potential in terms of Natural Resources, Biological Diversity, Hydroelectricity and a strategic location. India will have about 600 million youth under 25 years old and 4% of 600 million youth from NE. And as per a study on development & employment, there will be 2.6 million jobs in NE from 2011- 2021, and there is an enormous supply of 16 million people; therefore, it’s very crucial to provide youngsters to foster and prepare them for new employment challenges to give them more self sustaining pursuits. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development defines CSR as “the continuing commitment by Business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the local community and society at large.” The government has mandated CSR and emphasizes Rural Development programs and schemes that create economic value and maximize sustainability to reduce the rural-urban divide. This should become the focus of corporate and PSU CSR initiatives in future. HDFC Bank Parivartan and its implementation partner launched an Integrated Farmers’ School to restore the floodplain and non-cultivable land after an embankment breach.

Some of them have already begun or expanded their previous work to include new areas under CSR to help the North Eastern States. For example, several schools in Assam and Tripura have seen an increase in enrolment after ONGC upgraded the Infrastructure of 35 Schools. Funding was extended in Arunachal Pradesh as well in the construction of B.ed College at Nirjuli and hostels at Naharlagun. ONGCs’ Super 30 initiative in Assam for providing free coaching belonging to economically weaker sections benefitting 145 students. Manipur has seen CSR investment from companies like Lenovo, Credit Suisse and Reckitt Benckiser (RB). Lenovo has started a programme named Education Technology and Teacher Training with Meghshala Trust IOCL, with Implementing Partners Work hard Foundation, and Tata Medical Centre, had taken the initiative to provide Classes for Professional Nursing / Midwifery Courses to Unemployed Girls of the Northeast. CSR can effectively get the requisite funds at the right place for the right player and build a competitive platform right from the grassroot level. It can ensure effective financial and infrastructural aid to boost performance and reduce dropout rates. Football Sports Program by Tata covers Manipur, Meghalaya, and Mizoram of NE States. Indian Oil Sports Scholarship Scheme for Upcoming Sportspersons offers scholarships to promote budding youngsters in sports in various sports.

Project Khelo Hero: The project was extended to 2000 Athletes; amateur Boxers are trained under the legendary Mary Kom and Paralympic athletes. The youth of North East would immensely benefit from financial knowledge, and Training Programmes in Micro Credit and Agricultural sectors must be imparted. Handloom sector, Cooperative Societies, and the promotion of locally made goods are part of CSR activity. The allocation of CSR in various areas in the NE and the scope of their impact is an ongoing process. However, the effect of CSR expenditure in the region remains a grey area. There is a need for in-depth exercise to understand the wholesome impact of CSR in the region so far.

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