D R Sarin, CMD – ALIMCO in a chat with SPO India talks about how the current government is working towards revolutionizing the CSR scenario in the country by making it mandatory under Section 135 of the Companies Act 2013 and how by providing the word DIVYANG to the disabled section of the society, the honorable PM is doing his best to uplift them –
How does ALIMCO see CSR as an opportunity?
In a country like India, where we have 2.68 crore disabled people as per census 2011, the government is doing utmost to cater to this segment of people. I strongly feel that the initiative of the government and provision of funds are quite insufficient and inadequate. Here the corporate bodies have to come forward and invest in the upliftment and the empowerment of people with disabilities. We are here because we are mobile; the first and paramount reasons to invest in CSR are to make people mobile. Once the people are mobile, they will become productive by providing aids and devices. So ALIMCO is funded directly by the government of India through its Assistance to Disabled Persons for Purchase (ADIP) Program, but in order to cater to more people we should have these CSR initiatives to be taken. The best thing is that the government has now made CSR mandatory under Section 135 of the Companies Act 2013 and this we find an opportunity to serve these people.
What are the initiatives ALIMCO has taken across the country for the disabled people?
ALIMCO is a major implementing agency for government programs for providing aids and assisting devices, but as far as CSR is concerned, we have taken last year an initiative to provide cochlear implant to children with hearing impairment. In our country there are 35,000 children born with deformation. But now we rehabilitate such people with the intervention of new implants by which we can eradicate the disability by providing cochlear implants to children below the age of 6 years. Last year we took up a very ambitious program by approaching various corporate bodies including our public sector undertaking. The public sector has come and we are able to mobilize around 250 cochlear implants, where one cockier implant surgery costs around 6 lakh.
Can you brief about the initiatives?
The present government in the center as well as the government in various states has now taken up disability as a vulnerable section of the society, where government has to intervene and support them. Our present government in the center is very pressed on providing need to these kinds of people. The honorable prime minister has done great services by providing these people with the word DIVYANG, instead of disability and he himself presented among the disabled people in 3 mega camps – one organized in Varanasi, other in Navsari and another one in Baroda. He is likely to be presenting one of the campaigns in Rajkot very soon on 29th of this month. We are in the process of preparing to attend the program. That shows the commitment of the honorable prime minister at that level about this section of the society. Over a period of 3 years, the budget under the ADIP scheme for providing aids and assisting devices have been made triple from 50cr to 250 cr. Every year it has been increasing.
How has been your journey in the CSR field and what is your vision?
CSR is going to make a very big difference in time to come. As per the estimate around 18,000cr will be available among the corporate body in a year which is to be invested into CSR. But the problem here is corporate world is searching for partners who are reliable and they are little apprehensive about going to NGOs as they don’t know the liability of such NGOs. Some of the NGOs are doing wonderful job, but they still have some apprehensions. As far as funds are concerned, there are 18,000cr, available and I think this is the biggest opportunity and a game changer particularly for the social sector where the funds are not coming very easily. Again CSR funding with becoming mandatory will be a game changer with times to come.
What is the message you want to communicate to the corporate world?
CSR has become mandatory and everybody has to invest money. I think the Institute of Corporate Affairs has done a tremendous job in devising the guidelines. There is long list of activities under schedule 7 of the Companies Act where in certain activities CSR can be invested. But my request to the corporate world will be that we should invest into the field where the vulnerable section of society can be served. Disabilities is one such area where investment can be done through CSR and we can bring smiles to the people.