Thursday, 31 July 2014

Folkways And Mores

The concept of folkways is associated with the name of William Graham Sumner who made one of the most fruitful and clarifying analysis of culture and its implications. He was one of the best –loved and most inspiring teachers at Yale where he used to teach political economy but later he changed his interest to sociology. In his sociological classic Folkways Sumner has made a notable contribution to the understanding of individual behavior. Sumner conceived of culture in terms of folkways and mores and used the term folkways in a very comprehensive sense. According to him
“They (folkways) are like products of natural forces which men unconsciously set in operations or they are like the instinctive ways of animals which are developed out of experience which reach a final form of maximum adaptation to an interest which are handed down by tradition and admit of no exception or variation yet change to meet new conditions still within the same limited methods and without rational reflection or purpose. From this it results that all the life of human beings in all ages and stages of culture is primarily controlled by a vast mass of folkways handed down from the earliest existence of the race, having the nature of the ways of other animals only the top most layers of which are subject to change and control and have been somewhat modified by human philosophy, ethics and religion or by other acts of intelligent reflection.”
Folkways are recognized ways of behavior. The folkways are thus the recognized ways of behaving and acting in societies that arise automatically within a group to meet the problems of social living. According to Maclver Folkways are the recognized or accepted ways of behaving in society. According to Lundberg Folkways are the typical or habitual beliefs, attitudes and styles of conduct observed within a group or community.

The Meaning of Folkways

The concept of folkways is associated with the name of William Sumner who made one of the clarifying analyses of culture and its implications. In his sociological classic folkways he has made a notable contribution to the understanding of individual behavior. Sumner conceived of culture in terms of folkways and mores and used the terms folkways in a very comprehensive sense. According to him They are like products of natural forces which men unconsciously set in operation or they are like the instinctive ways of animals which are developed out of experience which reach a final form of maximum adaptation to an interest which are handed down by tradition and admit of no exception or variation yet change to meet new conditions still within the same limited methods and without rational reflection or purpose. From this it results that all the life of human beings in all ages and stages of culture is primarily controlled by a vast mass of folkways handed down from the earliest existence of the race having the nature of the ways of other animals only the top-most layers of which are subject to change and control and have been somewhat modified by human philosophy, ethics and religion or by other acts of intelligent reflection.
Folkways are recognized ways of behavior in a society which arise automatically within a group to meet the problems of social living. Social life is full of problems and man seems to have tried every possible way of dealing with such problems. Different societies have found different workable patterns. A group through trial and error, sheer accident or some unknown influence may arrive at one of the possibilities, repeats it and accepts it as the normal way of behavior. It is passed on the succeeding generations and becomes one of the ways of the group of the folk hence a folkway. According to Sumner men inherited from their beast ancestor’s psycho-physical traits, instincts and dexterities or at least predispositions which give them aid in solving the problem of food supply, sex, commerce and vanity. The result is mass phenomena: currents of similarity, concurrence and mutual contribution and these produce folkways. The folkways are thus the product of frequent repetition of petty acts, often by great numbers acting in concert or at least acting in the same way when face to face with the same needs.
According to Lundberg, folkways designate those uniformities in the behavior of a group which develop relatively spontaneously and even unconsciously in adapting to common life conditions and which become established through repetition and general occurance.Thus they are those unconscious collective modes of behavior that are believed to ensure the survival and growth of the group. They include the innumerable ways of behavior men have evolved about the business of social living. They are the customs and usages which have been passed from old generations and to which new elements are added according to the changing needs of times. They represent man’s unique means of adapting himself to his environment. No member of the group ever questions a folkway nor is anyone needed to enforce a folkway.

Characteristics of Folkways

Spontaneous Origin Folkways arise spontaneously. They are not deliberately planned or designed. They are developed out of experience. They are unplanned and uncharted.
Approved behavior- Folkways are the recognized ways of behavior. The group accords recognition to certain way while rejects others. Only such ways of behavior are folkways as have been approved by the group to which they relate.
Distinctiveness- There is numerous folkways in different societies .the folkways become related to a particular group. There is considerable variation in the folkways between groups.
Hereditary- Folkways are passed on from one generation to another. An individual receives folkways from his ancestors.

Folkway Versus Custom

Custom is often referred to as a folkway. But there is a difference between the two that the folkways are of more general and wider character than the customs and cover all those modes of behavior or spontaneous usages which are not included in the term customs. Thus for example-shaking hands, eating four meals etc are folkways rather than of customs. Customs are related to the survival and growth of the group but folkways are not necessarily so related. They are not made obligatory by the group. They are sanctioned informally.

The Sanction of Folkways

Folkways come to form the unstated premises in our daily life.They provide predictability both of our own and of others behavior so that we feel some security and some order in life. They are the great savers of energy and time. They are the foundation of every culture. If an individual does not follow folkway he may find himself socially isolated which would make survival difficult. According to Davis if the alpha and omega of human existence is to be found anywhere it is in the folkways for we begin with them and always come back to them. The sanctions of the folkways are informal.

The Meaning of Mores

Sumner applied the term mores to those folkways which are considered by the group to be of great significance and therefore rather indispensible to its welfare. He writes I mean by mores the popular usages and traditions when they include a judgment that they are conducive to social welfare and when they exert coercion on the individual to conform to them although they are not coordinated by any authority.
The term mores is derived from the Latin word ‘mos’ which stands for customs and just as customs cannot be violated by any individual so mores also cannot be violated without incurring severe punishment. The mores relate to the fundamental needs of society more directly than do the folkways. They express the group sense of what is fitting, right and conducive to social welfare. Sumner has written the Latin word mores seems to be on the whole more practically convenient and available than any other for our purpose as a name for the folkways with the connotations of right and truth in respect to welfare embodied in them.

Distinction between Mores and Folkways

Folkways are of a more general and wider character than mores.
Mores imply a value judgment about the folkways
Mores are more effective and are always molding and restraining the tendencies of the individuals than the folkways.
It is out of mores and not folkways that our profound convictions of right and wrong come.
Folkways are less deeply rooted in society and change more rapidly than the mores which are more deeply rooted and change less frequently.
Folkways change with one’s social status and occupational position but mores do not change that way.
Violations of mores but not of the folkways are looked upon as an evident danger to the right of others.
Mores need not be rational. Some of the mores may look to be irrational to outsiders. Thus purdah system, untouchability etc may look to be irrational to the western world. Mores of one culture may be unknown to other cultures and seem to have no necessary connection with group welfare.

Functions of Mores

According to Maclver following are the functions of mores-
They both compel behavior and forbid it. They are forever molding and restraining the tendency of every individual. In other words they are the instruments of control. In society there are innumerable mores like monogamy, anti-slavery, democracy and prohibition conformity to which is regarded as necessary.
By conforming to the mores the individual gains identification with his fellows and maintains those social bonds which are essential for satisfactory living.
The mores hold the members of the groups together. The members of the group though characterized by the consciousness of the kind are also competing with one another by the good things of this life and status. They are held in line by the constraints of mores. There is a sense of unreflecting solidarity among people who share the same mores because their sentiments are alike. It also implies that there is a sense of resistance and antagonism towards anyone with different mores. There are mores for each sex for all classes and for all groups whose function is to maintain the solidarity of the group.

Mores and Law

In civilized societies the mores tend to take the form of law though laws and mores always coincide. On the one hand the law may prohibit behavior not in the mores in which case law remains generally ineffective. Prohibition is a common example; untouchability is another. The consumption of intoxicating beverages is prohibited by law and sanctioned by mores. Child marriage is legally forbidden but it often takes place. On the other hand all the mores are not the part of law. They are well known and too widely respected to require formal enactment or they are personal matters which are not fit subjects for law.

Mores and Sanctions

The mores represent the norms of modes of behavior in society-they present to us the most accepted and the most standardized ways of doing this or that. They are regulative and therefore it is essential for the member of the groups to conform to them.Behaviour contrary to mores is not permitted by society. They may even compel the individual to follow practices that are contrary to his physical well being. There are several causes for the people obeying the mores. Some obey them in order to win praise or reward; others obey them because of fear of social boycott, imposition of fine or even loss of life. The non acceptance of mores marks out one as a stranger, rebel as a fit object for ostracism for persecution. Most people conform to mores because they think it right to do or because they have become habituated to do it. The motives of the individual are always manifold and hard to disentangle. Every group has its own form of sanction and mores try to guarantee their own enforcement.

Neo Positivism.

Neo Positivism arises out of the analogy between physical and social phenomena.Auguste comte made philosophical positivism the cornerstone of his sociological thought.But the school of neo-postivisim traces the origin to statistical tradition rather than Comte’s philosophical positivism.Neo positive takes phenomena form the physical world as models for social events and uses the laws of the former to explain the latter.It asserts that sociology should be a science and its methods should follow these of the natural expecially physical sciences.
Neopositivists consider sound scientific methodology to be the first principle of sociological analysis.For them sound scientific methodology involves mathematical and other formal models that incorporate formalization of variables.Computer techniques and language,experimental logics,laboratory experiments and computer simulation of human behaviour. Among early thinkers Pareto and Giddings stressed the scientific nature of sociology and recommended the use of methods commonly adopted in the natural sciences. Dodd,Ogburn,Zipf are considered to the leading exponents of neo-positivism.

Main features of Neo positivism

Positivistic pistemology: Neo positivism rejects a priori definitions of the essential nature of society,culture,social structure and institutions and insists on operational definition of concrete phenomena.The sequence of observable consequences that form a cluster of sense impressions is treated as the proper subject matter of sociology.
Operationalism: Neo positivist are not satisfied with the vague definitions of theoretical construets and concepts.Each term must be defined precisely and translated in measurable variables.For Neopositivists sociological theory is a systematic collection of concepts useful in the interpretation of statistical findings.
Quantitavism: Statistical analysis which incorporates enumeration and mesurement is basic to neo positivism.Due to the advances in computer technology a variety of methods and techniques are available.Hence the need is to put together the pieces of information pertaining to units of social structure into formal and mathematical system so that the relationship between different variables may be attained.
Empiricism: Whether it is survey research or experimental observation,the empirical work falls into a standard pattern.Place a problem that can be investigated by a fact finding inquiry. Formulation of a set of hypothesis that can be tested on the basis of individual responses to a set of questions.Collection of answers on an interview schedule,structured questionnaire .
Behaviourism: Because of the emphasis on operationalsim and quantitativsm ,neo postivists tend to study observable behaviour pattern.they concentrate on specific instances of interaction,sometimes counting the frequency and patterns of repetition.Substantive problems of social structure and the history of institutions and ideas are often ignored,concrete behaviour of individuals become the focus of sociological inquiry.Neo positivists develop non subjective and non voluntaristic theories of action and interaction.Based on mechanistic and field theoretical conceptions,extreme variants of neo-postivism may border behavioural determinism.
Mathematical theory construction: Neo positivists have commitment for formal theory construction.They claim that the strong symbolic representation of a theory in terms of the formal logic of mathematics necessarily increases the precision of theoretical propositions.The system of formal logic in mathematics enables substantive propositions to be couched in terms of exactly defined concepts and to state them with logical coherence.Formal theory construction appears in two different contexts first there is the formalization of well developed substantive theories.Second specific findings of particular empirical research are codified in mathematical terms and then organized into a formal theoretical system which established the mathematical relationship between variable in symbolic terms.Most of the empirical studies undertaken by sociologists fall in this category.However impact of mathematical sociology has been limited to few areas.

Criticism of Neo-Positivism

The critics of Neopositivism call the scientific sociology as meaningless jumble of numbers and formulas.Because of their dependence on frequency and measurement ,neo positivists tend to study social situations an problems which are recurrent.they also display a strong historical bias because their techniques permit them to study only contemporary social problems and not historical social events.
They tend to choose those areas that lend themselves most readily to mathematical formulations ,to the virtual neglect of more substantive areas of theoretical significance.Neopositivism is often critised as devoid of any substantive propositions and theories.The claims of Neo positivists are rejected by Mills on the ground that social science should not be treated as a storage building block endeavour.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Poverty Alleviation Programmes in India .

 The government of India's poverty alleviation programmes can be broadly classified under five categories: (a) Self-employment programmes like the Swarnajayanti Gram Swarojgar Yojana; (b) Wage-employment programmes like the Sampoorna Grameen Rojgar Yojana and the National Rural Employment Guarantee (NREG) scheme; (c) Area development programmes like Drought Prone Area Programmes and the Rashtriya Sam Vikas Yojana; (d) Social security programmes like the National Old Age Pension Scheme; (e) Other programmes like the Indira Awaas Yojana.
Self-employment programmes
Self-employment programmes were introduced at the national level in the late 1970s. Initially, the programmes were designed to provide skills, subsidized credit and infrastructure support to small farmers and agricultural labourers so that they could find new sources of income.
The fruits of economic growth have not benefited everyone uniformly. Some are left behind and some others are not touched by the benefits of economic growth. It is proved globally that the so-called trickle-down effect does not work in all the societies and India is no exception to this. There are various reasons for this uneven development in the society. Modern economy is technology driven and not labour-intensive.
High volume of high quality goods and services are produced with fewer labour hands. In short, the modern economy is not generating much employment and sometimes it displaces and replaces labour with machines and tools. The period of 1999-2000 to 2004- 2005 saw rapid economic growth in the country but it has not impacted on the unemployment problem of the country. During this period, the unemployment rate remained almost same for rural males and decreased by just one percentage for urban male. On the other hand, unemployment among females increased by one percentage for urban and rural females.

One-third of the country’s population is still illiterate and a majority are not educated up to the age of 15 years. Even among the educated, all do not have employable skills of the modern economy. The education system is not tuned to the changing economic scenario. The large agriculture workforce in rural areas is not sustainable with dwindling cultivable land and use of modern methods of cultivation. As a result, the rural labour is pushed into cities in search of work but they do not have any employable skills in the urban formal sector often end up doing odd jobs in urban areas.

Urbanization in this country is mainly due to acute poverty in rural areas, rather than due to the economic opportunities in urban areas. Further, poverty is not uniformly spread in the country. States like Orissa, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh have high level of poverty and the levels have not come down significantly in the post-economic reform era.
It is also pertinent to understand that some of the people are unable to be part of the economic reform and do not have the capacity to participate in the economic development process. Such groups need government intervention to ensure that they are not left behind in the development process and deprived of the benefits because they do not have the capacity to be part of the global economy. The government needs to develop safety nets for such groups and try to mainstream them in the development process. They need welfare measures in the form of poverty alleviation programmes to ensure that they survive, if not prosper, in this era of economic reform. Further, the poor are not a homogeneous population and their capacity to survive the economic reform varied from one group of poor to another. Especially, those who are below the poverty line or the poorest among the poor need more government help.

In the 1980s, the focus of the self-employment programmes was extended to cover target groups such as scheduled castes and tribes, women and rural artisans. The coverage also extended to specific areas such as animal husbandry, forestry and fishery.

The largest of these programmes was the Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP). According to a mid-term appraisal of the Ninth Plan done by the Planning Commission, the IRDP suffered from several defects including: sub-critical investment, unviable projects, illiterate and unskilled beneficiaries with no experience in managing an enterprise, indifferent delivery of credit by banks, overcrowding of lending in certain projects such as dairy, under-emphasis on activities like trading, service and even simple processing, poor targeting and selection of non-poor, rising indebtedness, and scale of IRDP outstripping capacity of government and banks.

Other self-employment programmes suffered from similar deficiencies.

In 1999, several self-employment programmes were integrated into the Swarnajayanti Gram Swarojgar Yojana (SGSY). The key feature of the SGSY is that it does not seek to promote individual economic activities. It seeks to promote self-help groups that are trained in specific skills so they can formulate microenterprise proposals. Such projects are based on activities that are identified for each block on the basis of local resources, skills and markets. The projects are supported by bank credit and government subsidies.
While the SGSY is implemented by district rural development agencies through panchayat samitis, NGOs are expected to play a major role in the success of the programme.
Wage-employment programmes
The first major wage-employment programme was introduced in the 1960s to provide employment to the rural unemployed particularly during the lean agricultural season.

Subsequently, several wage-employment programmes were launched by the Central and State governments. The largest of these was the Jawahar Rozgar Yojana (JRY), which was redesigned in 1999 as the Jawahar Gram Samridhhi Yojana (JGSY).

Other notable schemes were: the Employment Assurance Scheme (EAS), and the Employment Guarantee Scheme of the Maharashtra government.

According to a mid-term appraisal of the Ninth Plan done by the Planning Commission, the JRY suffered from the following defects: Provided inadequate employment (only 11 days as per concurrent evaluation); Resources were spread too thin; Violation of material-labour norms and corruption (fudging of muster rolls); Projects were executed by contractors who sometimes hired outside labourers at lower wages.

There were similar deficiencies in the EAS.

In 2001, the JGSY and EAS were merged to form the Sampoorna Grameen Rojgar Yojana (SGRY). The objective of the scheme is to provide additional wage employment with food security in rural areas. Beneficiaries are temporarily employed to build community assets and infrastructure. The cost of the scheme, which includes the distribution of foodgrain, is shared by the Central and State governments in a ratio of 87.5:12.5.

In August 2005, the Indian Parliament passed the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA), one of independent India’s most ambitious interventions to address rural poverty and empower poor people.

The NREGA follows a set of legally enforceable employment norms. Its aim is to end food insecurity, empower village communities, and create useful assets in rural areas. It is based on the assumption that every adult has a right to basic employment opportunities at the statutory minimum wage.

Under the scheme, one member of every poor rural family is guaranteed 100 days of work at the minimum wage of Rs 60 a day. All rural poor are eligible, not just those designated below the poverty line (BPL). One-third of the beneficiaries must be women. If five or more children accompany their mothers to any site, the implementing authority must appoint a woman to look after them on the site.

Panchayats at district, intermediate and village levels will identify and monitor the project, together with a programme officer. Social audits of the work will be available at gram sabhas. Work will, as far as possible, be provided within a radius of 5 km.

The work to be undertaken will be public works such as water harvesting, drought-proofing, micro and macro irrigation works, renovation of traditional water bodies, flood control barriers and rural connectivity.

Medical costs necessitated by injuries at work will be borne by the implementing authority.

Area development programmes
Drought Prone Area Programmes (DPAP), Desert Development Programmes (DDP), Hilly Area Development Programmes and Tribal Area Development Programmes were introduced in the 1970s to prevent environmental degradation and provide employment to the poor in these regions.

In the mid-‘90s, the environment management aspect of these programmes was strengthened by the introduction of watershed development programmes.

Currently, several Central government, State government and non-government watershed development programmes are being implemented.

The government has mooted a "single national initiative” under the National Watershed Development Projects for Rain-fed Areas (NWDPRA) programme. A new Department of Land Resources has been created by merging all area development programmes with the Department of Wasteland Development.
The Tenth Plan has a new scheme called the Rashtriya Sam Vikas Yojana(RSVY) to tackle the problem of extreme deprivation in backward pockets of the country.

Started with an outlay of Rs 2,500 crore for 2002-03, the RSVY aims to promote focused developmental programmes for backward areas that would help reduce imbalances, speed up development and help backward areas overcome poverty. The programme also aims to encourage states to take up productivity-enhancing reforms.
Social security programmes
Social security programmes were launched, at the national level, in the 1980s with an old age pension scheme. Currently, there are four major national social security schemes:
—National Old Age Pension Scheme (NOAPS), which provides a pension to people above the age of 65 with no source of income or financial support.
—National Family Benefit Scheme, which provides Rs 10,000 to families living below the poverty line when their main earning member dies.
—National Maternity Benefit Scheme, which provides Rs 500 to pregnant women of families living below the poverty line.
—Rural Group Insurance Scheme, which provides a maximum life insurance of Rs 5,000 covering the main earning members of families living below the poverty line on a group insurance basis; the government pays half the premium of Rs 50-Rs 70.
Other programmes
The largest of the 'other' programmes is the Indira Awaas Yojana (IAY), which provides houses free of cost to below the poverty line scheduled caste and scheduled tribe families living in rural areas. Recently, several other poverty alleviation programmes have been launched, including Pradhan Mantri Gramodaya Yojana, which provides additional funds to States so that they can provide basic minimum services such as primary health, primary education and drinking water.

Under the Pradhan Mantri Gramodaya Yojana there are two schemes, Gramin Awas for rural shelter and the Rural Drinking Water Project for water conservation in DPAP and DDP programme areas.

Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, launched in December 2000, to provide road connectivity to 1.6 lakh remote habitations with a population of over 500 by the end of the Tenth Plan period
Antyodaya Anna Yojana, launched in December 2001, to provide 25 kg of foodgrain at highly subsidized rates to 100 million of India's poorest families living below the poverty line. In 2002, around 24 lakh tonnes of foodgrain were provided by the central government under this scheme.
The Annapurna Scheme to provide 10 kg of foodgrain per month free of cost to persons who are eligible for pension under the NOAPS but haven’t received any.

Swarnajayanti Gram Swarojgar Yojna: This programme was launched in April, 1999. This is a holistic programme covering all aspects of self employment such as organisation of the poor into self help groups, training, credit, technology, infrastructure and marketing.

The objective of SGSY is to provide sustainable income to the rural poor. The programme aims at establishing a large number of micro-enterprises in the rural areas, based upon the potential of the rural poor. It is envisaged that every family assisted under SGSY will be brought above the poverty-line with in a period of three years.

This programme covers families below poverty line in rural areas of the country. Within this target group, special safeguards have been provided by reserving 50% of benefits for SCs/STs, 40% for women and 3% for physically handicapped persons. Subject to the availability of the funds, it is proposed to cover 30% of the rural poor in each block in the next 5 years.

SGSY is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme and funding is shared by the Central and State Governments in the ratio of 75:25 respectively.

SGSY is a Credit-cum-Subsidy programme. It covers all aspects of self-employment, such as organisation of the poor into self-help groups, training, credit technology, infrastructure and marketing. Efforts would be made to involve women members in each self-help group. SGSY lays emphasis on activity clusters. Four-five activities will be identified for each block with the approval of Panchayat Samities. The Gram sabha will authenticate the list of families below the poverty line identified in BPL census. Identification of individual families suitable for each key activity will be made through a participatory process. Closer attention will be paid on skill development of the beneficiaries, known as swarozgaris, and their technology and marketing needs.
Jawahar Gram Samriddhi Yojna: The critical importance of rural infrastructure in the development of village economy is well known. A number of steps have been initiated by the Central as well as the State Governments for building the rural infrastructure. The public works programme have also contributed significantly in this direction.
Jawahar Gram Samridhi Yojna (JGSY) is the restructured, streamlined and comprehensive version of the erstwhile Jawahar Rozagar Yojana. Designed to improve the quality of life of the poor, JGSY has been launched on 1st April, 1999. The primary objective of the JGSY is the creation of demand driven community village infrastructure including durable assets at the village level and assets to enable the rural poor to increase the opportunities for sustained employment. The secondary objective is the generation of supplementary employment for the unemployed poor in the rural areas. The wage employment under the programme shall be given to Below Poverty Line(BPL) families.

JGSY is implemented entirely at the village Panchayat level. Village Panchayat is the sole authority for preparation of the Annual Plan and its implementation.

The programme is implemented as Centrally Sponsored Scheme on cost sharing basis between the Centre and the State in the ratio of 75:25 respectively.

The programme is to be implemented by the Village Panchayats with the approval of Gram sabha. No other administrative or technical approval is required.
Indira Aawas Yojna: IAY is the flagship rural housing scheme which is being implemented by the Government of India with an aim of providing shelter to the poor below poverty line. The Government of India has decided that allocation of funds under IAY will be on the basis of poverty ratio and housing shortage.

The objective of IAY is primarily to help construction of new dwelling units as well as conversion of unserviceable kutcha houses into pucca/semi-pucca by members of SC/STs, freed bonded labourers and also non-SC/ST rural poor below the poverty line by extending them grant-in-aid.

IAY is a beneficiary-oriented programme aimed at providing houses for SC/ST households who are victims of atrocities, households headed by widows/unmarried women and SC/ST households who are below the poverty line. This scheme has been in effect from 1st April, 1999.

IAY is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme funded on cost sharing basis between the government of India and the States in the ratio of 75:25 respectively.

Grant of Rs. 20,000 per unit is provided in the plain areas and Rs. 22,000 in hilly/difficult areas for the construction of a house. For conversion of a kutcha house into in pucca house, Rs. 10,000 is provided. Sanitary laterines and chulahs are integral part of the house. In construction/upgradation of the house, cost effective and environment friendly technologies, materials and designs are encouraged. The household is allotted in the name of a female member of beneficiary household.
DRDA Administration: District Rural Development Agency (DRDA) has traditionally been the principal organ at the District level to oversee the implementation of the anti-poverty programmes of the Ministry of Rural Development. Created originally for implementation of Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP), the DRDAs were subsequently entrusted with a number of programmes, both of the Central and State governments. Since inception, the administrative costs of the DRDA (District Rural Development Agency) were met by setting aside a part of the allocations for each programme. Of late, the number of programmes had increased and several programmes have been restructured with a view to making them more effective. While an indicative staffing structure was provided to the DRDAs, experience showed that there was no uniformity in the staffing structure. It is in this context that a new centrally sponsored scheme—DRDA Administration—was introduced from April 1, 1999, based on the recommendations of an inter-ministerial committee known as Shankar Committee. The new scheme replaced the earlier practice of allocating percentage of programme funds to the administrative costs.

The objective of the scheme of DRDA (District Rural Development Agency) Administration is to strengthen the DRDAs and to make them more professional and effective. Under the scheme, DRDA is visualised as specialised agency capable of managing anti-poverty programmes of the Ministry on the one hand and effectively relate these to the overall efforts of poverty eradication in the district on the other.

The funding pattern of the programme is in the ratio of 75:25 between the Centre and the States.

The DRDA will continue to watch over and ensure effective utilisation of the funds intended for anti-poverty programmes. It will need to develop distinctive capabilities for poverty eradication. It will perform tasks which are different from Panchayati Raj Institutions and line departments. The DRDAs would deal only with the anti-poverty programmes of the Ministry of Rural Development. If DRDAs are to be entrusted with programmes of other Ministries or those of the State Governments, it must be ensured that these have a definite anti-poverty focus. In respect of such States where DRDA does not have a separate identity and separate accounts.
Basic Minimum Services: The Government of India launched this scheme in 1997 incorporating seven vital services of importance to common people. The State Government has opted to provide shelter to shelter-less below poverty line under this scheme.

The objective of providing this scheme is to supplement the constitution of dwelling units for members of SC/ST, freed bonded labour and also non-SC/ST rural poor below the poverty line by providing them with grant.

The Central government provides additional funds for Basic Minimum Services subject to the condition that the State government will provide 15% of the required funds.

Additional Indira Awas are being constructed with the guidelines analogous to that for the Awas Yojana. The salient features are:
—Rs. 20,000 is provided to the beneficiaries for construction of the houses in phases. Sanitary latrines and smokeless chulah are integral part of the houses.
—Houses are allotted in the name of female members of the family or in joint names of both spouses.
—Selection of construction technology, materials and design is left entirely to the choice of beneficiaries. Contractors, Middlemen or the Departmental Agencies have no role in the construction of houses.
—Cost effective and environment friendly housing technologies/design and materials are provided.

Drought-Prone Areas Programme: The Drought Prone Areas Programme (DPAP) aims at mitigating the adverse effects of drought on the production of crops and livestock and productivity of land, water and human resources. It strives to encourage restoration of ecological balance and seeks to improve the economic and social conditions of the poor and the disadvantaged sections of the rural community.

DPAP is a people's programme with government assistance. There is a special arrangement for maintenance of assets and social audit by Panchayati Raj Institutions. Development of all categories of land belonging to Gram Panchayats, Government and individuals fall within the limits of the selected watersheds for development.

Allocation is to be shared equally by the Centre and State government on 75:25 basis. Watershed community is to contribute for maintenance of assets created. Utilisation of 50% of allocation under the Employment Assurance Scheme (EAS) is for the watershed development. Funds are directly released to Zila Parishads/District Rural Development Agencies (DRDAs) to sanction projects and release funds to Watershed Committees and Project Implementation Agencies.

Village community, including self-help/user groups, undertake area development by planning and implementation of projects on watershed basis through Watershed Associations and Watershed Committees constituted from among themselves. The Government supplements their work by creating social awareness, imparting training and providing technical support through project implementation agencies.
Credit-cum-Subsidy Scheme for Rural Housing: There were a large number of households in the rural areas which could not be covered under the IAY, as either they do not fall into the range of eligibility or due to the limits imposed by the available budget. On the other hand due to limited repayment capacity, these rural households cannot take benefit of fully loan based schemes offered by some of the housing finance institutions. The need of this majority can be met through a scheme which is part credit and part subsidy based.

The objective of this scheme for rural housing is to facilitate construction of houses for rural families who have some repayment capacity. The scheme aims at eradicating shelter-lessness from the rural area of the country.

The scheme provides shelter to rural families who have not been coveted under IAY and who are desirous of possessing a house. All rural households having annual income up to Rs. 32,000 are covered under this scheme.

The funds are shared by the Centre and the State in the ratio of 75:25, respectively.

Poor just above the poverty line are entitled to get the benefits of the scheme. A maximum subsidy of Rs. 10,000 per unit is provided for the construction of a house. Sanitary latrine and smokeless chulha are integral part of the house. Cost effective and environment friendly technologies, materials, designs, etc. are encouraged. Sixty per cent (60%) of the houses are allocated to SC/ST rural poor.

Appraisal of Anti-poverty programmes
On review of all the poverty alleviation programmes, one gets the impression that these programmes are not benefiting the poor in terms of increasing their income. For example, the PDS is plagued with seepage, corruption, high administrative cost and targeting errors. Self-employment are better utilized by the non-poor or those who are above BPL. Wage employment programme is caught in red-tapism and administrative delays leading to poor utilization of the allocated funds. All these factors have been used by some economists to argue against these programmes and to suggest the winding up the programmes.

Looking at purely narrow economic point of view is not the right approach to poverty alleviation. Poverty does not mean not having enough income alone. Poverty means not having access to a whole lot of services like education, health services, water supply, sanitation and so on. It also means loss of status in the community, exclusion from certain social functions, and a sense of inferiority in the group or community. In short, poverty means marginalization of an individual or household in the community.

There is no denial that poverty alleviation programmes should lead to high income to the poor, but to come out of the culture of poverty, one needs to be empowered and also requires access to basic services. While some of the poverty alleviation programmes may not be performing well in terms of utilizing the allocated funds and increasing the income of the poor, these programmes have contributed to the social arena of poverty. For example, wage employment programme was not very successful in terms of utilizing the allocated resources and generating additional employment for the BPL. But this programme has created village level assets and infrastructure in terms of schools, health centers, roads and ponds
Similarly, Self-help Groups (SHGs) formed by the women has given them tremendous confidence and empowered them to become entrepreneurs. Today, SHGs are not only active in creating micro-enterprises but also they are involved in implementing community programmes like immunization programmes, literacy programmes and so on. Some of them have empowered to the level of contesting panchayat elections and become members of Panchayat Raj Institutions (PRI). Again, there is no denial that all these cannot be achieved without an increase in income. Therefore, the economic and social aspects of poverty alleviation are interlinked to one another. Economic upliftment alone cannot alleviate poverty but it must lead to social upliftment in terms of access to services, empowerment and independence. Therefore, the current poverty alleviation programmes in the country should broaden their focus and goal in addition to increasing income to achieve the target of removing poverty from the country.

Also, involvement of the local communities is key to the success of poverty alleviation programmes. In the absence of community involvement, the programmes are plagued with bureaucratic muddle and corruption at every level. Unfortunately, States still lag behind handing over these programmes to Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRIs). While PRIs are created in most of the States and elections are held, these institutions are not given the financial resources, administrative powers and the capacity to run programmes. State governments still hold the financial powers and the PRI is not in a position to plan and decide based on their needs. The administrative machinery of the PRI is very week to carry out these national level programmes. Also, the PRI does not have the capacity to handle resources and technical capacity to implement programmes. These issues have to be addressed immediately to strengthen PRI to implement poverty alleviation programmes.

Apart from decentralization and community involvement, participation of the poor in the programme that affects their welfare, is important. Some of the self-employment schemes failed to take off because no effort was made to involve the poor in identifying the skills which they can learn easily. Some of the skills imbibed may not have job potential in the community. On the positive side, micro-enterprise under the self-employment programme was successful because of the role of SHGs. The SHG members actively participated in the whole process and decided for themselves for the kind of skills they wanted to learn and also the kind of credit they needed from the bank to start the microenterprise. Many well-intentioned programmes fail to take off because of lack of understanding of the ground realities due to lack of participation of the beneficiaries.

At the macro-level, there is a need to co-ordinate a myriad of poverty alleviation programmes of the central government and the State governments. The transfer of central funds to the States for different programmes should be efficient. Currently, such funds and goods like foodgrains are not fully utilized by the States. There is a need to strengthen the financial management capacity of certain States to use the funds efficiently. These are the States where the percentage of the BPL is more than the national average.

Poverty is more of social marginalization of an individual, household or group in the community/society rather than inadequacy of income to fulfill the basic needs. Indeed, inadequate income is one of the factors of marginalization, but not the sole factor. The poverty alleviation programmes should not aim merely to increase the income level of individual, household or group, but mainstreaming marginalized in the development process of the country.

Human Development Report 2014

Although poverty is declining overall, almost 800 million people are at risk of falling back into poverty if setbacks occur. Nearly 1.5 billion people in 91 developing countries are living in poverty with overlapping deprivations in health, education and living standards. And according to income-based measures of poverty, 1.2 billion people still live with $1.25 or less a day.

The 2014 Human Development Report, released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), comes at a critical time as attention turns to the creation of a new development agenda following the 2015 deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
hdi india
India is ranked at 135, among the ‘medium development’ countries like Egypt, South Africa, Mongolia, Philippines and Indonesia. Among India’s neighbours, Bhutan and Bangladesh too figure in this category. Pakistan (ranked 146) and Nepal (145) are in the ‘low development’ category, while Sri Lanka (73) is in the ‘high development’ category.

Unless persistent vulnerability that threatens human development is systematically tackled by policies and social norms, progress will be neither equitable nor sustainable. This is the core premise of the 2014 Report. “By addressing vulnerabilities, all people may share in development progress, and human development will become increasingly equitable and sustainable,” stated UNDP Administrator Helen Clark today.
The report points to a slowdown in human development growth across all regions, as measured by the Human Development Index (HDI). It notes that threats such as financial crises, fluctuations in food prices, natural disasters and violent conflict significantly impede progress.
“Eliminating extreme poverty is not just about ‘getting to zero’; it is also about staying there”, the Report states.
The Report also introduces the idea of life cycle vulnerabilities, the sensitive points in life where shocks can have greater impact. They include the first 1,000 days of life, and the transitions from school to work, and from work to retirement. For example, in one study cited by the Report, poor children in Ecuador were shown to be already at a vocabulary disadvantage by the age of six. Timely interventions—such as investments in early childhood development—are therefore critical, the Report states.
Poor countries can afford universal provision of basic social services
The Report advocates for the universal provision of basic social services to enhance resilience, refuting the notion that only wealthy countries can afford to do this. Countries mentioned include not only the usual suspects such as Denmark, Norway and Sweden, but also fast-growing economies such as the Republic of Korea and developing countries such as Costa Rica.
“These countries started putting in place measures of social insurance when their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita was lower than India’s and Pakistan’s now,” the Report observes.
Collective effort, coordinated action needed at a global level
The Report also calls for stronger collective action, as well as better global coordination and commitment to shoring up resilience, in response to vulnerabilities that are increasingly global in origin and impact. Take the case of Niger, which has faced severe food and nutrition crises brought on by a series of droughts. At the same time, Niger had to cope with an influx of refugees fleeing conflict in neighbouring Mali.
Threats ranging from financial crises to climate change to conflicts are trans-national in nature, but the effects are experienced locally and nationally – and often overlap.
(Courtesy: United Nations )

Education for all .

Ever since the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals in year 2000, primary education has seen major gains all over the world. There is now increased participation in secondary education and better gender equality. Better education has also resulted in reduction in poverty and hunger.

However, there is still a long way to travel. Millions of  children world over are still denied their right to education. Many leave school without gaining the skills required to be part of the successful workforce. Because of the stagnating economies of almost all countries, government budgets have become tight, leading to squeeze on funds for education. The struggle to meet the basic human needs every day is keeping lakhs of poor children away from schooling.

According to the Global Monitoring Report, there is an urgent need to reach the marginalized and harness their skills to build the knowledge societies of the twenty-first century.  For an effective response, it is important that the governments world towards protecting the priority social spending and make sure that in no way the education sector suffers, especially those institutes who are working to provide education to the poor and marginalized.
Out of the total out of school children, around 54 per cent are girls. Sub-Saharan Africa has the worst ration in the world. Besides, millions of children are leaving school without  acquiring basic skills that can help them get them a job.

Education for All goal can be met by not only  increasing domestic resources for education, but also by ensuring that the resources are distributed in a way that a fair share reaches those who need them the most. Many countries have introduced funding mechanisms that ensure that the resources are allocated to areas and groups that need greater support. For example, Brazil guarantees a certain minimum spending level per student, giving priority to schools in rural areas.

Just providing schools is not enough. Ultimately, what matters the most is how well the children learn. The quality of education being imparted needs to be good. However, the ground realities show that very little is being done to improve the quality of education. The entire focus of most governments is to send the children to school. 

International assessments have found that students in several developing countries perform much below the poorest-performing children in countries like South Korea or Japan. There are inequalities to be seen even between the rich and poor children of the developing countries. Evidence points to so many children failing to master the basic numerical and literacy skills even after finishing full school. The schools in several developing countries have been found devoid of quality infrastructure and teachers. In many countries, including India, there is a severe shortage of quality teachers.
Education for all Development Index (EDI)
This index, commissioned by UNESCO, provides a composite measure of progress in all fields, keeping in focus the six education goals adopted in year 2000. However, because of the constraints in getting data, the index measures the four most easily quantifiable goals: (1) universal primary education, measured by the primary adjusted net enrollment ratio (ANER); (2) adult literacy, measured by the literacy rate for those aged 15 and above; (3) gender parity and equality, measured by the gender-specific EFA index (GEI), an average of the gender parity indexes of the primary and secondary gross enrollment ratios and of the adult literacy rate; (4) quality of education, measured by the survival rate to grade five.

According to the 2013 Index report, basic education is currently underfunded by US$26 billion a year. The governments, it says, simply cannot afford to reduce investment in education. The report also calls for exploring new ways to fund the urgent needs.

The highlights of the 2013 report are:
  • In 2012, 25% of children under 5 suffered from stunting. In 2011, around half of young children had access to pre-primary education, and in sub-Saharan Africa the share was only 18%.
  • The number of children out of school was 57 million in 2011, half of whom lived in conflict-affected countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, only 23% of poor girls in rural areas were completing primary education by the end of the decade. If recent trends in the region continue, the richest boys will achieve universal primary completion in 2021, but the poorest girls will not catch up until 2086.
  • Even though gender parity was supposed to be achieved by 2005, in 2011 only 60% of countries had achieved this goal at the primary level and 38% at the secondary level.
  • In 2011, 69 million adolescents were out of school, with little improvement in this number since 2004. In low income countries, only 37% of adolescents complete lower secondary education, and the rate is as low as 14% for the poorest. On recent trends, girls from the poorest families in sub-Saharan Africa are only expected to achieve lower secondary completion in 2111.
  • Around 250 million children are not learning basic skills, even though half of them have spent at least four years in school. The annual cost of this failure, around US$129 billion. Investing in teachers is key: in around a third of countries, less than 75% of primary school teachers are trained according to national standards. And in a third of countries, the challenge of training existing teachers is worse than that of recruiting and training new teachers.
  • In 2011, there were 774 million illiterate adults, a decline of just 1% since 2000. The number is projected to fall only slightly, to 743 million, by 2015. Almost two-thirds of illiterate adults are women. The poorest young women in developing countries may not achieve universal literacy until 2072.
    Education Scenario of India
    Since independence, India has made remarkable strides in literacy improvement. As per the 2011 Census, the literacy rate of India increased to 74.04 per cent in 2011, from 18.33% in 1951. There has been a sharp rise in the literacy of females over males in last one decade. States and Union Territories like Goa, Mizoram, Kerala, Tripura, Chandigarh, Puducherry, Daman and Diu and Delhi have attained a literacy rate of almost 85 per cent.

    Several programmes have been initiated by the Union government to achieve the goal of Universalization of Elementary Education (UEE). One major programme was Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), launched in 2001, that aimed at achieving universal elementary education of satisfactory quality by 2010. Today, India has the world's largest network of  elementary education system. Universal provision of education has been substantially achieved at the primary stage (classes I-V). 

    Despite  significant achievements in recent years, serious problems of gender, regional, sectional and caste disparities continue to effect. Due to economic as well as cultural factors, a huge percentage of children continue to drop out. Shortage of teachers, lack of adequate infrastructure and poor quality of education being imparted are some of the aspects that need urgent attention and rectification. 

    Despite rapid strides in improving the education and literacy scenario, India continues to have the largest number of illiterates and out of school children in the world, and universalization of elementary education continues to remain a formidable challenge.

    One of the biggest challenges is improvement of skills of the teachers, as also their motivation levels. Teachers of government schools, especially State-aided schools continue to be under-paid. Many appointments are ad-hoc and selection processes are flawed, as also politically motivated. Community participation is very low. In many schools, the access, retention, and the quality of education being provided is questionable.
    The economic development of any country is built around its educational development and India is no exception. However, the cpacity of the government to pay for education is limited. Private and other investments in education can be one solution to limited government resources. The percentage of funds being made available to the development of the education sector certainly needs to be increased substantially to provide reasonable levels of quality education to all. 

    To improve the quality of education more focus has to be on research and development, which is the weak spot of the country at present. A weak system endangers the life of the intervention, its sustainability and impact.

    It is also important that the education system imbibes ethical values in our children. While there are no set ethical values that gaurantee success, it is important that the societal values match with the organisational values. The education system has to be geared to inculcate values such as wisdom, humility, rationality, intellectualism etc. at all levels.

    Right to Education Act: The Constitution (Eighty-sixth Amendment) Act, 2002 (The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act) inserted Article 21-A in the Constitution of India to provide free and compulsory education of all children in the age group of six to fourteen years as a Fundamental Right in such a manner as the State may, by law, determine. Article 21-A and the RTE Act came into effect on 1 April 2010.
    The main provisions of RTE Act are:
    • Every child between the age of six to fourteen years, shall have the right to free and compulsory education in a neighbourhood school, till completion of elementary education.
    • For this purpose, no child shall be liable to pay any kind of fee or charges or expenses which may prevent him or her from pursuing and completing elementary education.
    • Where a child above six years of age has not been admitted to any school or though admitted, could not complete his or her elementary education, then, he or she shall be admitted in a class appropriate to his or her age.
    • For carrying out the provisions of this Act, the appropriate government and local authority shall establish a school, if it is not established, within the given area, within a period of three years, from the commencement of this Act.
    • The Central and the State Governments shall have concurrent responsibility for providing funds for carrying out the provisions of this Act.
    • It also stipulates that private schools reserve 25 per cent of seats at the entry level for children belonging to 'disadvantaged groups' and 'weaker sections'.

    The enforcement of the Right to Education Act  was a historic step that brought India closer to achieving the objectives of Education for All (EFA), as also the Millennium Development Goal.

Women Empowerment .

Women face threat to their well-being, not only in India, but all over the world. They are over-burdened with work and have very little influence and power. They get less formal education and their abilities remain unrecognized.

In 2001, the government of India had zealously floated its grand ideas to empower the women of the country by declaring the year as "Women's empowerment year". A few laws have been passed since then, and a spate of schemes with fine names have been floated. But, has there been much improvement on the ground? Many social activists feel that nothing special has happened. Women continue to suffer, be at the work-place, home or on the streets. The increasing incidents of honour killings in some States of India, rapes, molestation and low literacy rate of women is indicative of the fact that much more needs to be done.

While, our legislatures have provided for 50 per cent reservations for women in panchayats and municipalities, they continue to be reluctant to provide 33 per cent reservation in Parliament and State legislatures. The scourge of female infanticide continues to haunt the consciousness of the country. The zealots who feel they know the best what women should wear, what she should be doing and where she should be or not be continue to freely roam the cities and villages of the country.

Over the past more than 65 years, several initiatives to guarantee education to the people of the country have been taken. These have resulted in some progress, but, the efforts have not been consistent. Every time a new scheme is launched, activism comes to the fore. However, after some time the interest of all wanes down. What is urgently required are efforts to continue to arouse strong motivation till the logical end is met. After all, it is not for nothing that it is said that when you educate a boy you educate an individual, but when you educate a girl you educate an entire family.
There is no doubt about the fact that women are the major contributors to the economic output of the country. Unfortunately, while compiling the economic indicators, the contributions of a housewife to the economy are not taken into consideration. Besides, men and women are not equally distributed across the types of work. Women are more concentrated in the primary sector and in unskilled and marginal work. Women also constitute majority of the workforce employed as nurses, paramedics and technical workers. 

In her paper on land laws and gender equity, Prof Bina Aggarwal points that while the male workers have been moving to non-agricultural arenas, women have remained where they were, owing to their lower mobility, less education and few assets. She notes, "firstly there is systematic bias against the women and female children's sharing of benefits from the male controlled resources—women without independent resources are highly vulnerable to poverty and destitution in case of divorce or widowhood. They often need titles to avail credit facilities."

Another blot on our society is the practice of child marriage., which continues to be a reality in many rural areas. Social scientists are of the opinion that it is not legislation but political will to promote gender equality that can help to stop this practice. 

Then, there is the dowry problem. Again, this is a issue that can be better tackled politically and socially than by legislation. The Dowry Prohibition Act has been in force for more than six decades now but it has not been able to eradicate the problem.
It is sad to see the women of the country still being seen as a mere "tool" to various ends by a huge majority of male population. While scores of laws have been brought what has lacked is the will to address the socio-cultural attitudes, and till these attitudes are changed, gender parity will remain a distant dream.

The Indian society also continues to suffer from the phenomenon of domestic violence, which is widely prevalent, although not very visible. Millions of married women are being subjected to humiliation and indignity. Strict laws have reduced acts of violence. However, psychological pressures and means are turning out to be even worse than acts of violence. Here again, the need is to sensitize the men, at a very young age, towards women. They need to be taught to respect them and treat them as equal partners in the journey of life. 

Today, women have made major inroads is almost every field, be it government jobs, banks, doctors or engineers, and have proved themselves to be capable of being among the best, even without availing special measures. However, they remain a minuscule minority in the field of politics. Best of efforts have not been successful to get more women to join politics. The best of women parliamentarians continue to feel sidelined in their respective parties. An interesting point to note is that while, on the one hand, many parties advocate reservation of seats for women in the Parliament, on the other hand, they have done nothing to increase participation of women in their own organisations. The will for a voluntary effort just does not exist.

Thus, special measures to enhance women's political participation is the need of the hour. India's democracy will remain  flawed till adequate space to women is provided in its polity.
To empower the women of our country we need to formulate policies and programmes that improves their access to economic resources, provides secure livelihood, raise social awareness and provide opportunities and facilities to get educated. The decision making capacity of the women in area of sexuality and reproduction also needs to be strengthened. It has been seen that population control and development programmes are most effective when steps are taken alongside to improve the status of women.

The most important tool to empower women is education. Education helps to provide them skills, knowledge and self confidence to participate fully in all aspects of the development process. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights asserts that "everyone has the right to education". 

According to the United Nations Population Fund, steps that can help in empowering the women of the country include: (a) Establishment of systems to enable equal participation by women through equitable representation at all levels of the political process and public life; (b) Providing equal opportunities to women for skill development, education and employment, as also ensuring elimination of ill health among women; (c) Eliminating all practices that discriminate against women; (d) Improve  the ability of women to earn income beyond traditional occupations, thereby achieving economic self-reliance; (e) Eliminating violence against women; (f) Making it possible, through appropriate laws and measures, for women to combine the roles of child-bearing, breast-feeding and child-rearing with participation in the workforce.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Corporate Social Responsibility

The evolution of the concept and definition of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has an impressive history associated with it. During the 1960s and 1970s, meaning of CSR was further expanded and. In the 1980s, more empirical research and alternative themes began to mature. These alternative themes included corporate social performance (CSP), stakeholder theory, and business ethics theory. 

One of the most frequently asked questions is: what is the meaning of "Corporate Social Responsibility" ? There are various definitions provided by various organisations. The most appropriate and common definition is: Corporate Social Responsibility is that exercise which helps the companies to have a positive impact on the society in the process of managing their business.

According to the book "Making Good Business Sense" by Lord Holme and Richard Watts, "Corporate Social Responsibility is the continuing commitment by business to behave ethically 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".

In USA, CSR is looked as a philanthropic model. The companies are expected to donate a certain share of their post-tax profits for charitable cause.  The European model, however, sees the CSR activity as running the business in a socially responsible way. In Europe social responsibility is considered to be an integral part of the wealth creation process.

If we look at the broad range of definitions of CSR, one can see a common thread—all definitions share the belief that companies have a responsibility towards the public good. Blowfield and Murray have defined CSR as an ‘umbrella term’ capturing the various ways in which business relates to society; it involves values that guide a company’s interactions with other society members, it addresses the role of businesses in wider society and the different types of business-society interaction.  It also looks at the categories in which corporates are expected to take action. 

International awareness about CSR arose in the 1990s. These were the times which saw labour and environmental conditions deteriorating and the gap between the haves and have-nots increasing substantially. More and more leading companies, especially in USA, were challenged to justify their actions and any adverse publicity or social wrong-doing resulted in bad publicity in the stock markets and a negative impact on their sales and profits. The public opinion for greater regulation and supervision led to a series of UN summits that further led to setting-up of commissions to look into the corporate social responsibilities.

Over a period of time, CSR has emerged as a management response to negative media exposure and increased regulation. CSR has also become a way to deflect criticism, as also capitalize on business opportunities associated with ‘doing, and being seen to be doing, good’. Today, corporates have become pro-active players in shaping the CSR agenda, as also activities of international organisations like the World Bank, and NGOs like the World Wildlife Fund, UNICEF and Oxfam.

 CSR in India

In India, too, all the big companies are now expected to meet their social obligations towards the society and the environment, while working to increase their profits. Today, almost all leading corporates in India have their CSR programmes in place, in areas like empowerment of poor, development of skills among the weaker sections, education and health facilities in villages, remote areas and slums etc. Companies like Infosys, Airtel, Tata, ITC Welcom, IOC, ONGC, Wipro etc are very strong in their CSR activities.

Corporate India has spread its CSR activities across 20 States and Union territories, with Maharashtra gaining the most from them (36 per cent), according to a study undertaken by an industry body in June 2009. Maharashtra is followed by Gujarat (around 12 per cent), Delhi (10 per cent) and Tamil Nadu (9 per cent).

The Forbes Asia’s ‘48 Heroes of Philanthropy’ list 2010 has named India among the top ten Asian countries paying increasing importance towards corporate social responsibility disclosure norms. 

The government of India is also ensuring that the public sector companies participate actively in CSR initiatives. Guidelines for central public sector undertakings (PSUs) have been prepared by the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) to take up important CSR projects. These projects will be funded by using 2-5 per cent of the net profits of the PSUs.

Efforts are also being made by companies to become more environment friendly. The financial services sector, especially,  is in the fore-front to ease its carbon foot-print by shifting to e-statements, e-reports and e-receipts. 

Opposition to CSR

CSR activities has its fair share of critics, too. Many scholars feel that CSR cannot be adapted into meeting the needs of the poor people.  Neo-liberal economists such as Milton Friedman (1970), argue that companies have ‘no business’ getting involved in the public as they already contribute to society through the creation of jobs, the payment of tax and the delivery of goods and services. 

It is also argued that CSR is a public relations tool which is often used to mask the devastating impact of questionable activities of some businesses on vulnerable people and their environments . Critics of CSR activity also feel that it fails to address the issues of power and participation that are the key to reducing poverty. In other words, CSR activity is like spoon-feeding which does not go to the root of the problem, as also, does not work towards rooting out the problem.

Then, there are the cases of companies that are very active in their CSR in one area of operation, but have failed to address human rights abuses, environmentally harmful activities and poor standards of labour within their core operations. Many a times a conflict of interest has been seen. For example, Toyota is championing green motoring with its Prius hybrid model, but, on the other hand, has joined the lobby against a tough fuel-economy standard in USA. Another question put by critics is: how should one see the corporates who are very active in their CSR but, on the other hand, indulge in lobbying, tax evasion and/or avoidance?
In his book, Capitalism and Freedom, Friedman argues that "there is one and only one social responsibility of business—to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition without deception or fraud”.

In the real world, knowingly or unknowingly (for example, through sub-contractors), many companies, especially the larger ones, are often found to be involved in exploitative practices of some sort. With their financial muscle, many of them manage to influence policies in their favour, which is not a good example of open and free competition.

Businesses have a big impact on lives of people and so activists feel they should be more accountable for their actions. Given their immense power, corporates have been seen ignoring or exploiting  environmental, human-rights and social justice issues. Activists, on their part, have tried to go through their governments and even shareholders to ensure better responsibility.

Many business leaders, as a result,  have tried to pursue corporate social responsibility practices, or have tried to embed them in their systems.

Are CSR initiatives useful?  

A world where corporate virtue is rewarded and irresponsibility punished will be an ideal place to live in. However, the truth is that the "market of virtue" is very limited. And, it is also not growing.

There is no co-relation between CSR activity and performance of a company. There are all sorts of companies around us—those who have done well on both performance and CSR and those who failed on both fronts. Then, there are many who have had a good CSR record but have otherwise not done well. There are also many examples of firms with poor CSR activity who have constantly done very well in their business. 

CSR activity has been found to be largely irrelevant to the financial performance of the corporates. One reason for this can be attributed to very few consumers caring about the social record of the companies. Price, convenience and quality has been given the first priority by the consumers while making their purchases.

As of now, CSR does not seem to be critical to the success of any company. That new world where the corporate goals will get reconciled with public purposes look to be Utopian as of now. No doubt, the corporates should work responsibly and be sensitive to social and environmental issues. But, while doing that, they should not expect to be rewarded for their virtue.