From running anganwadis (nurseries) to building water conservation projects to supporting renewable energy initiatives, the Maharashtra government is looking at the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) route to fund its welfare projects. Significantly, the move comes at a time when the state is facing a debt burden of more than Rs3.33 lakh crore and a cash crunch to finance its projects owing to shortfall in revenue; ballooning expenditure as a result of populist decisions such as shutting toll collection points and abolishing local body tax; and high spend on drought-relief measures.
The government on Friday organised a conference of leading corporate houses and multinationals to attract CSR funds for some of its key initiatives such as Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan and projects in the fields of skill development, forests and renewable energy, among others.
To assure the private players that the funds won’t be lost in the system, which typically happens in case of many government schemes, the state has told the corporates that the money will be utilised in a “systematic manner”. The state is expecting at least Rs500 crore a year from the corporate sector, with most private firms, as per norms, spending 2% of their profit on CSR activities.
Addressing several prominent India Inc leaders, such as Adi Godrej, Rajashree Birla, Nita Ambani, Sangita Jindal, Urvi Piramal and S Ramadorai, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis assured them that the state will not “govermentalise” the CSR programmes of the private sector and it wanted a convergence in development efforts. Fadnavis also announced the launch of a dedicated portal that will help corporates pick up a government initiative that they could fund as part of their CSR and said there will be a dedicated officer to coordinate with the companies.
Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao, who hosted the meeting at Raj Bhavan, directed the state to create a dedicated CSR cell to be headed by a minister to facilitate cooperation with corporates for the CSR activities. Pressing for the need to participate in the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, the governor urged the corporates to participate in activities such as construction of toilets, solid waste management, sewage treatment and cleaning up of the rivers. He also expressed the need for close cooperation between government and the private sector for the initiatives of water conservation in the drought-hit areas of Marathwada.
Meanwhile, finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar sought the cooperation of the corporates in transforming the 97,000 anganwadis in state into smart anganwadis.
The two-hour long event opened with a presentation by KPMG, the consultant appointed by the government, outlining the objective of the event, the opportunities for corporates and the desired outcome of such events. The government also stressed upon its vision, targets, geographic focus and opportunities for CSR collaboration and partnership.