New Delhi: India’s leading public sector oil companies contributed over Rs121 crore towards the construction of the ‘Statue of Unity’ (SOU)—a gigantic statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel in Gujarat—as part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) spend during the fiscal year 2017.
According to their annual reports, the country’s four public sector oil companies – Oil and Natural Gas Corp. (ONGC), Hindustan Petroleum Corp. Ltd (HPCL), Indian Oil Corp. Ltd (IOCL) and Oil India Ltd (OIL)—recorded contributions towards the SOU project as part of their CSR activity in FY17.
ONGC reported a contribution of ₹ 50 crore; OIL and HPCL of ₹ 25 crore each; and IOCL donated ₹ 1.83 crore.
These contributions resulted in three-fold jump in CSR spends by the top 100 National Stock Exchange-listed firms by market capitalization in FY17 under National Heritage initiatives as compared to the previous fiscal year.
As per data analysed Goodera (previously NextGen), a CSR and sustainability management platform, the reports of 92 companies were available until 18 September. The data shows a total of ₹ 155.78 crore was spent on national heritage initiatives in FY17, compared to ₹ 46.51 crore in FY16.
“The reason for a spike is increased investment by PSUs, which have spent 70% of the ₹ 156 crore. Government policies have created an enabling environment for this sector, as in the case of Statue of Unity project. PSUs happened to be the first movers, wherein three organizations - Indian Oil Corporation, ONGC and Hindustan Petroleum, have together contributed over ₹ 98 crore for the Statue of Unity project, which is two thirds the total spend in the heritage sector," said Richa Bajpai, Founder and Co-CEO, Goodera.
The SOU, a memorial dedicated to independence movement leader and India’s first home minister Vallabhbhai Patel, will be installed at the Sadhu Bet Island in Gujarat’s Narmada district, and will be the tallest statue in the world. In October 2013, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was the then Gujarat chief minister, laid its foundation stone. The project is proposed to be constructed at a cost of about ₹ 2,989 crore with a targeted completion date of October 2018.
The CSR spends on SOU was criticised as a “violation of the intention" of the CSR law & Companies Act of 2013 by Amita Joseph, Director Business Community Foundation (BCF), a civil society organization working on promoting responsible business practice
“This is taxpayer money, and both public sectors (companies) and governments need to be accountable," she said, describing the case as one of “misplaced priorities" in a country that is in desperate need of better education, healthcare, basic amenities, safety and public infrastructure.
Bhaskar Chatterjee, former Director General and CEO of the think tank Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs (IICA) said the national heritage category was introduced into the CSR rules in order to bring businesses within the development ambit, and allow them to work for national development programmes.
“It is one of the few items which do not relate to the poorest of the poor, but the idea was to see how the corporate sector could contribute to the preservation of our cultural heritage."
ONGC, which contributed ₹ 50 crore towards SOU in FY17, said there is no such proposal under consideration for contributing in FY18. The utility said that it has done “no need assessment" for contributions towards heritage related CSR activities in the current financial year. “The investment of CSR grants is based on the merit inherent in CSR Proposals received in ONGC and the impact or outcome to be achieved through the projects," the oil PSU said in an email.
Every company must constitute a CSR Committee of the Board of Directors (“Board") consisting of three or more directors. The Committee formulates and recommend to the Board, a CSR policy which shall indicate the activities to be undertaken; recommend the amount of expenditure to be incurred on the activities referred and monitor the CSR policy of the company.
Mint tried to contact concerned official of the IOCL, OIL HPCL, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Rastriya Ekta Trust (SVPRET) and the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL) both via email and phone for comments , but the queries went answered.