Madhusree Chatterjee | 04 Jun, 2012
The idea of
legislation for corporate houses to make charity mandatory might sound pushy,
but veteran industry warhorse Sitaram Jindal, who set up his charitable trust
as early as in 1969, foresees the need of one immediately to push Indian
industry into more vigorous philanthropy in the social sector.
"The domestic corporate sector can work wonders for the social sector in
the country, but they need to be pushed by the government through
legislation," Jindal, who heads the Sitaram Jindal Foundation, told IANS
in an interview.
The suggestion - which is at the heart of a debate over the need for compulsory
corporate social responsibility (CSR) - makes sense in the hype around
Microsoft founder Bill Gates, whose charity foundation is making deeper inroads
The Gates media blitz has virtually edged homegrown corporates to a corner as
their corporate social initiatives are rarely spoken about in the media.
"I have written to the prime minister several times but no follow-up
action has been taken despite a meeting of corporate organisations a few years
ago. The government must take it seriously and make CSR mandatory...," Jindal
Philanthropy is not a corporate compulsion now, the octogenarian said when
asked about the relevance of a legal mechanism. "Hence the corporate
houses will not listen to advice unless it is in our interest. Only a law can
force charity on them."
Jindal is modest about his philanthropic efforts: "I don't claim to be a
pioneer and I don't want to beat my drums. I work in my own small way... I am
driven by the feeling that I am duty-bound to discharge my social
responsibility to society that has given me so much," he said.
The industry magnate, whose family owns stakes in minerals, steel and power,
spends his time in charity, promoting natural healthcare, organic food, rural
welfare, education and providing platforms to committed social development
Jindal, along with industry captains like the Birla, Tata, Goenka, Jain and
Godrej groups, forms the backbone of the country's corporate philanthropy.
He describes corporate philanthropy as a tradition that is in tandem with the
Indian ethos of altruism.
"Our country must get help from the rich. We business people are
businessmen by nature and we can spend money where we can get returns... But
business people are never satisfied with what they have," Jindal observed,
quoting 16th century Roman stoic philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca.
"Seneca had said the most grievous kind of destitution is to want in the
midst of wealth... I have huge wealth and I still want money by hook or by
crook. I never think of sharing it," he said.
The country has nearly 350 million people who are living below the poverty line
after 65 years of independence. "Who can eradicate this poverty?"
"If the business people and industrialists spend three percent of their
income, they can do wonders for the government," he said.
"The government must make it mandatory for business houses to adopt at
least one to 100 villages depending on their size and profitability. The
country has 500,000 villages and more than 500,000 industries in
profit...," said the philanthropist, a native of Hisar in Haryana.
Jindal has adopted 117 villages in Karnataka - where most of his projects are
located - through his foundation.
In 2011, the Sitaram Jindal Foundation introduced an annual award and honoured
27 social workers with a total prize money Rs.7.30 crore. It hopes to expand
the scope of the prize.
"I am supporting the Anna Hazare movement. Corruption has become a
cancerous disease and requires surgery followed by chemotherapy...,"