The research article was essential trying to look into spending of top India Public Sector Companies (PSUs) on the government of India’s flagship State of Unity (SoU), a memorial dedicated to Indian independence movement leader and country’s first home minister Vallabhbhai Patel. SoU is tipped to be the tallest statue in the world. The article sought to show the malpractices of public sector companies and the government’s interference in the function of such companies.Indian Companies law mandate corporations with a net worth of Rs 500 crore or revenue of Rs 1,000 crore or net profit of Rs 5 crore should spend 2% of their average profit in the last three years on social development-related activities listed in Schedule VII of the Rules. The report sought to look at how much CSR money was being diverted by PSUs towards the construction of the statue. The issue is problematic at two levels, one the lose interpretation of law allows companies to show CSR spend even on projects that don’t have any social bearing or impact public at large, and secondly, there is a growing arm-twisting of public sector companies by the current regime, forcing companies to spend on initiatives started by the ruling party BJP. The article was for general public in India since the public exchequers money was involved.
What makes this project innovative?
Spending of companies on social issues through corporate social responsibility (CSR) is often looked through a positive prism and as a good governance practice. However, this perception often clouds our reportage on CSR practices. After discussing with my editor, I worked on the story alone for about 5-6 weeks, studying the annual reports of over 35-40 public sector companies. I also reached out to many consultants, research organisations, lobby groups and companies to seek their data on the matter. Much of the necessary information, which is supposed to be made public by these companies, were either clubbed under other projects headers, or had been highlighted with different titles. I had to get a proper clarification on whether some of the funds, which were highlighted under other project, were actually diverted for the statue. I cross checked the data with the company spokesperson to validate my claim.
What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?
The story was taken up by the economist and in its editorial/opinion article criticised the government for pushing public sector companies to spend on a project of little public importance. The story was not used by my organisation for print (supposedly being critical of both PSUs and the government), but after interjection by my editor taken online. I received many calls and messages for the story,
Source and methodology
Sources: primarily company annual reports, CSR reports; CSR spend surveys by independent bodies, audit reports and company spokespersonMethodology: I went through reports of each company (public ones) to get the spending toward SoU directly or checked for information on diversion on funds towards the foundation that is overlooking the construction of the statue. After compiling the information, i reached out to companies to first validate whether the information I have is correct and what was their position on the issue. I also sought help from two independent consultants to check if i had analysed the information appropriately,
Mainly excel sheet for data compilation, sought publicly available information on company websites
My Editor, Seema Chowdary.