By Biraja Mahapatra

By Biraja Mahapatra

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Corporate Citizenry

Sadly, theglorious opportunity to transform this land into a nation was lost. Because there was no attitudinal change in the minds of the upper class citizens.

A corporation is a legal entity. Like a human being it has got a mind either dictated by an individual whom we call leader or a decision making mechanism on the basis of consensus. Like an individual it has got the propensity of making a decent earning through business, building a social reputation making it relevant to the lives of people and translating a vision for its growth on the roadmap either laid or to be laid.

If somebody asks what is meantby good citizenry, the answer cannot be put in a straight jacketto give it a definition. But the consensus could be thatto become a good citizen is the biggest human responsibility. Every corporation is a corporate citizen. So the biggest responsibility for every corporation is to cultivate good corporate citizenry.

Quality citizenry is the index of health of any country. Quality citizenry means the quality of people with a sense of belonging to the land. Land includes people and all its resources in a given contour of map on the earth. Good citizenry transforms a state into a nation. It is like good family members transform a house into home. A house means it has roof, walls, windows and all other amenities that help a person to live. But it cannot be called a home unless its residents are emotionally attached to each other,helping each other and living in dignity, self respect and love. Similarly, good citizenry means emotional bondage ofcitizens within the country. It essentially is pointed towards a national character.

India may have a great cultural tradition. But it does not have a glorious citizenry.Neverany effort wasmade to build up a national character. The primary responsibility of citizens in any country is to keep their country’s interest paramount in their thought, words and action. This is not true only for India. Rather it is relevant to the whole world.

Historically India has never been a united state. Prior toIndependence the cultural India was an amalgam of 527 small or big kingdoms. The Britishrule came to an end in 1947. The formation of the country witnessed bloody violence. Most of the then intellectual people were selfish and self oriented and the country was the last thing in their minds. They were British-loyalists as they were the beneficiaries of the system. Beneficiaries of a system never want any change. They were a class.

After introduction of English education in India in the third decade of the 19th century, people opting for English education got jobs. They became closer to the king and also the British administration. They created a creamy layer. They became rich. They became exploitative because of their proximity to the power. Their societal status was measured from their level of knowledge in English and accumulation of wealth. A message was sent to the society that if you have studied English, a good job was awaiting. A sense of financial security, cozy job taking a person from the land to lab of files, rules and summing of arithmetic of wisdom may have lured many as it ensured a sudden change of class.

Educated individuals became self-centered and entered into a competitive environment of accumulating wealth. The creative imagination in virtually all fields nosedived. East India Company had apparently done some good home work. From 12 century end to the beginning of British era, the non-Muslims were helpless rebels against the governance. The British businessmen cultivated the minds of upper class non-Muslims who were being described by the British scholars as Hinduists. ((?) Pl give a reference here to prove your point.) The British administration explored the possibility of getting translated ancient Indian work into English sendinga message to upper class non-Muslims that they were respecting Indian cultural traditions. This helped them lure the upper class people. This became an investment. A large class of non-Muslim people were placated. In fact when the British Government decided to fund English Education in India in 1935, about 8000 Muslims including some prominent Maulavis had filed a petition in the Supreme Court to protest that introduction of English was intended for conversion of the natives.

Certainly the investment in translating ancient classic works such as Geeta, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Vedas and Upanishads into English and lifting these from the treasure trove of the upper priestly class to the common people gave the British government rich dividends as the upper class non-Muslim people shifted their loyaltyin favour of the British Administration.

However, this investment,whatever mighthave been the intension, was true example of corporate social responsibility that helped the British Administration consolidate its position and milk the land of honey and ghee bleed in white.

The 19th century saw some great saints in Swami Birjananda, Swami Dayanada Saraswati, Ramakrishna Paramhansa, Swami Vivekananda,among others envisioning character building and education of individuals as the basic foundation for social uplift. India was about to get a cultural renaissance. But freedom of the whole land was awaitingthe horizon like a sun-rise with the beginning of the 20th century.

When the attention of the whole country was diverted to freedom movement, only few educated people came forward to fight the British rules. Gandhiji, who emerged in the scene of freedom movement in the early days of third decade, got a brilliant idea of using peace and non-violence as two powerful bombs to silence the guns and rifles of the British.

While the movement entered into every nook and corner of the country, the educated government employees who used to be the beneficiaries of the British administration unleashed a contempt against the freedom fighters with the name of’Anguttha chhap’or ruffians and the popular George Bernard Shaw quote “politics is the last resort of scoundrels” was made apt.I With Independence,the administration remained with the same babus. Democracy replaced monarchy. The country got transformed into a democracy for the wholeofBharat, now ‘India’.

Sadly, theglorious opportunity to transform this land into a nation was lost. Because there was no attitudinal change in the minds of theupper class citizens. This happened primarily because the educated and intellectual people entered an era of reconstruction. Socio-financial stability remained prime focus in their minds. Thebabus who used to write arrest warrants of the political leaders could not reconcile public representatives sitting over them as bosses. Conservatism as regards upper caste blood used to weigh into the minds of the people who were in the administrative set up. Political leaders then were by and large not highly educated. Thebabus started unleashing contempt against their bosses as they used to feel that they were intellectually superior to their political masters. The most unfortunate part is that the teachers in the country could not take the call of the time in imparting education to the students that politics is not the last resort of scoundrels, rather it is the art and science of running a state. The teachers’ community failed build statesmen from the students ofthe country. Even today most teachersdo not understand that if politics is loathed, democracy is bound to be in peril. Even if there could be an argument that government of the day had advised people to stay away from party politics, nothing precluded the teachers and thinkers to educatecitizens about politics as a subject of management rather than a contract for the mighty goons to make a hay out of the resources of the state.

Immediately after theIndependence, most educated and capable people abdicated their sense of responsibility of running the country by entering into politics. Brilliant students opted for glorious jobs like civil services, banking, medical andengineering services.

Politics continued to be a game of glorious uncertainity. It is not argued here that every one should join politics.What is necessary is that politics has to be treated as a subject of management. If a sense of hatred or stigma is attached to politics, the country will fail in generating statesmen. If statesmen are not created, people’s aspiration and will cannot be reflectedin the policy matters. The country will not get able leaders in the comity of nations. Statesmen are those who consider the whole country as the ground of their professionalactivities and make themselves relevant to the whole lot of people and land to which they belong. This is not possible in the absence of statesmen. Hatred against politics and politicians, systemic corruption which continued from the British administration, lack of interest on part of the government to implement Gandhiji’s dream of Gram Swaraj have been leading to massive regional imbalance, mass migration of people from rural villages to urban areas in quest of jobs.

The country is an extension of house. Nation is the extension of home. But unfortunately our country’s general mindset is that a child will grow to be educated, employed, married, live a family life until death. So the relevance of one individual because of his becoming family centric vanishes immediately after the death. Some people who made themselves relevant to the whole society by virtue of their good work remain alive after their death. Good citizenry can be cultivated if people understand their role and duty towards the country. This has been clearly stipulated in the fundamental duties under Article 51 A of the constitution.

All these fundamental duties are equally applicable to corporate organisations. Any good work for the society comes under the purview of voluntarism. In fact when it comes to duty, it adds a sense of responsibility binding a person to do a particular work.

In a modern state, the biggest challenge in the society is to ensure as a matter of fundamental right to each and every individual–food,healthcare,education andemployment in her/his milieu without hurting the sentimental values.This can be achieved only if there is grassroots level leadership. It means politics has to be introduced as a subject of management right from the primary level. People must love and respect their leaders. A sense of respect has to be attached to this branch of study as it is done in the stream of medical science, management andLaw.

Lending a helping hand to savesomeone from his miseries isone’s duty if he has the capability to do so. Lending a helping hand to preserve rich cultural heritage or doing such actbenefitinginterests of people, animals, flora or fauna has to be built in our collective consciousness.However, that can only happen when the citizens develop a sense of belonging to the land and its resources and this is the foundation of our culture “vasudheiva kutumbakam”. (The whole universe is a family).

Business houses by and large are more concerned about accumulating wealth. The profit orientation is measured by their level of success. This profit orientation is manifold when a business house by example makes itself relevant to the vast number of people. This relevance ensures bigger consumer market. Consumer satisfaction is the key to success of any business venture. Consumers are citizens. Business house and consumer relationship is nothing but a citizen-citizen relationship and the success of the business is founded upon the philosophy of mutual benefits and trust. Each and every penny invested towards cultivating good citizenry, which is essentially an integrity building exercise, will give rich returns in building a good and stable country. Good corporate houses always cherish a healthy environment for business as they want to prove to be good corporate citizens.

The write is a lawyer in Delhi High Court and the founder of Build India Group. He can be reached at birajamapatra@gmail.com

 

 

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CSR VISION
CSR VISION is India's (probably World's) first monthly magazine in print devoted to CSR and Sustainable Development for bringing together all stakeholders of SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT at a global and local levels and act as a platform for promoting strategic CSR and sustainable development practices through dissemination of information and knowledge.