INTERVIEW OF DR. MADHUKAR GUPTA, Additional Secretary, Department of Public Enterprises

INTERVIEW OF DR. MADHUKAR GUPTA, Additional Secretary, Department of Public Enterprises

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Dr. Madhukar Gupta is an Electrical Engineer, MBA and law graduate. He was selected as a Mason Fellow by Harvard for a Master’s in Public Administration in 2006. The Government of India sent him for a Master’s in Public Policy at Maxwell, Syracuse. He has been awarded a PhD n Economics in 2010. This officer is presently Additional Secretary, Ministry of Public Enterprises and Heavy Industries.

Dr. Gupta focused on Public Policy in US and China with experts on economic growth, public sector management, infrastructure, corporate finance and development at Harvard, MIT, Syracuse, Maryland, Cornell and Fletcher School. He has won many national awards from NPC and NABARD. Indian and international Universities have hosted him as a visiting faculty and scholar, including BITS where he has been adjunct faculty for more than 20 years. Dr. Gupta has presented professional papers in nearly three dozen countries.

Q. You have been managing CSR policies in its maturity phase after its launch phase (2010-13) during which the first two guidelines was released. What has been your experience in terms of response of PSU’s in complying with the guidelines from heart?

A. As you know, the companies act came into force from 1st April 2014. Now, once anything is mandated by law, we don’t have a choice, PSU’S had to follow the law. But the good thing was that even before the law came into force regarding CSR; many PSU’s were undertaking CSR because basically what is the difference between the public sector and private sector is that public sector exists for the greater good of the society. The bottom line as far as the functioning of the public sector is concerned is to make reasonable profits & at the same time look after the greater good of the society. And if you are looking at the greater good of the society, then CSR follows. According to the new companies act, India became the first country in the world to mandate CSR by legislation. Now, government could have levied a tax and used this tax or cess in the manner in which govt. would have wanted to but government didn’t do that because basic objective was to leverage the capacity, the competencies of the corporations public as well as private to put for the greater good of the society. But it takes a little while for the stakeholders to understand the new provisions. Obviously company had to take a little time to know because their core businesses are different. They have no experts in doing CSR either they had to hire an expertise or they had to learn from others. It was a learning phase where they tried to understand what to do in CSR. So, after the initial 3 years, things are getting better. Now they are clear about what they have to do and what they have not to do.

Q. What is the trend of CSR implementation, in terms of sector, CMD involvement, business process integration in PSU’s during 2013-2018?

A. Since the initial learning was in the traditional sectors, obviously the focus was on education or on health. But now slowly things are changing. Now they are focusing even on things like restoration of heritage, art and culture, sports, incubation of new technologies, conservation etc. But there was a bit difference in the expenditure which was incurred on different sectors and different domains specified under schedule VII of the act and there was also initially a bit difference in the spending of CSR funds throughout the country. Now continuous efforts have been made to ensure that spending is done right throughout the country.

Q. How do you compare CSR implementation in PSU’s with that of private sector?

A. Barely 50 PSU’s are exceeding 2%. So PSU’s are not driven by the profit motive and in some ways PSU’s are doing even better than the private sector. At the same time, private sector is learning very fast so things are improving very fast in the private sector as well. Initially, some companies who were not spending the 2% now realize that they have to spend this amount. So private sector is catching up very fast.

Q. Can you think of any memorable project by any PSU making any lasting impact?

A. There are many areas where some very interesting intervention has been made. Although lasting impact we can talk about it once we have more years of comparison. For example one of the PSU’s sent a team to pick up all the garbage, all the left over material from Mount Everest by earlier expeditions. Just to clean up the environment likewise there is another PSU’s where all the recyclable material including paper is recycled. They produce their own paper so they don’t source from outside. I think there are elements of excellence in many of them; it will be tough to pick one.

Q. Though there is huge potential for CSR collaboration among top CSR spending PSU’s, CSR collaboration is not evolving in India. What can be done to promote CSR collaboration for making lasting impact?

A. There is a provision for pooling of resources. Basically if more than one company will come together, they can act as a force multiplier. So every company, every entity has its own sense when they come together, their forces get multiplied.

Q. Do you feel any need for change in the CSR guideline of DPE after 2013, based on your experiences?

A. Some provisions can be sharpened. As I mentioned earlier, provisions regarding unspent balances. So there are some grey areas which can be plugged.

Q.CSR awards has been a fashion in India which is losing its credibility fast as there are more awards then impact on the ground. Your comments

A. It has become rather fashionable to be giving CSR awards. Many agencies and entities have been announcing CSR awards without really contributing sustainably to the government. As far as awards are concerned, why should people rush into awards? If awards are to be given they should be given by the government or by independent agencies. CSR awards given to people who are not deserving of them will send a wrong message down the line

Q. CSR Data compilation & sharing was planned to be done by DPE in 2009, which shifted to TISS afterwards. What is its status now?

A. The DPE had collaborated with TISS for a year. That arrangement was only for one year and seized to exist after that year. Monitoring is basically done by the companies or by the government. Basic idea is to get information at regular intervals because after all parliament also has a right to know. So since they ask questions, we should get the information at regular intervals.

Q. CSR impact monitoring is an idea VISION has been promoting since 2010. Do you think time has come for impact monitoring?

A. Impact has to be measured in some tangible form. Let us say, ROI (Return on Investment). Companies are very good at calculating ROI, so if they can do it for business processes, why not for social processes. We should look at the ROI of all projects which are undertaken by corporate.

Q. PSU’s CSR has been a leader in the CSR domain in India. Do you think CSR impact monitoring needs to be started by DPE for PSU’s to lead the process of impact monitoring mandatory for all?

A. The corporate are responsible for the execution of CSR projects. The boards of directors as well as the independent directors are there. So, we also monitor what they are doing. But according to the act, it is the responsibility of the company

About the author

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.