Covid19 pandemic is the most important issue confronting the entire world, including India. The corporate companies have been granted permission to utilize its Corporate Social Responsibility Fund for providing health facilities for Covid19 patients.
The change in use of CSR fund is being seen important step for control of the pandemic. However, the basic objective of providing the fund has been overlooked. The CSR Fund, 2% of the turnover of the corporate house, was created for welfare of the persons affected by activities of the Corporate house. Major activities included providing basic facilities like health services, housing, education etc for the people affected by the projects undertaken by the company.
Western Coalfields Limited in Central India and its parent organization Coal India Limited, was looked as a major source of this fund. The fund was sought at local level by the Government authorities. Recently Nagpur Bench of Bombay High Court has issued order directing WCL to provide funds for developing infrastructure for COVID 19 affected patients and also for purchasing medicines for them. The order was issued in response to a Public Interest Litigation.
Nagpur District Collector had already approached WCL authorities with the proposal, before the PIL was filed with the court. WCL in consultation with the parent organization CIL has agreed to divert the CSR fund for use in providing facilities for treatment of Covid 19 patients.
While issuing the order, issues of the Project Affected Persons (PAPs), has been overlooked.
WCL has already made funds available for building Oxygen Plant in Chandrapur, one of the important districts for extraction of coal in the region. Earlier WCL has undertaken several welfare measures for people affected by coal mines in the region and workers of its coal mines.
Only if the fund has been diverted as an exceptional case, the change in utilization can be accepted. This decision, however, should not set precedent for diversion of CSR fund from the original purpose of its creation.
Many experts who have been working in the field of use of CSR funds have raised this issue, under the condition of annonimity.