Preserving National Heritage Through CSR – Fiinovation

In the past few years, it has been observed that the rising global warming, mishandling and inadequate restoration of cultural arts and monuments has caused deteriorating effects on the historical masterpieces around the world. Although the developed countries practice best methods for the conservation of their art and culture, the developing countries often lack both funds and willpower to carry out this exercise. For instance, European Union started the project CHARISMA, which brought industry experts from universities, museums, research institutes and historians from the respective disciplines to share their knowledge, expertise and innovative ideas for preserving their national heritage.

The project aims at developing innovative tools through research to identify the materials and methods originally used by the artists as well as the modern techniques to safeguard them against rising challenges related to environmental degradation. Under this project, different art works like paintings, sculptures, ceramics, manuscripts, monuments, art work of different forms like metal and glass etc., books and archaeological items will be investigated by the historians and archaeologists. Apart from this, several grants and funds are raised through government, civic bodies and private sector for the preservation of its prestigious art and culture.

However, in a country like India, the heritage conservation is often taken for granted and there a very few corporates who are involved in initiatives related to the protection of culture and heritage. Kiran Seth, the recipient of Padma Shri award and founder of SPIC MACAY (Society for the Promotion of Indian Classical Music and Culture Amongst Youth) voices her concern saying, “We have failed to protect so many art forms and now they are lost to us forever. Ustad Asad Ali Khan’s death meant the end of the Khandar Vani style played on the rudraveena. The Koodiyattam style of theater in Kerala has almost no takers now. So much knowledge about our heritage is getting lost every day.”

Even corporates are also lagging behind in extending much support in this sensitive matter. In a recent study it was found that in FY16, the CSR spend on the projects related to heritage conservation by corporates has declined by 40% as compared to FY15. In the first year of CSR rules, the projects related to heritage conservation received Rs 67.87 crore but the funding fell to Rs. 40.88 crore in FY16. Experts believe that sufficient efforts aren’t being done by the government and corporates for preservation of art and cultural heritage and the lack of funds is aggravating the matter further. The government allocates funds for the projects related to heritage conservation only from the tourism point of view. So, if a monument or a historical piece is not important from the tourism perspective, it doesn’t receive funds and precious pieces of glorious history are eventually lost.

The projects related to education, poverty, health and environment receive maximum focus from the corporates as they lack awareness about the benefits associated with programmes related to heritage conservation. Hence, if seen positively, this field has immense scope for executing successful CSR programmes which can integrate a corporate’s activity with its core business objectives. For instance, industries related to tourism and hospitality can derive maximum benefits through the strategically designed CSR initiatives. The programmes can include site maintenance and restoration, carrying out awareness programmes and setting up of management frameworks for maintaining the historical sites. Similarly, other companies whose area of operations holds historic significance can also make valuable contribution towards executing such kind of projects.

In India only few corporates have taken up CSR projects related to heritage conservation. For example, IT giant Infosys Ltd. funds a part of its CSR budget for the restoration of monuments and organising cultural shows in south India. In 2016, Infosys Foundation (the CSR arm of Infosys) completed a restoration project at the Somanatheswara temple complex at Lakshmeshwara in Karnataka, spending around Rs 5 crore over four years. It also organized performances at the two restoration spots in Andhra Pradesh at Lakshmeshwara and Anupu.

Similarly, Yes Bank has used a part of its CSR funds for organising over 100 heritage walks and 50 cycle rides at various heritage spots like Lodhi Garden, Qutub Minar and Hauz Khas in 2016. It has further plans to extend these activities to different cities. It spent Rs. 29.52 crore in FY16 and plans to invest Rs. 34 crore in FY17 for conducting these initiatives.

Many PSUs such as ONGC, NTPC, GAIL and Indian Oil have also undertaken the renovation and maintenance activities for temples and monuments around their areas of operations. The Indian conglomerate Tata Group has been traditionally involved in promoting historical monuments and setting up museums through their institutions and trusts. The group has also helped the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) through grants.

In 1966, the Ministry of Tourism and Culture has set up the National Culture Fund (NCF) to channelise funds for the preservation of historical monuments and arts. It has identified 100 monuments of national significance which has been put up for adoption by the corporates.

In response to the poor feedback received on the hygienic conditions of the sites, the Ministry launched “Clean India Campaign” in 2012. As part of the campaign, the Indian Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) adopted Qutub Minar while ONGC also expressed interest in adopting sites like Taj Mahal, Khajuraho Temple and Ajanta-Ellora Caves for their conservation. The main objective of this campaign was to foster a collaborative model wherein corporations are encouraged to adopt a site and the local bodies such as schools, banks, authorities and trader’s associations can come forward for maintaining the nearby areas.

Maharashtra and Rajasthan governments have taken the lead and in creating platforms for corporates to adopt monuments of historical and cultural significance. Government should create awareness programmes and encourage corporates to utilise their CSR funds through structured planning and execution.

Fiinovation, a global CSR consultancy working in the domain of CSR and Sustainability urges the corporates to initiate projects related to the preservation of cultural heritage especially in their area of operations. It will not only help in keeping the history of glorious culture alive but will also enhance their presence as a culturally evolved organisation among the stakeholders.

“It has been said that, at its best, preservation engages the past in a conversation with the present over a mutual concern for the future.” — William J. Murtagh

By Manisha Bhatia

Media & Communications, Fiinovation

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5 Big Things in the Education Sector in 2016

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The education sector in India is currently at a crucial transformational stage. It is likely to grow leaps and bounds due to India’s demographic advantage presenting huge opportunities for investors. Among several things, these are the five big things that happened in the education sector.

1. The National Educational Policy Debate

The education sector in India had grown because of the first National Education Policy in 1968. The new draft NPE 2016 aims to bridge the gap between the growing population and quality education for all. It plans to put India’s education sector in the global map by making the country a global knowledge hub. The policy also plans to bring must needed reforms such as technology enabled education, skill education, teacher training support and compulsory quality audits for educational institutions. However, the draft policy has been widely criticised by teachers and institutions due to factors such as issues of commercialisation, massively open online courses (MOOCs), internationalisation and recruitment policies.

2. Education Sector & CSR

The education sector continues to be one of most favoured sector receiving CSR funds from businesses. In a recent report by Nasscom, it was highlighted that on an average 70% of the CSR funds of business is directed towards the education sector. Even, private educational institutions have been quite vocal about their wish of receiving CSR funds. The spending of the Nifty listed companies increased this year by more than 20% and education remained their priority sector.

3. Swachh Vidayala

Sanitation have become an important instrument to ensure there is no dropouts from schools. After the PM’s call to construct toilets and make the nation open defecation free, several companies under CSR contributed towards construction of toilets. Within a year, 4.07 lakh toilets were constructed out of which 2.66 lakh were new toilets whereas the rest were repaired. The aim was to have a separate toilet for girls and boys at every government school thereby reducing the drop-out rates of girls because of unhygienic facilities.

4. More Firms But Few Offers at IITs

The campus placements are always in the news, especially because of the highest offered packages from US based companies. This year, although more companies visited IIT campuses, it seems number of offers per company has dipped from last year. Students picked by leading finance and consulting firms have also reduced. The reason for such maybe the changing global dynamics and the slowdown of the developed economies.

5. Improved Rankings

The rankings of the Indian Universities improved from the last year. In the newly expanded Times Higher Education BRICS and Emerging Economies University Rankings, India was the 2nd most represented country, with the Indian Institute of Science becoming the first Indian institute to enter the top 15. In the list of 300, India has 27 universities. In 2015, 16 Indian universities had made it to the top 200. China continues to dominate with 52 places in the top 300 and six in the top 10.

There might be several other impactful things that happened in 2016 related to the education sector, but these were the few which garnered much media attention.

By Rahul Choudhury

Media & Communications, Fiinovation

**The above article is based on the author’s personal views and analysis of the sector.