This year has been a difficult one for human rights’ activists in India. Renowned voices that stood for corporate accountability were brutality trampled for highlighting corporate-political nexus. While the impunity with which the businesses carry on went mostly unquestioned, Corporate India was seen shrugging off social responsibility in several cases.
We rewind the year that it was:
India's 2018 black day was May 22, 2018, when police firing claimed the lives of 13 people on the 100th day of anti-Sterlite protests. In such instances of corporate-state nexus, wherein does the buck stop? With the National Green Tribunal (NGT) recent decision dismissing Tamil Nadu government's decision to close Vedanta's Sterlite copper plant, the need for an answer is even more significant.
Tens of thousands of angry Indian farmers’ march to parliament to highlight farm crisis and demand debt waivers and higher crop prices. Is anyone listening?!
2018 has been a difficult year for human rights in India. The police arrested several leading human rights activists, including Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj and Arun Ferreira, who have been vocal about corporate abuses and nexus. Academicians, civil society and many individuals stood up against such atrocities. Unfortunately, hardly any business leaders publicly condemned the arrests.
Marking a watershed moment in India’s societal evolution, Corporate India saw many women break the culture of silence around sexual harassment and everyday sexism. The #MeToo movement has spotlighted the need for a stronger policy framework at workplace protecting women from abuse; providing a safe and secure space where complaints against men holding top positions can easily be brought up with the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC).
In June 2008, India announced its National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC). When it happened, we were just one of the 10-odd countries in the world to have a consolidated policy instrument to tackle climate change. Finance is a key element of the National Action Plan on Climate Change, outlined in the plan’s National Missions. However, ten years later, there is still no clarity on how NAPCC has fared.
A plethora of awards were given to companies this year for being socially responsible, nom de plume for spending of 2% of their profits on “community development”. Were the communities involved in their own development? Are Indian companies even recognizing the need for Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) for land acquisition or displacement? So, isn’t this an anomaly of the very basic standard for community development? Unless companies consider the interest of society by taking responsibility for the impact of their activities on all stakeholders and environment, companies are NOT being responsible and CAN NOT be categorized as socially responsible. In 2014, when the 2% corporate giving was first translated into a law, it might have been a groundbreaking step in the right direction. In 2018, we need to realize this isn’t working and stop conferring awards to companies on only their 2% spend!
Burgeoning numbers of non-performing asset (NPA) came to light in 2018. The recent travails of the NBFCs are another matter of concern that got highlighted this year. Recently 13 senior economists. including former Reserve Bank of India Governor Raghuram Rajan, IMF Chief Economist Gita Gopinath and Sajjid Chinoy of JP Morgan, have jointly outlined an economic strategy for India, calling for a more ‘robust banking sector’. As we all know, ensuring due diligence and responsible financing is imperative for robust banking.
Three contract workers of Reliance Industries Ltd were killed in a fire accident; Four workers die in a blaze in a illegally-run factory in Delhi; Three labourers killed in fire at rubber plant – Surprisingly these incidents are just from November 2018. One major incident that took place in 2018 was a blast at the BPCL plant in Mumbai that injured 43 people. This gives a chilling estimate of the mounting number of accidents claiming lives of Indian workers. It is time that Indian companies place much more importance to the health and safety aspects of workers.
Assam Government announced that it agreed to increase wages of the plantation tea workers to Rs. 351.33 as demanded by the workers and the activists working in the tea sector. However, immediately after that it appointed a one-man committee to scrutinize the objections raised by the Consultative Committee of Planters' Association.