SWARAJ, EDUCATION AND CSR – The foundation, the anvil and the present day propeller for development.
Swaraj was a concept in Gandhi’s thinking. As with all of Gandhi’s ideas, Swaraj should be understood and viewed within the context of the twin beacons of truth and non-violence. The fundamental concept of Swaraj is that every village should be its own republic, independent of its neighbors for its own vital wants and interdependent for many others in which dependence is necessary. Each village should be self-reliant and should be able to make provision for all necessities of life – food, clothing, clean water, sanitation, housing, education and so on, including governance, self-defense and all socially useful amenities required by a community. The weapon of ‘Swaraj’ was developed as a weapon in achieving independence for India. It was an attempt made by Gandhi for attaining dignity, self-respect and self-transformation of the people of India.
It is Swaraj when we learn to rule ourselves. … A society must be built in which every village has to be self sustained and capable of managing its own affairs. … Growth will not be a pyramid with the apex sustained by the bottom. (Gandhi 1938)
Swaraj is relevant today also. In that, it represents a deep recognition that people themselves must continuously strive to create a different set of reference points, institutions, structures and processes which are consistent with diverse cultures, values, philosophies, wisdom traditions and needs of the sub-continent. Swaraj should also identify with the principles of the natural world to inspire and guide people’s own development. Such development must be geared towards supporting the struggle to liberate our individual and collective potentialities and to discover what it means to be fully human.
The discovery of being fully human starts with education. Education should develop both the body and the mind and keep the individual rooted to her/his soil with a glorious vision of the future in the realization of which s/he shall begin to take his share from the very commencement of schooling. Some of the aspects that need to be addressed in order to create a society that believes in education are; firstly the yearning for education and secondly an uninterrupted and seamless availability of systems of education delivery – infrastructure, ethos, tangible & intangible resources.
The current education system of India has a number of gaps at delivery level. These gaps vary from scarce availability of expert subject teachers to the available ones being engaged in an array of administrative and other non-academic work. The ideal pattern of transmission of knowledge i.e. ‘from the known to the unknown’ has gone for a toss. The mid-day meal scheme has been a game changer of sorts for school attendance numbers to go up, but that is up to class 8th only, the challenge is to retain students beyond primary school into high school where the foundation of their livelihood takes shape. Unfortunately, most drop-outs happen between the transitions from class 8th to class 9th. One because the access to high schools is less as compared to primary schools – distance, opportunity cost, social & cultural issues, etc. and second and most important reason is that it is becomes difficult to find competent teachers to teach high school classes. The areas of their competency lacunae could be varied, for example: subject knowledge, classroom management, method of instruction, evaluation techniques, etc. Helping teachers identify their own shortcomings of teaching delivery and hand-holding them for corrective recourse i.e. capacity building is a local process. This means that the teacher and the School Management Committee (SMC) which also includes the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) up to a certain extent should be involved not only in the ‘quantity’ aspects of running a school i.e. allocation of land for building construction, number of classrooms, water & washroom facilities etc. In fact they should be involved in the ‘quality’ aspects of school management as well i.e. providing remedial for students who do not cope up in regular classes, capacity building of teachers for making good lesson plans and executing them, educating them about innovative methods of teaching and parent-teacher review meetings at regular intervals to access children’s learning outcomes. This collaborative approach by the community towards education in a way shall lead the mission towards discovery of being fully human.
‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ (CSR) is a relatively new opportunity in the development domain. CSR has immense potential for community building and thereby society building. Spending 2% of a corporate’s net profit may seem philanthropy to some but CSR is a right for the receiver and a responsibility for the giver to give, in order to sustain. Let us understand this in detail. With the introduction of Companies Act 2013, the mandate for CSR has been formally established through Section 135 wherein, companies with a net worth of Rs.500 crore or more, or a turnover of over Rs.1000 crore or a net profit of Rs.5 crore or more are required to constitute a CSR committee of the Board. The Board has to ensure that at least two percent of the last three year’s average net profit of the company is spent on CSR-related activities listed in Schedule VII of the Companies Act 2013. The said list of activities has been reproduced below:
- Eradicating hunger, poverty and malnutrition; promoting health care including preventive health care and sanitation including contribution to the ‘Swachh Bharat Kosh’ set-up by the Central Government for the promotion of sanitation and making safe drinking water available.
- Promoting education, including special education and employment enhancing vocational skills especially among children, women, elderly, the differently abled and livelihood enhancement projects.
- Promoting gender equality and empowering women, setting up homes and hostels for women and orphans; setting up old age homes, day care centres and such other facilities for senior citizens and measures for reducing inequalities faced by socially and economically backward groups.
- Ensuring environmental sustainability, ecological balance, protection of flora and fauna, animal welfare, agro forestry, conservation of natural resources and maintaining quality of soil, air and water including contribution to the ‘Clean Ganga Fund’ set-up by the Central Government for rejuvenation of river Ganga.
- Protection of national heritage, art and culture including restoration of building and sites of historical importance and works of art; setting up public libraries; promotion and development of traditional arts and handicrafts.
- Measures for the benefit of armed forces veterans, war widows and their dependents;
- Training to promote rural sports, nationally recognized sports, Paralympic sports and Olympic sports;
- Contribution to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund or any other fund set up by the Central Government for socio-economic development and relief and welfare of the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes, other backward classes, minorities and women;
- Contributions or funds provided to technology incubators located within academic institutions which are approved by the Central Government;
- Rural development projects.
- Slum area development.
As one can see that the purview of CSR activities is large. These activities can be best carried out in community mode i.e. by supporting people and helping them achieve what is good for them. If pursued in letter and spirit, CSR has the potential to empower society in more ways than one; for example – identifying challenges, working out mitigation measures, implementing plans, monitoring, impact evaluation & thinking for sustainability of the development that has taken place. In a way, CSR put to practical application could herald in the bottom-up approach of development which is otherwise missing in the delivery system of government schemes which are typically thrust upon people top-down. ‘Swaraj’ which means implementation of people’s own ideas for their own well-being can thus be realized through the informed, educated and supportive CSR windows of the corporate. The need is to steer the idea and make it happen.
Development will take place better if the key of driving it, is given into the hands of people themselves. An ideal situation would occur when people are provided the access to knowledge through education, basic resources for their well-being and a safeguarding hand in times of vulnerability so that they do not fall back into the vicious circle of poverty. Seventy years of independence have left us with manifold lessons to learn and today when we discuss development, the Gandhian philosophy of Swaraj remains at the core of the matter, education being it’s anvil and CSR the new age propeller.
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- Grover, Verinder (1998). Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi: A Biography of His Vision and Ideas. New Delhi: Deep & Deep Publications.
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- Thomson, Mark. (1995). Gandhi and His Ashrams. Bombay: Popular Prakashan.
- “Beyond Basics (Rural)”. Annual Status of Education Report 2017. Published Jan-16 2018. asercentre.org.
- “About MCA.” Ministry Of Corporate Affairs. www.mca.gov.in/MinistryV2/faq+on+csr+cell.html