CSR Needs a Re-think

Modi Sarkar must junk UPA’s flawed approach

Narendra Modi’s government has sensibly extended the extremely restrictive scope of the corporate social responsibility (CSR) guidelines prescribed earlier by the ministry of corporate affairs (MCA). As with most decisions of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), the ‘mandatory’ CSR rules were structured to drive a torrent of private corporate funds to a few narrow areas and entities selected by the government.

Although the UPA government stopped short of introducing penalties for failure to comply with the CSR rules, these would, undoubtedly, have come in an UPA3. After all, the structure for a perpetual and an expensive bureaucracy had already been put in place in through the National Foundation for CSR (NFCSR) under the Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs (IICA).

The NFCSR is a government-promoted NGO which will raise funds and spend them for capacity building and awards like any other industry body. The UPA found nothing incongruous in its establishment, or that of IICA, which is a separate and needless body that could as well do what the NFCSR plans to do.

Under UPA, IICA would probably have morphed into a regulator to prod and punish corporate India to spend a gigantic Rs30,000 crore of private sector profits for ‘socially responsible activities’.

Will Modi Sarkar put a stop to this ridiculous waste? Or is it too soon for an about turn, especially since lakhs of NGOs and thousands of consultants have their eye on the CSR gravy train? Although there is a crowd of vested interests eyeing this pool of funds, we believe that the government needs to pause and review rather than push forward with hasty implementation of mandatory CSR. I say this even though we have a sister entity called Moneylife Foundation that urgently needs to raise funds for its activities.

First, we need to step away from the UPA philosophy, where the government itself behaved like a large NGO which spread its benevolence in select areas and through select organisations. Second, the Intelligence Bureau (IB) report, as well as other data on the NGO sector, suggests that there is need for a massive clean-up before pumping valuable, post-tax money belonging to investors, into CSR.

According to a 2009 study commissioned by the government, India has a staggering 3.3 million active not-for-profit organisations. This translates to one NGO per 400 Indians—a multiple of the number of primary health centres or primary schools. Of these, an elite set of NGOs receives substantial foreign donations and, as the IB report suggests, some of these are being used for anti-national activities.

The government also is a big donor of land and money to NGOs. The Planning Commission has set aside Rs18,000 crore for the social sector in the XI Plan; in addition, NGOs receive funds from state governments and Union ministries. Further, various regulators, such as the Reserve Bank of India (Depositors Education & Awareness Fund), MCA (Investor Education & Protection Fund) and the capital market regulator have appropriated a few thousand crore rupees of unclaimed money belonging to investors and depositors.

It is common knowledge that a large chunk of this money is either mis-utilised or siphoned away. Isn’t it correct that we demand some transparency, disclosures and weeding out of a few million dubious, or defunct, NGOs before allowing the government to direct private sector funds to them?

More importantly, CSR ought to be defined by the core competency of the corporate donor, rather than funnel funds to areas selected by the government. On 18th June, MCA, in a welcome move, expanded the list of areas eligible for CSR funding. But this is patchwork. Domain knowledge ought to have a role in deciding what a company should consider ‘socially responsible’ work for itself. Here is what we mean.

What would CSR be for an advertising agency? Campaigns to spread awareness about road safety, or cancer, done free of cost for an NGO. Similarly, for an IT company, email or hosting services provided free, or the development of a socially useful app, is appropriate CSR.

Companies ought to have the freedom to direct CSR to the right causes, based on their expertise or area of operation.

Also, so long as an NGO is transparent about its activity and accounts, and meets the income-tax department’s criteria for tax exemptions, why should MCA decide whether or not it will be eligible for corporate funds under CSR? Hopefully a forward thinking Modi Sarkar will realise that CSR by coercion and fiat will only lead to leakage and diversion of funds and defeat its basic objective. What is worse, it will choke funding to many deserving activities and entities especially small and earnest start-ups in the not-for-profit sector.



Nagesh Kini

3 years ago

The Union Budget 2014 envisages changes!


3 years ago

your writeup is basically concluding that CSR activity for a corporate is only circling down to donating money to NGOs. i doubt that is the vision behind it. Theso called responsibility bestowed upon the corporate sector is not just to spend but to undertake activities and showcase their effort to the public and not the govt. A corporate should have its own Social Agenda to wrok towards and NGOs ideally shouldnt feature in it as the dominant part. CSR spending should not be reduced to a mere bill payment exercise at the end of the year.


Sucheta Dalal

In Reply to sidsharma 3 years ago

With due respect, your understanding is flawed and scary.
First, a corporate according to UPA2 was any company that has a profit, irrespective of size.
Second, a persons sets up a company for a specific purpose. They toil to make it run and under UPA2, it was a struggle to meet all the red tape and compliances. This included the tax torsion.
It is extraordinary to tell a company that in addition to the business you run, you willa leo take up another activity by compulsion, from among a list of 20 or 30 selected by the government and will be held accountable for it, no matter whether you have the inclination, expertise or vision for it.
This is ridiculous and undemocratic. You cannot force anybody to have a "social agenda" apart from the business they run. The minute you FORCE people, they will cut corners and it will dwindle into corrupt practices.
Even in communist regimes, I doubt government can "force" people to undertake a "social agenda" that is outside their core competence.

What I am arguing is that asking them to extend their regular business for social causes.
Try running a business in India. We do. When we have no accountant the govt does not care. There is draconian penalty.

The TV18 group sacked 300 people. Did the government care? What about social responsibility to the employees who are out without a pension? Does anyone care? Certainly not the UPA2 which dreamt up mandatory CSR. Imagine the anguish of a TV18 employee who cannot pay EMI to know that 2% of net profit will go to all kinds of social causes that the government ought to have take care of -- as its duty -- while he/she have no job?
This is the private sector we are talking about. Try to think about what you are saying when you talk compulsion.

Simple Indian

In Reply to Sucheta Dalal 3 years ago

I agree with your arguments against compulsory CSR thrust on corporate sector by the earlier UPA govt. The corporate sector is essentially profit-oriented and is responsible for maximising profits for its shareholders. Hence, no private enterprise should be 'forced' to contribute to CSR activities. In fact, thousands of NGOs have sprung up in India due to govt's irresponsibility and inability to meet social welfare needs. As in the case of RTE thrust on private non-govt funded schools, 'forced' CSR is undesirable and should be discontinued forthwith.


In Reply to Sucheta Dalal 3 years ago

Firstly, sorry for offending you. My opinion on your article, as ridiculous as it may sound to you, was restricted to the fact that NGOs do not become the main and only means of CSR spending. You dont mention anything in that aspect in your reply though.
Coming to your reply now, without exciting your temper, a corporate is not any company who declares profit, irrespective of its size. You say irrespective of its size and then you quote a scenario of TV18 group which declared a net profit of 39.5 crore. The size of the company which is mandated to spend is DEFINED. Your confidence reflects the success of your business when you suggest me to try and run a business in India. I sincerely hope your company would come in that ambit.
If that is the sense prevailing then the CGR( Corporate Governance reporting) is also a big sham.
I also dont understand your point about the accountant, as a company is actually mandated to have all its reporting attested by a Chartered Accountant.
Your argument about extending the regular business practice towards social benefit is ideal. But tell me how is it different from what TV18 did when both the decisions are driven with a profit motive, or expansion motive or cost cutting motive.
Nobody is forcing anybody mam. The penalty which will be imposed will be much less than the 2 % to be spent, so the corporate can just pay off the penalty and move on. There arnt any 20-30 things given by the govt. There is a schedule(schedule 7) which only suggests the activities that one can take up. According to me, it is an opportunity for a corporate to build its brand, connect with not just shareholders but also the stakeholders present in the society which matters to a company once it reaches that stature. And if it comes as a mandate or a tax benefit then even better. But our argument, I guess, is the main dilemma in the situation. Passion and profit dont always go together.

Nagesh Kini

In Reply to Sucheta Dalal 3 years ago

I entirely agree. The scheme as its stands now is half-baked and extremely opaque and calls for a thorough overhaul. Best put it across for a full public debate and rewrite it de novo.

Nagesh Kini

3 years ago

The time has come to thoroughly revamp the entire NGO sector to weed out the thousands masquerading as do-gooders siphoning funds and cheating donors.
There has to be a simple mandatory registration-cum-monitoring process to replace the present multiple authorities like offices of the Charity Commissioner under a state act, the office of the Commissioner of Income Tax under the Union MOF and FCRA under MOH. The left hand doesn't know what the right is doing! Yet operating freely for years are many politically connected ones as 'social organisations'.


Suiketu Shah

In Reply to Nagesh Kini 3 years ago

Its an open secret lots of trusts and NGO's are to convert white into black(no charity etc whichi s all hogwash).The reason.Industrialists wish to avoid taxThis is why what Dr ASwamy states is 100% right.Just stop ITax,STax,excise-charge everyoen based on bank transaction tax.No ITax,no harassment,no 1000 companies by industrialists to avoid tax,no complication,no nothing.Only progress,progress and progress.Cynics wl say this wl encourage black money but black money already is a major component of the economy and this wl only come down.


3 years ago

I agree with Sucheta's analysis. As the study shows, lakhs of NGOs are simply for name sake. No mass based uplifting activities or quality inputs for down trodden is given by them. Lakhs of rupees which they receive as donations are used mainly for the trustee's own or their family /relative or friends benefits. Accounts can be fudged easily and they comply with the basic requirement of filing the 'Audited Accounts' which has become a financial jugglery for them .
Before the CSR benefits are extended to them, let here first be a Probe to expose what kind of 'Social activities they indulge in for splurging public money.

R Balakrishnan

3 years ago

Compulsory CSR is the refuge of a bankrupt and immoral government. Paying extortionist income taxes itself is more than enough give back to society. With enough indirect taxes, income taxes and CSR is a penalty for efficiency and enterprise.
Wonder if the Modi chap and his RSS team will have the courage to roll this back.

UTI’s Fake 50 Year Celebration

UTI is celebrating its 50 years of existence, unashamed of two bail-outs with taxpayers' money

In February 2014, UTI Mutual Fund (UTIMF) launched its celebration of 50 years of operations without a trace of embarrassment or irony. Former finance minister P Chidambaram and SEBI chairman UK Sinha, who earlier headed UTIMF, flagged off the celebration.

A coffee table book of UTI’s history was released that day in the presence of almost all but two of its most controversial ex-chairmen in nearly four decades. One was the late MJ Pherwani (who grew UTI into a mammoth fixed-returns giving trust and development finance institution rolled in one, but set it up for a future fall) and the other was the late PS Subramanyam, who presided over its collapse, after it had already been seriously weakened.  Did the coffee table book document its ignominious fall and split? How did UTIMF justify its claim of 50 years of glorious existence?

A pliant media is silent about this hoax. Now UTIMF, which had remained headless for a long interregnum under the UPA, wants to continue the celebrations with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in power. Media reports say the Fund has persuaded the government to issue a postage stamp to commemorate its 50 years of existence.

For those with short memories, here is a quick update. In July 2001, under ferocious public pressure, a BJP-led government, with Yashwant Sinha as finance minister, reacted with alarm to UTI’s decision to freeze the sale and purchase of its famous Unit-64 Scheme. The Scheme had been started in the year of UTI’s birth and finds no mention in its fake 50-year celebration.

Earlier, in 1999, UTI had survived another collapse with a Rs3,300-crore government bailout. It had a terrific opportunity to revive in the dotcom bubble, but chairman PS Subramanyam only ran it to the ground. In 2001, sharp criticism over continued dubious investments, collusion with brokers, betrayal of public trust and the setting up of yet another joint parliamentary committee to investigate the Ketan Parekh scam forced the government to split the investment behemoth into two.

One was UTI Special Undertaking (SUUTI) which acted as a holding company for certain unlisted investments and blocks of major listed investments and realty owned by UTI. The other was UTI Mutual Fund which is ‘celebrating’ 50 years of existence. Millions of Indians who invested in US-64 for higher returns and tax benefits will attest to the fact that there is no connection between the two entities. So how do the 50 years tot up?




3 years ago



3 years ago

​SCUP-senior citizen unit plan-a healh insurance was closed prematurely and unit holders (couple of lacs )were handed over NAV which was supposed to be utilised for senior citizens after age of 60.

All of the consumer organisations are SILENT on this (UTI's)premature withdrawal of Senior Citizen's Mediclaim plan due to complications involved in fixing responsibility.

UTI's has proved that its possible to fool everybody at ALL TIMES.​


3 years ago

SBI celebrated their 200th year, they counted from Bank of Calcutta / Imperial Bank days. Canara Hindu Permanent Fund became Canara Bank which celebrated their centenary counting from 1906. The same is true for many other institutions which celebrated their 100th or 50th year.
Should a person not celebrate his 50th year because he was sick at 40 ?
In UTI's case, I think, the Repeal Act (of UTI Act ) has conferred the right ,as a successor of old UTI , on the new UTI. And being a mutual fund, they will of course not spend from taxpayers money for their celebration , if any. Why do we grumble?

Dipakkumar J Shah

3 years ago

UTI and their Transfer agent made a fraud in many certificates !! No reply is given by UTI. Many units were sent for transfer and the same is encash by some body!!RT Agent is silent for last many years more than 10 years!!

jaideep shirali

3 years ago

UTI was used by the Govt earlier, to prop up the markets, or to invest in shady politically connected shares, so it was not surprising that US 64 lost money. But bailing US 64 out at the tax payers expense was unethical, to say the least. There were many mutual fund schemes from PSUs such as LIC, GIC and PSU banks which quoted below par, none of these were bailed out, so why US 64, an equity scheme that paid dividends like an FD? US 64 holdings were converted into low paying bonds, but SUUTI profited immensely, so US 64 holders lost out again. One of the PSU insurance companies gave their employees gold coins, rather than plough that money into operations. As for celebrations, everybody loves to celebrate using public money, but PSUs seem to forget that their very operations depend on the taxpayer, so they have no right to squander profits on celebrations.The irony of the celebration is that UTI had about Rs. 50,000 cr in AUM before private mutual funds were permitted, now the industry has an AUM over 16 times that amount.


3 years ago

SUUTI is still holding huge shares of ITC AXIS BANK L&T and it is sitting on huge profits.The problem is not only with uti Even today many mutual fund houses are repeating the mistake done by UTI.Capital market education is strongly required in this country.If uti shares belong to unitholders the unit holders might have benifited enormously.No amc bothered to educate investors.At the same time i like to point out UTI is better than MORGAN STANLEY.

Sucheta Dalal

3 years ago

More on UTI:

It is also important to remember that post the debacle a committee headed by Mr S S Tarapore, former DG of the Reserve Bank was set up. Mr M G Bhide, former chairman of Bank of India was on the committee.

We learn that this committee provided a report which was so detailed that all it needed was the filing of FIRs against entities responsible for looting UTI.

The report was buried!! NOTHING HAPPENED!

Will Patel & Proloy as questions in the so-called 50th year?? Lets not have fake celebrations when there are so many skeletons in ones cupboard. And I am only scratching the surface here !

Sucheta Dalal

3 years ago

The bizarre comments in support of UTI's fake golden jubilee can only come from UTI itself.

What is the connection with returns earned as mentioned by one commentator? Those returns were earned by the government, while UTI's investors, who held shares for decades lost out heavily. They were virtually thrown out at face value. Meanwhile an investigation into institutional investors using inside information (of UTI trying to borrow from them) to exit at a high NAV -- Rs17+ if I remember right, was quietly dropped.
Those losses are forgotten?

As for bailouts to General Motors or others anywhere in the world, how strange is the comparison? Were those companies split? Did they cease to exit in the form that they were?
UTI Mutual fund is NOT the investment behemoth that Unit Trust of India was before the split. It is one half of a company, operating under a different set of rules. Its life started the day it was spun off as a separate company. UTI MF can jolly well celebrate a decade of its existence or any other milestone. But it cannot claim to be 50 years old.

It also cannot gloss over the unsavoury history of 1999 and 2001 which led to the split.




In Reply to Sucheta Dalal 3 years ago

Well, since you mention General Motors, I suppose you were replying to me, and it was me whom you were accusing of being a UTI employee or insider; needless to say, without adducing any evidence whatsoever. I'm neither. I have not the remotest connection with UTI, save the fact that there happens to be a UTI office within one kilometer of where I live. I haven't even invested in any of their mutual funds to be a fanboy of any sort. But, as a general follower of personal finance topics, I've followed UTI mutual funds' performance, and I have no reservations in recommending them to others, because they are competent and it shows in their performance track record over 5-10 year periods.

Ms Dalal, do you really mean to say that the returns that UTI's mutual fund units produce are pocketed by the government, not UTI investors...? This one is a GEM...! I'm not very sure whether this is really coming from the editor of a principal financial magazine which holds investor camps regularly. If it was not you but someone else who took advantage of your login to impersonate, please let us know! I'll be more than ready to accept it. You know, sometimes young nephews/nieces take advantage and post something unbeknownst to one...!

I find it amusing that someone who argues that UTI MF's fund returns are irrelevant, uses some purported losses to make some sort of argument by asking "those losses are forgotten?". (Although, to my untrained eyes, the fact that some institutional investors exited at a high NAV, shows that they made profits; I don't know how it became a loss. Unless what's meant is that if an investors exits his investments at a profit, it's supposed to be a loss for the fund house, or by some kind of wizardry, a loss for the government itself!)

Ms Dalal, if what you were referring to was not the fund returns, but the fund house's profits, and therefore expressing your angst against the deprivation of common investors who weren't given a share of that, I get more confused as to what you really are alleging...? Are you alleging that UTI generated losses (as a fund house, not on the units which are market-linked) and therefore drained the exchequer through bailouts...? Or are you alleging that UTI generated profits and the investors lost out (remember, you yourself say that it was the government who earned the returns!)...? Could you please clarify whether you are alleging that UTI is loss-making for the government, or whether your allegation is that it's profit-making, and your umbrage is regarding the fact that those profits are not being shared with unit holders?

"Were those companies split?". Oh, now I get it -- so your principal objection is that UTI got split and, therefore, they don't deserve to inherit their history...! Do you apply the same criterion regarding, say, a company's debt? Supposing a debt-ridden company (say, Kingfisher) splits itself into two. Would you then argue that neither of the split neo-entities should be allowed to inherit the debt too...?

More generically, what exactly is the point of your article...? So what if UTI is celebrating its golden jubilee...? Who cares...? So what, if technically they are not the same entity which was founded 50 years ago...? How is it a matter of public interest...? What is the point of your grudge...?

And regarding the "unsavory history of 1999-2001", which government was in power till 2004...? Who should have taken action...? If I remember correctly, Ms Dalal did some stellar work in exposing the machinations of one Ketan Parekh at that time. I hope the "achhe din" of investigations are now back, and armed by the missionary zeal of Messrs Swamy and Modi and Baba Ramdev, now all perpetrators who precipitated the UTI losses would be brought to book. Within 56 months, if not 56 days -- one might guess...?

Sucheta Dalal

In Reply to Proloy 3 years ago

I have no idea whether you know anything about Unit Trust of India, which was set up in 1964. And since you dont, but have long tangential and pointless arguments to make, I won't be wasting my time responding.

Proloy Coomar Pramanik

In Reply to Sucheta Dalal 3 years ago

Well, the least you could do is explain what public interest is served by your article. Your own post was even more pointless. If you have a personal grouse against UTI, why don't you put that up on your Facebook page so that your personal circle can read. This is not the only instance. There is that series going on against Aadhaar, with more episodes written than there were in Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi. The latest contention being: "when will Nandan Nilekani be arrested for violating personal privacy...?" Some geniuses around! These smack clearly of a public platform being used for some personal axes some disgruntled angst-ers have to grind, flooding with farcical articles.

Pratima Patel

3 years ago

Government's bail out of UTI, once in 1999 and second time in 2001 both turned out to be hugely profitable transaction for the Government only (not for UTI or it's unit holders ).The transaction in 1999 by way of swapping PSU shares for Gsec paper worth Rs 3300 crore resulted in booking profit by the Government when they sold the same set of PSU stocks at more than double ( nearly at three times the cost) in 2003-4. Similarly, SUUTI took over the assets of US 64 and paid back it's liability to unit holders by issuing Bond.
The value of the assets that were handed over to Govt rose to 5 to 6 times enabling the Govt to book profit in many tranches in various years to meet deficits. The remaining value it self ,as on date ,would be many times more than the bail out amount. Not to mention the taking away of the enterprise value of 1300 crore paid by the sponsors of UTI MF to the Govt. So much so, the value of its real estates and the Staff Welfare Fund were also gobbled by the cash starved Govt .UTI was a great organisation by its contribution to start and cultivate the investment cult in India. Why Moneylife considered the celebration as fake is not understood. Generations of investors have benefited by investing in UTI. Not granting the right to celebrate for such an organisation is not fair.


3 years ago

Bank of America, Citibank and General Motors too needed government bailouts. Glad to know that those companies too are "fakes", just like our dear own UTI...! Hopefully, those companies too will heed Ms Dalal's angsty outpourings and give up on their jubilee celebrations out of shame. For the uninitiated, UTIMF today, despite being headless, is one of the best performing mutual fund houses. Many of its schemes figure among the top-rated funds by ValueResearch and other fund rating bodies like Crisil. So much for the righteous angstiness of Ms Sucheta Dalal...!

MG Warrier

3 years ago

Many things stated here are true. But, it is also a fact that absence of professionalism in management caused the slow and steady deterioration of the functioning of a public sector organisation. Wrong persons found their way to top positions in UTI with ease. The institution was ‘destroyed’ from within. Some financial management experts should do a case study of the rise and ‘fall’ of UTI. Even the Unit-64 Scheme is worth studying. That scheme was also ‘destroyed’ by not bringing in innovations necessitated by changes in the environment in which it was existing.

The fine print in T-Mobile’s alleged overbilling scam

The FTC alleges that T-Mobile used third-party billing to collect hundreds of millions of dollars from customers by hiding unauthorized charges in their phone bills about premium texting subscriptions that cost $9.99

T-Mobile USA CEO John Legere was quick to skirt responsibility this week after the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed a complaint that said the mobile carrier bilked hundreds of millions of dollars from customers by hiding unauthorized charges in their phone bills.

“…We put in place procedures to protect our customers from unauthorized charges,” Legere said in an online statement Tuesday. “Unfortunately, not all these third party providers acted responsibly—an issue the entire industry faced.”

The complaint, which seeks to recoup millions of dollars for consumers, centers around third-party providers and the clandestine practice of “cramming.”

According to the FTC:

In a process known as ‘third-party billing,’ a phone company places charges on a consumer’s bill for services offered by another company, often receiving a substantial percentage of the amount charged. When the charges are placed on the bill without the consumer’s authorization, it is known as “cramming.

The FTC alleges that T-Mobile used third-party billing to collect up to 40 percent of the total amount charged to customers. The fees were for purported premium texting subscriptions for content such as “flirting tips, horoscope information or celebrity gossip that typically cost $9.99,” according to the complaint.

Often the third-party charges were “bogus,” the complaint further alleges, and never authorized by the customer. And once they came through, the charges appeared buried and ambiguous on a customer’s bill, according to the complaint (See FTC graphic below).

Furthermore, the FTC alleges that in some cases T-Mobile continued to bill its customers “years after becoming aware of signs that the charges were fraudulent.”

“It’s wrong for a company like T-Mobile to profit from scams against its customers when there were clear warning signs the charges it was imposing were fraudulent,” FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said in a statement. “The FTC’s goal is to ensure that T-Mobile repays all its customers for these crammed charges.”

Look to the fine print

In his statement, Legere said that it is T-Mobile’s position that “customers should only pay for what they want and what they sign up for.” Well, it appears what customers sign up for with T-Mobile is the possibility of being scammed or “crammed” by a third-party provider.

From the company’s terms and conditions (Effective March 27, 2014):

Your Device can be used to purchase services and products from third-party providers and Charges for these purchases may be included on your T-Mobile bill. …We use filters to block spam messages, but we do not guarantee that you will not receive spam or other unsolicited messages, and we are not liable for such messages.

And once it appears on the bill (Again, under terms and conditions):

Billing. You agree to pay all charges we bill you or that were accepted or processed through your Device.

Got that? Accepted OR processed. So let’s review: It appears there’s no guarantee you won’t have to pay for unsolicited third-party charges if the charges are “processed” through your phone. Hmm.

Protect yourself

One thing you can do to protect yourself is opt out of third-party purchases. T-Mobile offers the exemption but you have to do it yourself by visiting or calling Customer Care.

For more tips on protecting yourself from cramming and other types of cell phone fraud click here.



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