Civil societies to play crucial role in CSR agenda

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MUMBAI: Business associations and civil societies have a crucial role to play in the government’s corporate social responsibility agenda, according to industry leaders and government officials.

“They (business associations and chambers of commerce) could act as hubs to further facilitate a process of constructive engagement and collective action with their respective organisations,” Bhaskar Chatterjee, DG & CEO,IICA said at a seminar orgainsed by Federation of IndianChamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) in Mumbai on Wednesday.

“Success or failure of CSR programme in India rests more with civil societies than with companies. NGOs have to demonstrate their capability to implement,” said Chatterjee.

The seminar on “Corporate Social Responsibility – Companies Bill 2012 & Impact of Section 135”, organised in partnership with IICA and with the support of Next Gen, British High Commission and HPCL, dwelled on what activities qualify as CSR and what does not, the critical role of industry associations and chambers of commerce, the role of civil society and NGOs in reaching the ‘bottom of the pyramid’ through CSR, among other issues. The seminar also had a panel discussion on integrating social delivery into business.

The new Companies Bill, passed in the Lok Sabha in December, made it mandatory for firms to report on how much they spend on CSR every year. If companies spend less than 2% of their average net profit over the last three years, they are required to explain the reasons. India is the first nation in the world to frame such legislation.

Speaking on the occasion Rashesh Shah, chairman, FICCI, Maharashtra State Council, said: “We must look at CSR as not a binding legal requirement but a commitment to imbibe it in our corporate culture, which contributes substantially towards betterment of society holistically.”

According to Abhishek Humbad, co-founder of sustainability management firm NextGen, one of the partners in the seminar: “In order to realise the full potential of Clause-135, the companies need to innovate and evolve new areas intervention like social entrepreneurship, startup incubation, social business models etc. and develop new methods of delivery. Greater collaboration and greater use of technology will play a critical role in the success of Clause-135.”

Jammu Civil society groups urge for peace, harmony

AMMU : Several civil society groups here have made separate strong appeals for maintaining communal harmony and restoration of peace.
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A group of social activists and advocates appealed to all sections of society to restore the rich cultural and secular ethos of Jammu region by maintaining calm and not getting led astray by rumours and propaganda.

Expressing grave concern over the Kishtwar incident and its spill out in various other parts of the region they said that the situation needs to be handled at both the administrative and political fronts to not only bring some semblance of normalcy but also to heal the minds and treat the hatred that is vitiating the atmosphere.

They said that Jammu region has always exhibited the best of secular traditions since the last several decades and that these need to be preserved at every cost.

The group included H.U. Siddiqui, M.R. Quereshi, A.H. Mughal, Mehmood Mirza, Iqbal Hussain Butt, A.A Hamal, Anwar Choudhry, Achal Sharma, Ashwini Sharma, Master Abdul Majid, Azam Shah, Farooq Muztar, Khurshid Bismal, Mohd. Ayub Shabnam, K.K. Kapoor, Maroof Manhas, Raja Abbas and Nazir Chowdhry.

The Internationalist Democratic Party (IDP) also made a strong appeal for maintaining peace and expressed grave concern at the spill over of the Kishtwar incident to Jammu city and other areas.

It’s president I.D. Khajuria and general secretary J.A. Kazmi were extremely concerned about the incidents of targeting minorities in areas where they have a microscopic presence. They said that this seemed to be a part of bigger conspiracy which needs to be unveiled.

They added that the immediate need, however, is to maintain law and order and ensure the safety of all communities, especially in areas where they are in minority. They have also appealed to general public to remain calm and resist the temptation of getting swayed by rumours.

Meanwhile, the residents of Talab Khatikan, Mohalla Dalpatia, Residency Road, Link Road, Jain Bazar, Mohalla Mastgarh and Mohalla Khatkatian, while addressing a press conference, today expressed concern over the prevailing situation.

They said, “It is a known thing that all the communities Hindu, Muslim, Sikh are living in the state in exemplary harmony, particularly in the district of Kishtwar, Doda, Reasi, Jammu, Rajouri, Poonch, Kathua and Udhampur. The incident which took place on August 9 in Kishtwar is highly condemnable and cannot be justified at all.”

They further appealed to all the like minded people irrespective of caste and creed as well as political parties to come forward in normalising the situation and bring peace in the troubled area as soon as possible. They also demanded that the culprits should not be spared and must be brought to book and dealt with an iron hand irrespective of caste, community and religion the belong.

The civil society group alleged that some political parties tried to communalise the situation as the election of 2014 was nearing. “The activities of such elements are required to be curbed with an iron hand, so that harmony could be maintained irrespective of which community they belong to,” they added.

Those who addressed the press briefing included Hafeez-ur-Rehman (Advocate), Bashir Ahmad Malik, Sanjeev Gupta, Devinder Singh, Ayub Beg, Ashiq Hussain, Raji Shaluja, Dr. Shahid Mugdal, Ajay Gandotra alias Manta, Devinder Gupta, Vinod Kumar, Sudesh Dogra, Mrs. Kapoor, Rinku, Happy Gupta, Parveen Singh, Davinder Joshi, Rashid Ahmad, Safdar Khan Manhas and Zeeshan Ali.

Meanwhile, Duggar Vikas Manch (DVM), a forum which represents all segments of Duggar Society, today appealed to the people of Jammu region to maintain peace, which is an example of brotherhood and communal harmony as there is a dire need at this crucial moment of maintaining this centuries-old tradition of the state, and requested the people to defeat the designs of divisive forces.

DVM President Dineshwar Singh Jamwal demanded that the sufferers must be compensated as per their damages and asked the officials to remain vigilant and caution the people of both the communities against rumour-mongers.

He further appealed to the people to maintain peace and communal harmony to help restore law and order, which Jammu region’s society symbolizes with its pluralistic ethos and peaceful co-existence of different faiths, cultures and ethnic groups.

DVM also urged the civil society of Jammu region to come forward to defuse the tensions in this region as the government has failed to deliver in time though Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs have lived together in harmony even during worse situations in the region.

Source: KT NEWS SERVICE

Civil society groups slam MP govt over FRA violations in Mahan forests

Civil society groups on Tuesday came together in support of Mahan Sangharsh Samiti (MSS) and demanded a response from Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan about the non-implementation of Forest Rights Act (FRA) in the Mahan forests of Singrauli district.

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“This has come two months after the Union Tribal Affairs Minister, V K C Deo wrote a letter to the State Chief Minister and Governor, about FRA violations in the Mahan forests in the Singrauli district,” Greenpeace India Senior Campaigner and MSS activist Priya Pillai told reporters.

The state government has been tight-lipped about the issue and has not come out with any response, Priya said. “The Union Tribal Affairs Ministry has still not got a response from the Chief Minister. The State government cannot afford to drag its feet over the issue,” said Priya who is an activist with MSS and has been working with villagers in Mahan for the past two-and-a-half years for implementation of the FRA. She said the MoEF granted Stage-I clearance to the Mahan coal block (alloted to Mahan Coal Limited – a joint venture of Essar and Hindalco) last year, along with 36 conditions which includes implementation of FRA.

However, the state government has gone ahead and given an NOC to the company on the basis of a fraudulent Gram Sabha resolution, Pillai said. A special Gram Sabha on FRA was held on March 6, 2013 in Amelia, which was attended by only 184 people, she said. But the copy of the Gram Sabha resolution obtained through RTI (after four months) has 1,125 signatures – most of them, the villagers fear, have been forged, Priya said.

At a joint press conference with MSS members on July 19, 2013, Deo had assured he will look into the matter. “We have come to Bhopal to demand our rights from the Chief Minister. The Tribal Affairs Minister had assured us of his support but the State government has not spoken a word on the issue,” said Ujiraj Singh Khairwar, member of MSS and a resident of Amelia. The mine would render them homeless, Khairwar said and added that for generations they have been dependent on the forests for their livelihood.

Source: PTI 13 August 2013

Roles of Civil Society in Changing Context of India

Rajesh-TandonSociety for Participatory Research in Asia president Rajesh Tandon delivering the Samarjit Ray memorial lecture in Hyderabad on Tuesday. Former chief secretary K Madhava Rao is at left.

Rajesh Tandon, co-founder and president of Society for Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA) said that the challenge for civil society is to redefine its identity and questioned as to where the civil society belongs to.

While speaking about the changes in civil societies, he said that a lot of voluntary organisations have emerged, which instead of pursuing social commitments are pursuing business and commercial intentions.

Speaking at a lecture entitled “Roles of Civil Society in Changing Context of India” which was organised on the occasion of 70th birth anniversary of late Smarajit Ray, co-founder of Andhra Pradesh Mahila Abivrudhi Society (APMAS) on Tuesday at the SERP conference hall at Hermitage complex, HUDA building, Nampally.

“I think that we are in a severe crisis as the Supreme Court took 62 years to order that minerals under the lands belong to title holders, tribals,” said Rajesh Tandon and added that the government displaces tribals for the sake of private companies and names under the guise of national interest projects BN Yugandhar, former planning commission member, observed that chaotic changes in the country are not captured correctly to understand society and questioned the role of civil society. He added that helping labourers in forming unions and in demanding their rights comprises civil society movement.

Rukmini Rao, development sector activist, brought up gender issues plaguing the society and questioned as to why women are pushed towards margins and as to how the  civil society is dealing with their issues. She observed that the civil society has not taken sides in favour of the poor and the marginalised while failing to support labor union movements.

“There is some crisis of vision for all of us and nations problems are getting solved as people are not empowered” said Malla Reddy, director, Axion Fraterna. He also said that if self help groups, cooperative organisations and other kinds of civil society organisations come together then the public will be aware of their rights and fight against injustice.

Civil Society Pushes for More Active Participation in Green Climate Fund

Earth-International

The Green Climate Fund has been opened up to observers, but civil society representatives want to play a bigger role.

MEXICO CITY, Jul 21 2013 (IPS) – The Green Climate Fund (GCF), created under the auspices of the United Nations to finance the huge investments demanded by climate change, was opened up to participation by civil society and private sector representatives as observers in March.

But non-governmental organisations are pressing for more active participation now that the GCF is moving into the crucial phase of designing policies and distributing resources, especially with regard to the controversial Private Sector Facility.

“Now they are discussing what type of observers and executors can be in the Fund. This opens up the possibility of having financial institutions involved as executors, and they are studying the criteria for qualification and safeguards,” Colombian attorney Astrid Puentes, co-director of the Interamerican  Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA), told Tierramérica. In this process, “we are being ignored,” she stated.

As one of the observer organisations from the region, AIDA monitors the sessions of the GCF Board, which is based in South Korea.

The creation of the GCF was agreed at the 16th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, held in late 2011 in Cancún, Mexico. The industrialised countries pledged to deliver 30 billion dollars in new and additional financing by 2012, with priority placed on resources for climate change adaptation in the poorest and most vulnerable countries.

A longer-term target was set for the mobilisation of 100 billion dollars annually by 2020.

The World Bank was designated as the interim trustee of the Fund for the first three years.

A year later, in Durban, South Africa, a governing body was created: the 24-member GCF Board, composed of an equal number of members from developed and developing countries, responsible for the execution and oversight of the Fund’s resources.

At its next meeting, scheduled for this September in Paris, the Board will assess the progress made in the development of a business model framework, transparency policies, private financing and conditions for access to GCF resources.

“It’s important that, whatever is done, it has to do with small and medium enterprises. The approach should focus on the needs of ordinary people in the developing countries and then how the private sector is engaged,” Karen Orenstein, an international policy analyst at Friends of the Earth U.S., told Tierramérica.

“It’s incredibly important that a country decides what is good and the private sector obliges to it,” she added.

At a meeting on Jun. 25-28 in the South Korean city of Songdo, where it is based, the GCF Board decided that the Private Sector Facility will commence its operations through accredited national, regional and international implementing entities and intermediaries. It also established that it may over time work directly with private sector actors, subject to consideration by the Board.

This decision derailed attempts by the United States and Australia to give corporations direct access to the funds, bypassing government control.

A report published in June by a consortium of five civil society organisations, funded by the UK-based Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), stressed the role of national institutions.

“Especially the GCF should prioritise access of local (…) actors to the available funds,” the report states, adding that “clear funding modalities must be put in place to ensure multi-stakeholder decision-making processes, including sub-national and non-state actors, as well as the devolvement of funds to the local level.”

Private sector companies, which also have representatives as GCF observers, want the funds transferred by the wealthy countries to cover their investments in clean development projects in developing countries, which they can claim as reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Latin American delegates were missing in Songdo, since neither Mexican Senator Ernesto Cordero, a Board member, nor his alternate, Rodrigo Rojo, deputy director for International Affairs at the Ministry of Finance of Chile, was in attendance.

But that was not the only problem.

“The last meeting was disastrous for citizen participation. They shut us out of some discussions, like the definition of the business model, on the pretext that our organisations have no experience in these matters,” said Puentes.

Orenstein commented that “the countries that were the major obstacles were Australia and the U.S., who boast they are the champions of transparency. The real champions were Zambia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and indeed Sweden. It was regressive; they vetoed the presence of civil society delegates in the most important discussions.”

In November 2012 almost 34 billion dollars in climate finance had been pledged, according to an analysis conducted by institutions in the United States, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan and Norway. Of this total, 28 million had been requested and/or budgeted by the executive bodies of the countries that have pledged the funds.

However, it is difficult to determine if these resources are genuinely “new and additional” and not part of previously allocated assistance or financing. Every country uses different instruments and channels resources through different schemes and institutions. It also is not clear if priority has been placed on adaptation measures in the most vulnerable countries.

The funds actually invested total barely three billion dollars.

On Jun. 24, the day before the last GCF Board meeting began, a large group of non-governmental organisations sent the Board a letter highlighting key issues regarding transparency and public participation and requesting that they be addressed at the meeting.

“The Board would benefit from having civil society participation given the vast expertise and experience found among the different groups and individuals that represent civil society,” the letter emphasised.

* This story was originally published by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network.

 

Civil society group to help Batla House case convict

New Delhi, July 25 (IANS) A civil society group comprising Jamia Millia Islamia teachers Thursday expressed shock over the conviction of lone accused Shahzad Ahmad in the Batla House shootout case and vowed to seek justice for him in a higher court.

“It was a huge disappointment for us. We will definitely approach the higher court for justice,” said Manisha Sethi, president of Jamia Teachers Solidarity Association (JTSA).

A Delhi court convicted Ahmad, from Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh, for killing Delhi Police Special Cell Inspector M.C. Sharma, who had led a police team that raided a flat in Batla House neighbourhood, close to the university, where the shootout took place Sep 19, 2008.

Sethi said they fought for five years to reveal the real face of Delhi Police who staged the shootout and arrested the innocent people.

“The prosecution has failed to explain the theory of Delhi Police. I really wonder how such the decision took place,” she said.

Defense lawyer S. Qamar said: “Since we did not receive a copy of the court’s judgment We will look at the order and challenge the decision.”

JTSA, a civil society group, ran a campaign claiming that the shootout was fake and the arrests of Shahzad and other suspects for it were wrong.

In October 2012, JTSA brought out a report, ‘Framed, Damned, Acquitted‘ documenting 16 cases where trials of terror accused resulted in acquittals for lack of evidence.

JTSA also questioned the alleged discrepancies in the police version on the Batla House shootout through a report “Encounter’ at Batla House: Unanswered Questions”.

Civil society groups stage dharna at Jantar Mantar

New Delhi, July 21: A protest march followed by dharna was organised at Jantar Mantar here on Sunday to protest against the recent killing of four innocent civilians in BSF firing at Gool in district Ramban. The protest dharna was organised by Save Sharmila Campaign and Mission Bhartiyam.

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The protestors raised slogans and demanded stern action against those behind the killings. They further demanded withdrawal of contentious Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) which the protestors felt was the root cause behind such incidents.
Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign is a nationwide campaign in support of Irom Sharmila and for the repeal of the draconian law AFSPA. For two years, it has been working to spread awareness, mobilize support and generate political pressure to get the law repealed. It is an umbrella of many civil society organizations. The protest was joined and supported by many progressive groups namely AISA, Campus Front of India, Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association, NCHRO, PUCL, J&K RTI Movement and PUDR among several others. 
Condemning the “brutal Gool killings”, they felt that the massacre was not a sudden reaction to the protests by locals over alleged desecration of Quran.
A large number of people from Jammu and Kashmir and North Eastern states also joined today’s protest at Jantar Mantar. Among the speakers were Ravi Nitesh, Mission Bhartiyam, Muhammad Tanveer from NCHRO, Amit, Sandeepan and V Arun from AISA, Dr Muzaffar Bhat from J&K RTI Movement, Piyush from JNSU, Hemant from DSU, Talha Huseyn from Campus Front, Asad Ashraf from JSS, Manjit from PUDR, Guneet from PUCL, Dar Rashid a Human Rights lawyer from J&K and Devika Mittal from Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign.
“The Ramban incident is a prima facie case of coercive method adopted by the security personnel. It highlights the highhanded attitude of the security forces that they have acquired over a period of time due to their absolute powers and the impunity granted to them”, Nitesh said.
“This protest is about this unacceptable massacre, it is to show our solidarity with the victims and demand justice but it has been organised to attack the root. We know that this incident is not the first incident in Kashmir. These inhuman incidents are quite frequent in Kashmir and in states of North East because draconian laws like AFSPA breed them. We are here today to appeal for humanity, to demand the repeal of AFSPA.” remarked Devika Mittal.
“It is unfortunate that these incidents are happening in the World’s largest “democracy”. It is unfortunate that these killings are justified in the name of upholding the ‘integrity’ of the nation. We feel that development, basic civil rights, basic amenities and justice should be used to uphold the ‘integrity’ not torture and killings.” said V Arun Kumar.
Dr Muzaffar Bhat of J&K chapter of RTI Movement remarked, “this incident happened in Jammu which is seen to be more “peaceful”. So there cannot be any justification. It shows that the entire Jammu and Kashmir is under attack.”
“There is a long list of incidents where security personals of almost all wings have violated the human rights in J&K. There have been fake encounters, torture, rapes etc. in the state but nothing has been done to prosecute the culprits till now. So there is every reason to believe that like other similar incidents before, there will be no action taken by the government against security personnel in Ramban massacre too”, said Mohammad Tanveer of Campus Front of India.
Asad Ashraf from Jamia Solidarity Students told that “unless and until there is demilitarization, the situation will not improve in J&K. We must know that dissatisfaction is a primary reason for increase in insurgent activities so it’s high time that we think about “their” welfare, not “ours”.
Kaashif who was here from Chhatra Vimarsh magazine, remarked that; “How do we take pride in being the world’s largest “democracy” when democracy is not extended to all states within our own country.”
Manjit from PUDR remarked, “It is tragic that Kashmiris are looked upon as “anti-national”, as “anti-Indian”. It is true that there are anti-state slogans in Kashmir but this is because the only symbol of India i.e. the army has created hell in their land (J&K)”.
The protest was supported by Activists like Gautam Navlakha, Prashant Bhushan, Manisha Sethi and Dr Sandeep Pandey, the organisers claimed. However, they were not present on the occasion.