India is a country of inequalities, despite the interventions by successive governments towards income redistribution. India, being a welfare state strives to establish equality of opportunity for all of its population. However, even today, on one side, the rich of the country continue to make extravagant purchases, while the poor of the country continue to struggle for basic necessities.
In order to address the inequality gap and improve the standard of living of the poor population of the country, Economic Survey 2020-21 has constructed a Bare Necessities Index (BNI) at the rural, urban and all India level. The intent behind the index to assess a family’s ability to access bare necessities such as housing, water, sanitation, electricity and clean cooking fuel and regard this as an important barometer of economic development for policymakers.
Bare Necessities Index (BNI)
The BNI summarises 26 indicators on five dimensions including water, sanitation, housing, micro-environment, and other facilities. The BNI has been created for all states for 2012 and 2018 using data from two NSO rounds on Drinking Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Housing Condition in India.
The index has indicated that compared to 2012, access to “the bare necessities” has improved across all States in the country in 2018. Access to bare necessities is the highest in the States such as Kerala, Punjab, Haryana and Gujarat while it is the lowest in Odisha, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Tripura.
Role of CSR in improving Bare Necessities for people in India
Innovative Problem Solving
Indians are known for ‘Jugaad’ across the globe. Start-ups in India demonstrate this spectacularly by coming up with innovative solutions to India’s development challenges. India Inc often supports or lead these innovations by encouraging such start-ups or investing in R&D to improve its problem-solving capability using an innovative approach. The corporates can utilise such capacity in its CSR initiatives to provide bare necessities in India.
An example of such CSR activity is the initiative of Maruti Suzuki that has installed water ATMs in multiple villages of Karnataka, Gujarat and Haryana to provide clean drinking water at an affordable price. The company in partnership with WaterLife India has established 26 Water ATMs across its adopted villages. The water ATMs use a 10-stage UV filtration technology to remove all impurities, keep the TDS levels low and retain essential minerals. The technology also helps in minimal water rejection — only 25% compared to conventional water purification systems. The cost of such water would be around 30 paise per litre of water for the community members. The ATMs are built on a self-sustainable model.
Execution in Association with the Government
Government of India strives to reach the most remote areas to provide the bare necessities to people of the country. However, a lot of its resources are not used efficiently because of long procedures and red-tapism. What it lacks in efficiency, the corporate sector can fulfil. Such a partnership is perfectly demonstrated by CSR initiatives of Embassy Group who in partnership with the government, works towards improvement and maintenance of government schools infrastructure in Karnataka.
Support to NGOs
There are many NGOs in India that work towards providing the bare necessities to the families that are unable to do so. Rural Development Organisation (RDO) Trust is an example of such an NGO. RDO has been conducting social development programmes in the Nilgiris region, with sanitation being one of the areas. Since its inception in 1980, RDO has helped construct 10 lakh toilets in total in homes and schools.
The corporates can allocate its CSR resources towards supporting such NGOs to provide the bare necessities to people in the remote areas of the country.
Adopt a Village for Holistic Development
Corporates have been adopting villages under its CSR program to provide for the holistic development of a village. As part of such a program, the corporates upgrade the infrastructure to provide for basic needs of the said village. YES Bank and Canon India are utilising their CSR funds for such programs.