Businesses are known and lauded for their ability to allocate resources in a way that allows them to achieve maximum efficiency. It is this ability which enables them to make huge profits. The idea of CSR is exciting because of the assumption that companies will bring about much development in society by employing this skill in their social initiatives. However, it is disappointing that companies do not always do this. They, in fact, tend to take their social initiatives as a checkbox task that needs to be completed to fulfil their obligations under the Company’s Act.
In the #DeepDive investigation series by The CSR Journal, we have uncovered one such instance in L&T Realty’s CSR, which has led to a complete waste of resources worth Rs. 70 lakhs.
The curb stones are meant to protect pedestrians or persons occupying the footpath from the ongoing traffic on the road. They are also meant to give structure to the road. White and blue coloured curb stones made of plastic adorned the roads of Parel earlier this year. But today, they are in a pile of garbage.
In January 2022, L&T Realty spent Rs. 70 lakhs and installed safety curb stones made from plastic after removing the stone-made curb stones in Parel as part of its CSR. This was done to add beauty to the road and protect many patients or their relatives occupying the footpath, waiting outside hospitals in this area, awaiting their turn to get treatment.
In less than a year, these curb stones are lying in the garbage due to crumbling. The CSR project by L&T Realty has turned out to be a complete waste of time, effort and resources, as it replaced the stone-made curb stones with plastic ones.
This CSR project was inaugurated in the month of January this year. By April of this year, the curb stones started breaking, which was reported by The CSR Journal. By November, the curb stones had disappeared from the roads of Parel and were discarded altogether.
Mistake or Fraudulent Reporting?
Apart from this, there is another anomaly in the reporting of this activity as CSR. According to the CSR Law, only the activities mentioned in Schedule VII can be considered CSR, which the company has to mention in its CSR report. The CSR report of L&T Realty has stated that the company has spent Rs. 70 lakh on this CSR initiative, which is filed under the category of slum area development. However, there is no slum area in the region where the curb stones were installed, which makes the reporting by the company fraudulent.
The CSR Journal reached out to L&T Realty to inquire about the safety curb stones installed under their CSR initiative. We posed the following questions to the company:
Where have the safety stone curbs installed by the company disappeared?
In Parel, where the CSR initiative was undertaken, there is no slum what so ever. Why did the company file the initiative under the slum area development category?
L&T Realty has yet to respond to these questions by The CSR Journal.
According to sources from the Municipal Corporation of Mumbai, the plastic-made safety curb stones started to break soon after they were installed. Many passers-by were injured by getting trapped in them. In addition, these broken blocks used to get filled with water, providing a breeding ground for mosquitoes, which increased the chances of spreading Malaria in the area. Considering the complaints these curb stones generated, BMC decided to remove them altogether.
The footpath in the Parel region of Mumbai, where these curb stones were installed, is in close proximity to many major hospitals like Tata Cancer hospital, KEM hospital, and Wadia hospital. People from every corner of the country visit these hospitals for treatment. Several of these visiting patients cannot afford lodging in Mumbai and are forced to live on this footpath. Instead of installing curb stones, it would have been more beneficial if food or lodging facilities had been arranged for the people sleeping on this footpath.
In the name of CSR, L&T Realty spent 70 lakhs on these curb stones. The company needs to show more responsibility and use its CSR funds in the same way it spends the resources for its profit-generating ventures.