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Pros and Cons of Directing CSR Funds for the Administration of COVID-19 Vaccine Across India

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The COVID-19 vaccine has received approval for administration in various places in the world. As India awaits the vaccine to enter its markets, the democratically elected legislators of the country are contemplating on the best possible plan of action for delivering the vaccine to masses.
In a virtual meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with the floor leaders of all political parties of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, to discuss the COVID-19 vaccine development in the country, the DMK has suggested that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds from private companies could be used to share the cost of vaccination programmes. In this context, let us understand the benefits of using CSR for administrating COVID-19 vaccines in India.

Support in Funding

India, having a large population base, will need to spend a lot on administering the vaccine to every region of the country. While the government will be allocating the required funds, CSR funds can provide it with additional support which will ensure that no compromises have been made in the reach and availability of the vaccine.

Efficient Management

Corporates are known for their efficiency in management. This was one of the main reasons for mandating the corporate social responsibility in India, for this expertise of the corporates can be used to address the social and developmental challenges in the country. Through active participation by the corporates for the delivery of COVID-19 vaccine, the vaccine would be delivered effectively and efficiently to the masses. The strategic plan developed by the corporates for the execution of the vaccine distribution would also be useful for the government as it would be able to replicate a tried and tested method of vaccine delivery in other regions.

Reduction in Waste

As corporates are for-profit entities, they tend to focus on reducing wastage by improving the efficiency of its operations. This has often been observed in the CSR projects by various corporates as well. Such a trait of the corporate will go a long way at the present time in reducing unnecessary waste generation because of the vaccination program.

Lack of Biases in Connection with Masses

Corporates are often connected to the masses in form of their neighbouring communities, CSR program beneficiaries, contract-based employees, unskilled labourers, etc. Such association of the masses with the corporates is unbiased in terms of their political, ideological or religious lives. This allows the vaccine to be administered effectively without the expectation for votes or other political favours. In this manner, the corruption can be prevented in the vaccine administration in India.

Reusability of the Infrastructure

Storage and delivery of vaccine require specific infrastructure. While such infrastructure is the need of the hour at the moment, much of such infrastructure will be rendered useless. The corporate participation will not only help in ensuring that the infrastructure is put to use again, but it will also be able to innovate solutions which will help in making such infrastructure ‘easy to dismantle’ which can be useful in case of another such pandemic, inexpensive and accessible to all.

Drawbacks of Using CSR for Administration of COVID-19 Vaccine

Different expertise of different corporates

The corporates choose their CSR initiatives on the basis of their expertise so that they are able to do their best for the benefit of the cause. However, if all corporates are asked to undertake their CSR activities for the same cause, they might not be able to show the efficiency for the lack of their expertise in the said cause.

No CSR Funds for other causes

As the COVID-19 disrupted the systems and lives dependent on such systems across the world, the corporates have dedicated a major chunk of their CSR funds towards the relief measures for fighting against the pandemic. Such elevated spending towards the same cause by all the corporates caused constraints in funds as well as expert intervention towards other causes. Studies have shown that NGOs who were dependent on CSR funds of the corporates are suffering for the lack of funds as the funds are being directed towards COVID relief. CSR projects that focused on development, infrastructure, TB, or other causes have all taken a backseat in the face of the pandemic. On top of that, in the virtual all-party meeting, the DMK MP and former Union Minister T.R. Baalu called for the centre to issue orders that the mandatory spending of CSR funds should be allotted completely towards vaccination. If such a direction is mandated, then the constraint faced by the NGOs or other causes might get further enhanced.
In conclusion, CSR might be very helpful for the effective administration of the vaccine across the country, directing the corporates to spend all of its CSR efforts for only that might not be the best for overall development in the country.