CSR in Bihar needs a lift from India Inc. The third-largest state in India, Bihar boasts rich cultural ties and houses ancient places of worship for Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs and Jains. However, unemployment is rampant in Bihar. Its fertile plains stand on the lower rungs of corporate social responsibility, with spends amounting to merely Rs. 78.02 crore in FY 2020-2021, lower than the previous financial year when the CSR expenditure made in the state amounted to Rs. 110.15 crores.
In FY2020-21, the state received CSR support from over 202 companies. The top three areas of focus for CSR initiatives in the state included health, education and environment that received CSR funds worth Rs. 29.85 crore, Rs. 27.84, and Rs. 16 crore respectively. The top three spenders in the state include Infosys Limited (Rs. 12.62 crore), Broad Sun Commodities Private Limited (Rs. 6.88 crore), and Indian Oil Corporation Limited (Rs. 3.2 crore).
Despite its size and population, Bihar has received less than 1% of the corporate citizenship funding from public and private sector companies. If companies invested in livelihood, rural and skill development projects for CSR in Bihar, it would change the ground reality.
Top CSR Projects in Bihar
Nevertheless, various government-owned organisations like REC and NTPC, and private companies like HDFC Bank and JM Financial are making strides in the welfare of the State. Here are some of the successful initiatives for CSR in Bihar.
Adarsh Gram by JM Financial
Since 2017, CSR of JM Financial has been working in Jamui district of Bihar, one of the 115 Aspirational Districts identified by the NITI Aayog. The CSR strategy is intensive development across 15 villages and extensive development in over 200 villages of Chakai, Jhajha, Khaira and Sikandra blocks.
The Adarsh Gram (Model Village) Development Project has been undertaken to facilitate comprehensive rural development harnessing available natural resources, and village capacities to transform 15 identified remote villages in Sikandra block, into self-reliant, models of change. Initiated in March 2018, the CSR project has been working with over 3,000 marginal and small farmers enabling them to realize their potential and linking them to higher income-generation practices.
The soil in Jamui holds immense potential, despite the water scarcity – a fact that was less exploited by our farmers, prior to our technical inputs. JM Financial Foundation, the CSR wing of the investment banking firm, imparts knowledge and skills to farmers through practical demonstrations, inputs for crop diversification and increased yield, and links them to larger avenues for realization of enhanced livelihoods. The Kisaan Pathshala (Model Farm) is a 2.5 acre plot curated and cultivated with a wide variety of crops, vegetables, fruits and flora to enable farmers to observe and explore the potential held by the natural resources surrounding them.
While agriculture remains central to the Adarsh Gram Development Project, no development is complete without the community being educated amply to achieve a higher quality of life. Consequently, in order to strengthen the learning bases of government school-going children in their early years and crucial later years, five Vardhman Gyan Kendras have been initiated and run across five villages. These centres cater to students in grades 1 to 4 and 8 to 10, helping them gain a stronger hold over English, Math, Hindi and Science.
REC Limited (formerly Rural Electrification Corporation Limited) is a Navratna company under the administrative control of the Ministry of Power. In 2020 itself, REC launched CSR projects worth Rs. 32 crore in Bihar. R K Singh, Union Minister of State for Power and New and Renewable Energy inaugurated most of these initiatives digitally.
A slew of schemes in Muzaffarpur worth Rs. 24 crore include construction of a 100-bed waiting hall for the attendants of patients, multipurpose hall and incubation centre at Muzafarpur Sadar Hospital and procurement and installation of 25 incubators at district hospital and PHCs. Also, a 200-bed rest room for patient’s attendants will be constructed at Sri Krishna Medical College and Hospital.
Additionally, Singh dedicated CSR projects undertaken by REC Ltd worth Rs 1.64 Crore at Koilwar in Bhojpur district through videoconferencing. A total of 14 schemes were launched, including eight schemes for construction of PCC roads, three for LED, solar and high-mast lights and three for the construction of community halls. Besides these schemes, the minister had launched 77 schemes worth Rs. 6.99 crore on Barhara block office premises in Bhojpur district for CSR in Bihar.
HRDP by HDFC Bank
Over 45 million of Bihar’s rural population subsists on less than a dollar per day. Agriculture, once its economic bedrock, suffers due to reasons ranging from flooding to inadequate farming methods. This results in mass migrations, which bring with it its own set of problems such as exploitation, food insecurity and health degradation.
HDFC Bank’s Holistic Rural Development Programme (HRDP) has enhanced the social, physical and institutional infrastructures of over 95 villages across 7 districts of Bihar. HDFC Parivartan, in partnership with the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme, works toward empowering rural communities through both collectivisation as well as the promotion of individual enterprises. It promotes Self Help Groups as self-reliant institutions that aim at providing residents with financial inclusivity, livelihood enhancement and other crucial improvements.
To ensure sustainability is to ensure the preservation of natural resources; this becomes especially pertinent when it comes to modern agriculture. Four villages in the district of Samastipur – Pahepur, Bishnapur Bande, Narayanpur Dadhiya & Garuara – were hence the site of the bank’s organic farming training programme.
Realising the need for alternate livelihood in the region, Parivartan introduced beekeeping to 8 villages in the districts of Darbhanga, Vaishali & Muzaffarpur. Under the CSR initiative, beneficiary farmers were trained in the basics of beekeeping and provided with the necessary tools such as honey extractors, trays, bee nets etc. In Muzaffarpur, the intervention has already been completed and the honey production process is currently underway. In order to ensure its sustainability, the CSR initiative is maintained by the beneficiaries themselves in each location.
STEM for Girls by IBM
‘STEM for Girls’ is a corporate social responsibility initiative by tech giant IBM, primarily aimed at improving education-to-work and career pathways for girls who are studying in government schools. The programme includes imparting training in digital literacy, coding and technology skills; 21st-century skills and career development, with an aim to enable girls’ empowerment and increase their interest in STEM education and careers.
The demand for a highly qualified workforce in India is quickly increasing with the acceleration of emerging technologies like AI. IBM STEM for Girls features a comprehensive approach that builds technical capabilities as well as life and self-actualization skills.
IBM signed an MoU with The Department of School & Mass Education, Government of Bihar to introduce IBM STEM for Girls across 30 high secondary schools across three districts that will advance the skills and careers of close to 13,000 students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields. The collaboration is part of a three-year programme between IBM and the state government to increase the participation of girls and women in STEM careers.