Being the largest private sector financial institution in the state, J&K Bank has its chest full with funds for CSR. But Shakir Mir reports, the CSR is gradually emerging as the new connection between institutions and their immediate universe around them and disasters offer challenging opportunity to build a relationship
After 2014 floods banks working in J&K were among the first ones to respond and lend a helping hand in restoring the order, at least financially. For most of them, it was a godsend opportunity to manage the new Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) norms.
Under the new norms in vogue for last two years, corporates have to earmark two percent of their net profit (before tax) for CSR. Unlike past practices, the new systems emphasize consistent monitoring and impact assessment till the end result is achieved.
“Our contribution is more than 90 percent,” says Sajad Bazaz, who manages J&K Bank’s CSR. “Ours is J&K’s only listed company and we prefer our area of operations.”
In J&K, CSR focus is education for underprivileged and specially-abled, health care, disaster relief and poverty. J&K Bank is working directly and also through different NGO’s on this front.
For last fiscal 2014-15, J&K Bank had earmarked CSR expenditure of Rs 29.87 crores. However it was able to use Rs 13.74 crores only. “We couldn’t make use of the remaining Rs 16.13 crores because we didn’t get enough time to work after floods,” Bazaz said.
Disaster relief remained a key CSR initiative in the aftermath of 2014 devastating floods. The bank contributed Rs 5 crores towards J&K Flood Relief Fund, while its total contribution towards overall disaster relief was around Rs 11.5 crores.
“We went to the worst affected areas in J&K and asked mohallah committees to identify flood victims in desperate need of help. Then our team verified if the cases were genuine, based on which we distributed the relief material and the kits meant for the flood-victims. It directly benefiting around 30,000 families,” says Bazaz. The bank also donated rice to 7000 families (50 kgs per family).
Back to business, the bank was soon busy restructuring its loans for the people who suffered. People who have taken loans were given the benefit of placing a moratorium on their repayments for three years. The bank also offered them another loan at considerably low interest rates till they recoup. “It affected our profitability,” Bazaz says. In the subsequent days, the bank launched Aashiyana, a rehabilitation scheme for business community whose houses collapsed due to floods can avail loans of Rs 10 lakh at an interest rate of just 8.5 percent.
Other banks like HDFC and SBI also rendered notable support under its CSR initiatives. Interestingly, in the recent report furnished by the SLBC, the HDFC Bank fares at number two among private sector banks in terms of progress achieved in providing relief, rehabilitation, restructuring of various types of credit facilities and disbursement of fresh credit to the people affected by floods.
Apart from contributing Rs one crore to CM Relief Fund and Rs 1.77 crore to Prime Minister’s Relief Fund, HDFC Bank pumped in around Rs 6.5 crores during last fiscal as part of its CSR initiative. Most of the amount went into the programmes aimed at helping and rehabilitating floods affected people. The bank disbursed Rs 2.78 crores for re-building of as many as 15 schools across the state through an NGO.
During floods, the bank gave blankets and other material worth Rs 15 lakh while distributing relief kits worth Rs 60 lakhs in total. “Our bank was the first to rise to the occasion and help people during floods. This was acknowledged by the Union Finance Ministry as well,” says Zubair Iqbal, Vice President HDFC. “We had deployed cash vans which gave Rs 30 lakhs for the purchase of essential medicines through various NGO’s and health centers.”
The bank has also invested generously in areas like healthcare and education. It has tied up with Chotay Taray to provide education to differently-abled children in Kashmir. It will cost the bank Rs 9.8 lakh per year. “We have also purchased endoscopy equipments for Gastroenterology Department, SKIMS, worth Rs 1.3 lakhs,” says Iqbal. It also disbursed Rs 2.2 crores to rehabilitate its flood affected employees.
State Bank of India says it did not lag behind. It engaged in as many as 26 CSR initiatives during the last fiscal but officials refused to divulge the amount spent in those initiatives. It contributed nearly Rs 3 crore to the Chief Ministers Flood Relief Fund besides donating ambulances for groups like Help Age India and Help Poor Voluntary Foundation.
Apart from sponsoring drug de-addiction programmes in Kashmir, SBI promoted a Female Feticide Awareness Program in J&K. The bank gave wheel-chairs to All India Federation of Physical Education and Sports. It also donated plain beds to the regional hospital at Soibug, Budgam while giving medical equipment for specially-abled children to Al-Habib Foundation. The bank also sponsored a female Taekwondo player from Nawabazar locality at the national level.
Repeated attempts to get information regarding CSR activities of Punjab National Bank, UCO Bank, Axis Bank and other public and private sector banks, failed as officials refused to reveal any figures or offer any idea what they are doing.