Last year August when the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) organised a conference on corporate involvement in sanitation in New Delhi, the industry lobby was pleasantly surprised at a turnout of more than 60 companies. CII is biding its time to organise a similar conference this year on a much larger scale, and expects an even greater interest this year.
On ground, too, the idea has translated into action on a good scale. The Infosys Foundation, for instance, ran a project called Parishudh headed by Vasudevrao Deshpande. The project had plans of educating six lakh families about the need to have proper sanitation in more than 600 villages in north-east Karnataka, with volunteers from Infosys running the show. The IT major built more than 12,000 toilets in 400 villages, with almost half of the money coming from government scheme Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan.
Hyundai Motor India Foundation (HMIF), on the other hand, is trying to build model villages around its factory in Irrungattukkottai near Chennai. “We follow a holistic approach, with sanitation as a priority, as this is fundamental for the health and hygiene of the villages,” R Sethuraman, an HMIF trustee, tells FE.
Sushanta Sen, principal adviser at CII, and author of a report, “Corporate Involvement in Sanitation” released last year, comments on this increased awareness among corporates about sanitation. “Earlier corporates focused on health and education, but now a lot of them are realising the need for a more holistic approach, for which sanitation is a key element.”
Corporates believe this is just the beginning. “We tried to build an ecosystem for sanitation by forming ‘nirmal gram’ committees to look after the upkeep of toilets, to ensure water supply. We also developed a software application for NGOs to monitor these toilets,” says Deshpande of Infosys Foundation. He adds that the need for scale can be addressed by developing a business case for building toilets under the rural sanitary marts programme of the rural development ministry.
Financial benefits may speed up such activities. Says Hyundai’s Sethuraman, “We could have covered more villages with the same money if the taxes on construction costs were reduced.” He adds that the government should reduce taxes for cement and other construction material meant for CSR activities.
However, as per a Deloitte Monitor report released last November, the sanitation issue is still acute in the country, with more than 60 crore people defecating in the