Improving the quality of life of the people


PETRONET has carried out numerous welfare activities for improving the lives of the under privileged. Dr AK Balyan, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Petronet LNG Ltd, talks about CSR in India and the welfare activities of the company.

When did you begin corporate social responsibility activities?

Corporate Social Responsibility is a part of the philosophy of the Indian corporate. Where ever you go you will find that the societies next door do not have the infrastructure, facilities, care or focus and it is very difficult for the government to provide them with everything. The philosophy of the PSUs has always been to provide these societies some kind of help and care. Right from the beginning this has been their normal approach to work.

Petronet is no different from any other oil company. The best practices of PSUs are adopted by Petronet. We have a major regasification terminal in Dahej, Gujarat, and the next one is coming up in Kochi. We do remain focused in and around our operational areas. Like other PSUs, we have focused on a few areas such as education, medical healthcare and also entrepreneurship besides community development. So we follow a philosophy that Petronet would function as an enabler and not just providing some support. We would like to work with people, societies and self help groups to empower them and develop them on their own capability and capacities rather than providing just the financial support.

We are undertaking CSR activities in Dahej, which is a tribal area and in this regard are working along with the local government. We are creating health and hygiene awareness among the villagers and are also targeting schools as the focal point. We are undertaking a study on the health ailments among the locals. As far as our education related activities are concerned we are committed to providing good infrastructure for schools.

Thirdly, we are trying to work on the entrepreneurship. Many of these people have wonderful skills such as in weaving. So, our focus is to bring these groups together and give them help through material and marketing advice, besides financial assistance. Apart from that we are also undertaking community development programmes.

We are also coming up with a health camp in Lakhimpur. We find that many areas do not have health care centres and facilities. So our aim is to have as many health camps as possible.

Kindly take us through the process of evolution of CSR in Petronet.

Initially it was more of a philanthropic approach. Though it was a proactive approach but did not really connect with the needs and requirements of the society .Earlier, companies normally carried out activities such as the distribution of food and material. But with times, more interaction with the community the approach has changed. Today we work with the community to understand their priorities, difficulties and accordingly workout our programmes. But one thing is sure that CSR is not charity .So our focus is that we work as a partner or a facilitator to them.

Can you throw light on the various challenges you face in carrying out your CSR activities and how do you overcome them?

The challenges are of different nature. One is that when you go out and try to connect with the society there are so many things that need to be done and at times we feel that we are not able to do as much as we should be doing. The requirement of the society is huge. When you look at quality education there are so many schools that need to be opened and we are not able to do that. Similarly good quality health care is not available to every countryman, especially in rural and far-flung areas. So it is a challenge to provide good quality healthcare to these people.

Have you fixed any budget for CSR for the next financial year?

Based on the work that we have done we realise that we need to do more and in the coming financial year would like to allocate some budget. We need to develop a bigger team and more and more people have to be ambassadors of the company as far as CSR is concerned.

In your opinion should there be a code of conduct for CSR?

I am a strong supporter of the Global Compact principles and had the opportunity to listen to former Secretary-General Kofi Annan who proposed and formulated the Global Compact Society .In India we were the first to follow, from the ONGC side I signed the first membership charter and formulated the society which is now the Global Compact Network. It propagates is that the company should undertake business activities with a human face. I feel that we should involve more and more companies and propagate the principles of Global Compact. If the companies follow that truly it would be the best thing to happen.

Source: Delhi, Friday, 27th December 2010
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