Perhaps the best idea to come out of the Government of India in recent times was to set aside 2% of the post-tax income of companies (beyond a certain size) towards investments of social value. Used properly, this can be a powerful fuel for localities and their corporate denizens to collaborate to solve local problems.
We’re seeing some of that happening in Whitefield, home to a good many companies. Interestingly, CSR is now being used to directly address the bane of almost all workers, namely traffic jams. And why not? Traffic jams certainly do not decrease greenhouse emissions (i.e., the environment), nor do they improve anybody’s blood pressure (i.e., public health). They impact just about everybody. They cause a loss in not just health but also productivity.
A group of schools, namely Chrysalis High, Deens Academy, DPS East, Global Indian International, Greenwood High, Indus International, Oakridge International and Inventure Academy came together to fund traffic signals at Varthur Kodi and Dommasandra Junction.
The schools were motivated primarily by the poor road and dangerous traffic conditions in their general areas, and the signals at Varthur Kodi and Dommasandra Circle serve to regulate traffic on an important corridor through which thousands of school children pass daily.
Nooraine Fazal, managing trustee of Inventure Academy, said, “This is a great example of what members of our community (schools, police, citizen groups, etc.) can achieve by working in collaboration with each other. As educators in particular it our responsibility to lead the way and protect our children and our collective futures. (I hope this will) encourage more citizen groups to embrace this model and work proactively on improving the quality of our lives.”
At the same time, two corporates with a large Whitefield presence, Xerox India Pvt. Ltd. and Prestige Builders Pvt. Ltd., have sponsored traffic lights at the Vydehi Hospital and Big Bazaar Junctions. (You might recall that several months ago, Xerox also sponsored the repair of the sidewalk in front of ITPL and a bus-stop there.)
What we’re seeing here is a greater, and even an interventionist, ownership of public issues by private parties. It could be argued that such intervention is in fact a symptom of abdication of duties by public authorities. Still, it is undeniably true that citizens are shedding their general sense of powerlessness. The events we’re seeing here—investment by private parties into public goods—really is a shout from the people, “Yes, we can change things! The city belongs to us!”