A private member’s Bill mandating that 25% of all corporate social responsibility (CSR) funds be used for restoration, management and maintenance of ancient monuments and archaeological sites had Rajya Sabha members split on Friday, with some agreeing that historical sites needed more resources while others disagreeing with the mandatory provision.
The Upper House took up for discussion the Companies (Amendment) Bill, 2019, which was introduced by BJP MP Vinay Sahasrabuddhe on July 12, 2019, on Friday. Mr. Sahasrabuddhe said the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the National Monuments Authority (NMA) and other agencies tasked with looking after monuments lacked the resources needed for the upkeep of the sites. His Bill proposed an amendment to the Companies Act, making it mandatory for corporates to spend 25% of the CSR amount on monuments’ upkeep.
Congress MP Jairam Ramesh said while he broadly agreed with Mr. Sahasrabuddhe’s argument for increased investment in preservation of monuments, the aim of CSR was to benefit local communities. “This should be a guideline and not a blanket law,” he said. Mr. Ramesh also hit out at the Centre for appointing a former MP who did not have the required expertise as the chairperson of the NMA, saying it had become a “national political monuments authority”.
YSRCP MP V. Vijayasai Reddy supported the Bill, while Amee Yajnik of the Congress questioned the rationale behind the 25% mandate.
Minister of State for Corporate Affairs Rao Inderjit Singh called on Mr. Sahasrabuddhe to take back the Bill, saying the Government agreed that monuments should be preserved and for that it was willing to talk to the corporate sector and its representatives. Mr. Singh said the CSR spending on arts and culture had increased over the years, from ₹117 crore in 2014-2015 to ₹930 crore in 2019-2020. After Mr. Singh’s reply, vice-chairperson Surendra Singh Nagar said the discussion would continue the “next time” and adjourned the House for the day.