The amendment to the Companies Act is certainly an advantage as the companies are compelled to contribute to the social sector. -
Madras School of Social Work (MSSW), established in 1952, located in Chennai, South India, is an Autonomous Institution, NAAC accredited and affiliated to University of Madras.
MSSW was founded by Mrs. Mary ClubwalaJadhav under the auspices of Madras State Branch of the Indian Conference of Social Work (renamed the Indian Council of Social Welfare) and the Guild of Service (central). The school is run under the aegis of the Society for Social Education and Research (SSER). Madras School of Social Work is a member of the Association of Schools of Social Work in India and the Asia – Pacific Association of Social Work Education. The School is also affiliated to the International Association of Schools of Social Work and is rated 3rd Best Social Work College in India and First in South India.
Dr. V.A. Vijayaragavan, Principal of MSSW, shares with Marie Banu his thoughts on Companies Act 2013 and how this could benefit NGOs.
What motivated you to study social work?
I studied in PSG College of Arts and Science. When I graduated, social work was a noted programme in my college. There, the social work students were outgoing and not campus-confined. Having associated myself with NSS activities, I was naturally inclined to study social work. The department itself was friendly and vibrant. I got attracted because of that. There were also one or two professionally trained social workers who were known to me and they served as my role models.
About teaching social work and your association with MSSW?
I’ve been into teaching since 1983. I started my career as an Assistant Professor in 1983at Department of Social Work, Bishop Heber College, Tiruchirappalli. I moved to Madras School of Social work in 1986 and thereafter continued with MSSW as a faculty, and in different administrative capacities.
Do you have a lot of students from abroad who study at MSSW?
Yes. We ensure that we have a mixed group. Only when there’s an eclectic bunch of students across countries, can education of social work really happen. Previously, social problems were local. After globalization, it has become global. For example, across the world, the youth are connected through social media. A number of problems occur, because of this. They either get lost, or addicted, or isolated. So an Indian child faces the same problem that a child across the globe, faces. So when there are globalized problems, we need to have a cross-cultural learning environment.
Having trained social workers, what are their placement prospects?
Students optfor social work because these courses are employment-oriented. Students who choose Human Resource Management as their Specializationgetan opportunity to workin organisations as HR / Training / Recruitment/ Industrial relations / CSR executives, and rise to high levelsand earn well.
The fact still remains that people who study community Development / Medical and Psychiatric Social Work or any other social workrelated specializations work quite hard. This disparity in growth is due to each one’s skill-set.
Our MA in Human Resources is a Management programme, where students study business and finance in addition to social work.
The Companies Act 2013 has made CSR mandatory for corporates having a networth of INR 500 or more. This gives an edge for CSR projects, unlike NGOs, as funds are not a constraint. Is CSR therefore a threat for NGOs?
They are not exactly threats. In a way it is a deprivation of space for NGOs. Previously, there was a philanthropic attitude amongst industrial houses. That way, small NGOs were in a position to benefit, and carry that benefit to the grass-root level.
Even before the amendment was introduced in the Companies Act, industrial houses started reducing contributions to NGOs. In fact, they started consolidated work in the name of their own foundations, like Microsoft’s Bill Gates Foundation, Ford Foundation, Infosys Foundation, etc. So, the inflow to NGOs were reduced.
The amendment to the Companies Act is certainly an advantage as the companies are compelled to contribute to the social sector. When they are compelled to contribute, not all of them have foundations and are aware of the grass root level needs of these communities in which they are situated or the administrative expertise to work with the communities. So, they look towards NGOs, who work on the field, for support.
Indian NGOs are already starved of funds. Salaries and privileges to its employees are poor. So, NGOs will now start looking for funds from international funding agencies. This again is a problem today, because funds from foreign countries are being regulated.
If networking is done through employer federations, field level activity is carried out by the NGO in areas where the corporates is interested in, NGOs stand to gain.
When you say that financial statements need to be audited by chartered accountants, why can’t social work institutions be run by qualified social workers?
If you take foreign countries, there are norms which state that to be a professional social worker; you need to be an accredited person. Unfortunately, that prerequisite doesn’t exist in India. We need to form a council, wherein a person who completes social work should enrol, and only then be allowed to practice. But this idea has not taken off because we are unable to distinguish what is professional social work and what is not.
Almost all NGOs are small organisations, with a limited number of employees. So, that being the case, the founder of the organisation will be at the scene on a daily basis, and would like to have the administration under his or her direct supervision.
The big issue is to do with the nature, size or capacity of the NGO. So, bigger organisations like CRY, World Vision or Childline are bringing in professional social workers, because they require people with knowledge about running the organisation and executing the project.
Social work needs to be systematized. Accountability is needed, but sadly, it isn’t happening today. In the near future we can expect this to happen and I hope that Social Work will gain a status like anyother profession.