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CSR Interventions in India Under State Invitation: An Artisans’ Perspective on ‘Adopt a Heritage’ Programme

Part of the Approaches to Global Sustainability, Markets, and Governance book series (AGSMG)


‘Democratising Heritage’ is considered to be a highly transformative approach to the concept of heritage, management of cultural property and its conservation worldwide. To deliberate on the emerging global approach and validate its multi-faced applications in diverse fields, experts drawn from a cross-section of the world by the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) assembled in Delhi, India towards the end of 2017 and adopted the Delhi Declaration on Heritage and Democracy-2017. Though India continues to be the largest democracy in the world (which in fact was the reason for holding the event in the country’s capital), the ‘Adopt a Heritage’ programme of India launched in early 2018, under invited participation of corporate entities through CSR, is found to have missed the people-based approach to heritage management and conservation. Besides, the project provides no space for preservation, protection and promotion of traditional crafts/craftsmanship, which according to the views of UNESCO on intangible heritage merits equal attention in all programmes of intangible heritage management. Though the mandatory CSR activities approved by the Indian Companies Act, 2013 include ‘protection of national heritage, art and handicrafts’, the heritage adoption project may fail craftsmen—their livelihood, continuation of craft skills, identity and pride. In the above backdrop, the paper takes a holistic view of these concerns, in terms of an artisans’ perspective on India’s ‘Adopt a Heritage’ programme-2018.


  • Intangible heritage
  • Vision bidding
  • Traditional artisans
  • Democratizing heritage
  • Creative industries
  • Traditional knowledge

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  1. 1.

    Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India, had issued ‘Voluntary Guidelines on Corporate Social Responsibility, 2009’ as a first step towards mainstreaming the concept of Business Responsibilities. This was further refined subsequently, as ‘National Voluntary Guidelines on Social, Environmental and Economic Responsibilities of Business, 2011’ envisaging a set of nine principles on responsible business conduct. These principles were subsequently translated into a mandatory provision of CSR in Section 135 of the Indian Companies Act, 2013.

  2. 2.

    See: GoI (2013, 2014) for more details. See also: Handbook on Corporate Social Responsibility in India (2013), developed by PwC India for Confederation of Indian Industry.

  3. 3.

    First amendment, 31 March 2014; second amendment, 6 August 2014; and third amendment, 24 October 2014 of the M/o Corporate Affairs, Government of India.

  4. 4.

    Those in favour of the mandate argue that industry spending on CSR will always be inadequate unless mandated by law. It is also found that there is a positive correlation between CSR and profit in Indian companies (Rai and Bansal 2014). According to the critics, industries believe that it is an additional burden and will hurt their ability to invest (Venkatesan 2013). Defining the activities that count as CSR stifles the innovative ways in which companies can spend for social good (Gopalakrishnan 2013). Others hold that social responsibility should be assessed based on the way businesses address the social impacts of their core operations, not on the basis of how much they spend on activities unrelated to their core business (Maira 2013).

  5. 5.

    The Doing Good Index (DGI) is a first-of-its-kind study based around a set of indicators that taken together show the regulatory and institutional infrastructure that enables or impedes philanthropic giving. The performance of the economies in the DGI falls into four clusters, each of which can be thought of in terms of the distance left to travel towards a conducive environment for doing good. For 2018, these clusters are: Doing Well (Japan, Singapore, Taiwan); Doing Better (Hong Kong, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam); Doing Okay (China, India, Pakistan); and Not Doing Enough (Indonesia, Myanmar). See: CAPS (2018).

  6. 6.

    Countries such as Mauritius, Indonesia, Philippines, the UK, Saudi Arabia and China have mandatory CSR. Similarly, there are mandatory CSR reporting requirements in several countries, including Sweden, Norway, The Netherlands, Denmark, France and Australia. Accessed 21 April 2016.

  7. 7.

    The High Level Committee (to suggest measures for improved monitoring of the implementation of CSR policies) was constituted by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Government of India on 3 February 2015. The Committee submitted its report in September 2015.

  8. 8.

    GoI, M/o Corporate Affairs has appointed a 12 member Panel to Review CSR Enforcement under Companies Act, 2013, on 4 April 2018. The panel will revisit Schedule VII (list of CSR activities) of Companies Act, 2013, on the basis of references received from stakeholders, including ministries and departments of Centre and States, Members of Parliament, member of state legislatures and civil societies. Accessed 7 June 2018. Subsequently an eleven member HLC on CSR was also constituted on 28 September 2018 to review the existing framework and guide and formulate the roadmap for a coherent policy on CSR (The HLC was reconstituted with 14 members on 11 October 2018 with the same mandate). Accessed 22 October 2018.

  9. 9.

    This was stated by the Minister of Corporate Affairs in a written reply to a question in the Indian Parliament on 26 February 2016. See: Accessed 3 March 2016. ANNEXURE REFERRED TO IN THE REPLY TO LOK SABHA UNSTARRED QUESTION NO. 656.

  10. 10.

    For a brief account of the scope and definitions of ‘heritage’ as promulgated by the various charters across the globe, see: Ahmad (2006).

  11. 11.

    In India, traditional craftsmen mainly belong to Vishwakarma community. According to the ancient texts of India, Vishwakarmas are the descendants of the divine creator Vishwakarma. They comprise a community of five sects of people, the sects named after the five Shilpi Rishis Manu, Maya, Thwashta, Silpi and Viswajna. Later these sects, based on their professional status, were named as blacksmiths, carpenters, bronzesmiths and makers of utensils, sculptors and goldsmiths.

  12. 12.

    For example, before cutting a tree for new building/temple works, Vishwakarma carpenters follow the practice of taking permission from the tree so that birds with nests on top can safely move out.

  13. 13.

    For Vishwakarma craftsmen, the most important festive event is Vishwakarma Day. It is also known as Vishwakarma Jayanti or Vishwakarma Puja, generally celebrated every year on 17 September.

  14. 14.

    For an interesting discussion about the history of built heritage in India, particularly Ajanta caves, Ellora caves and Khajuraho, see: Murty and Suchetamurty (2004, pp. 17–26).

  15. 15.

    Sites open for adoption have been classified into Green, Blue, Orange and Others in order to prevent concentration in some and neglect of those in dire need of infrastructure development.

  16. 16.

    The M/o Culture, GoI, has a number of schemes of financial assistance for the preservation and development of cultural heritage. A notable initiative is the India National Culture Fund (NCF), launched on 29 March 1997 which aims at inviting the participation of corporate sector, NGOs, state governments, individuals, etc. in the task of promoting, protecting and preserving India’s cultural heritage, both tangible and intangible. Since inception, NCF has taken up a number of monuments for protection and conservation under support from various corporations/organisations including SBI, ONGC, STC, NTPC, Bokaro Steel Plant etc. The following Table 3.3 presents few cases. Projects that can be sponsored under NCF include, inter alia, improvement and up-gradation of existing museums and commissioning of new ones in the vicinity of existing cultural property. However, the activities of the NCF are found to be lagging after 2012 (Annual Report of NCF is not available beyond 2011–2012).

  17. 17.

    A Four Party MoU was executed on 13 April 2018 by the M/o Tourism; M/o Culture; Archaeological Survey of India; and Dalmia Bharat Limited to take up the Red Fort-Delhi monument/site under ‘Adopt a Heritage’ project.

  18. 18.

    The research of Aas et al. (2005) examines critically a UNESCO/Norwegian government-sponsored pilot project (1998–2001) at the World Heritage Site of Luang Prabang, Laos, aiming to promote collaboration between heritage conservation and tourism through stakeholder involvement. Luang Prabang is one of nine World Heritage pilot sites in Asia and the Pacific for the UNESCO project ‘Cultural Heritage Management and Tourism: Models for Cooperation among Stakeholders’.

  19. 19.

    ICOMOS is an international non-governmental organisation dedicated to the conservation, protection, use and enhancement of the world’s cultural heritage, the only global organisation of its kind. ICOMOS is an advisory body to UNESCO for cultural heritage, in particular for implementation of the World Heritage Convention, Paris 1972 (which came into force on 17 December 1975) and increasingly a partner contributing to the United Nation’s work towards Agenda 2030 and Global Goals for Sustainable Development.

  20. 20.

    Sourced from Seminar, Issue 705, May 2018, pp. 85–87.

  21. 21.

    In some countries, the transfer of craft know-how is achieved through conferring the status of ‘living national treasure’ on outstanding skilled individuals. It was started in Japan in 1950 (Donkin 2001, pp. 20–21).

  22. 22.

    See: Democratising Heritage, Seminar, Issue 705, 2018, pp. 85–87 ( for details of the Delhi declaration on heritage and democracy by the 19th General Assembly of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) in Delhi, India on 11–15 December 2017, and connected perspectives on heritage and democracy.

  23. 23.

    According to UNESCO, cultural sites must meet one or more of the following criteria: (1) be considered a masterpiece of human creative genius; (2) exhibit an important interchange of human values over time; (3) bear a unique or exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition, living or disappeared; (4) be an outstanding example of a structure, site or landscape, illustrating a significant stage in human history; (5) be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement or land-use by a culture, especially a vulnerable one; or (6) be directly associated with events, living traditions, ideas, beliefs, artistic or literary works of universal significance (Serageldin 1999, p. 166).

  24. 24.

    The role of CSR and traditional artisans in heritage management is examined in a paper which tries to situate the rights of the present generation of traditional artisans to be consulted and actively associated in the whole exercise of heritage management of the temple treasure of Sreepadmanabhaswamy temple, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India (Sankaran 2012). The right to CSR-driven rehabilitation of traditional artisans uprooted by corporate entry into their domain is also an issue discussed in the context of mandatory CSR in India (Sankaran 2018).


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Sankaran, P.N. (2019). CSR Interventions in India Under State Invitation: An Artisans’ Perspective on ‘Adopt a Heritage’ Programme. In: Crowther, D., Seifi, S. (eds) The Components of Sustainable Development. Approaches to Global Sustainability, Markets, and Governance. Springer, Singapore.

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