The Social Touch from Dr. Paramita Banerjee, Associate Director Programs at SAATHI

The last speaker for the Day 2 at Horizons was Dr. Paramita Banerjee.

Dr. Paramita Banerjee is the Associate Director of Programs at SAATHI- an organization working towards providing universal access to HIV/AIDS prevention and care. She received her PhD in Philosophy from Jadavpur University, Kolkata. She has been working on gender and sexuality, HIV/AIDS, adolescent and youth development, and child rights since the late 1980s. Her expertise lies in research, capacity building, participatory evaluation, strategic planning, leadership development, community mobilization and documentation. Before joining SAATHII, Dr. Banerjee worked for Sanjog, where she conducted research on child protection issues, with a focus on gender justice in India, Bangladesh, and Nepal. Prior to Sanjog, as a MacArthur Fellow for Leadership Development, she implemented an adolescent leadership development program with adolescents living in red light areas.

She started the session with a question: ‘where are the good people’ and what exactly do we mean by the word ‘good’. Two possible meanings on a simple Google search for the term ‘good’ would give ‘competent’ and ‘benevolent’ as answers. Does it mean that benevolent people are not competent and vice-versa. She went further and asked that when a husband helps cook his wife is he being benevolent or is he just fulfilling his responsibility.

Proceeding forward, she took up the issue of public health system in India. The conditions today have worsened to the extent that we only trust private practitioners and no one is willing to go to public hospitals for treatment anymore.

She quoted Rabindranath Tagore saying that if you would force people below your feet, they will pull you under. The day we will stop feeling uncomfortable when a little child comes to us begging for money, the number of such children will increase and they will pull us under. Youth should indeed be uncomfortable about such things and should be sensitized and be motivated enough to rectify the same.

It was a very interactive session wherein she asked the audience about their views on CSR and the relevance and importance of the CSR law. According to her, it becomes essential to impose certain things in order for it become a norm later. She cited the example of Sati which had to be banned and therefore one can no longer even think of performing such a ritual.

Talking about CSR, she said one should think of it in the same way one treats income tax and hence making it compulsory for companies meeting a set of criteria should not be drawing objections from any section of the society. We should always aim for the greater good of the society rather than just thinking about our own good.

She concluded the session by saying that there should be an equitable distribution with respect to CSR activities as in the case of taxation. As people who earn more pay more in taxes, likewise larger firms should do more CSR activities than the relatively smaller firms and thus contributing more to the society.

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