The ongoing Winter Session of Parliament saw the Upper House split on the issue of corporate social responsibility (CSR) funds going towards maintenance of ancient monuments and archaeological sites. Some Rajya Sabha members agreed that historical sites needed more resources, while others disagreed 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. Vinay 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 leader and former minister Jairam Ramesh, opposing the bill, said he was not against the idea of more funding for preservation of the country’s cultural heritage, but that the idea of CSR was different, and was introduced to benefit local communities in backward areas.
Backing the bill, Sasmit Patra, a Biju Janta Dal member from Odisha, spoke about the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act (or AMASR Act) 1958, saying that it needs to be discussed whether it is relevant and contextual.
Minister of State for Corporate Affairs Rao Inderjit Singh called on Vinay 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. He 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. Vice-Chairperson Surendra Singh Nagar adjourned the House for the day and said the discussion will continue.