The Framework Convention Alliance for Tobacco Control

Indian network challenges official OK for CSR by tobacco industry

A multi-faceted campaign by a tobacco control organization has put the brakes on a plan to permit so-called ‘corporate social responsibility’ (CSR) activities by the tobacco industry in India.

Three years after the Tamil Nadu People’s Forum for Tobacco Control (TNPFTC) launched the Stop Tobacco Industries activities (STOP) campaign, the government has clarified that nothing in the New Companies Act (2013) can contravene existing laws, including the Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA), of 2003.

State Convener of TNPFTC, Cyril Alexander, said that tobacco companies continued to destroy the lives of many Indians so it was crucial that they be blocked from engaging in CSR.

“The New Companies Act (2013) legalised CSR by tobacco industries so it was important to challenge the Ministry of Corporate Affairs to exclude the tobacco industry from the purview of CSR,” said Alexander.

“CSR only paves the way for the industry to create a socially good image for itself while also establishing their names in the minds of the people,” he added.

1 million killed annually

Every year tobacco use kills over one million Indians.

TNPFTC is a network of individuals, professional associations, like-minded organizations and institutions actively working towards tobacco control.

TNPFTC’s STOP campaign engaged various strategies including:

  • Circulating a petition, to gain the support of the public
  • Sending representations from the tobacco control community to government offices, and
  • Using the provision in the Right to Information Act to file public interest litigation in Chennai High Court.

As a result, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs released a General Circular on 16 May 2016 stating that the new Companies Act shall not contravene existing laws, including COPTA.

Despite that enormous victory, the campaign is not over, notes Cyril. TNPFTC is now working to bring about a specific rule that would enforce the circular.

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