India is a country of shocking contrasts – incredibly rich in culture, heritage and wealth on the one end, painfully poor in resources, nutrition and healthcare on the other end. While the country moves ahead at a rapid pace powered by its people’s intellect and natural resources, there is another India or Bharat where people suffer from abject poverty and social injustice.
We can debate endlessly about what the government should have done in the past 66 years since our independence. Animated discussions about the role played by politicians, state bureaucracy and large corporations lead us nowhere.
Whenever the issue of charity and voluntary service comes up, we prefer to discuss what large companies, the super rich and the government have done to change the situation on the ground. We prefer not discuss what we have done to change the world around us. It’s time we question ourselves about what our contribution have been as individuals.
Recent news reports indicate India stands at a lowly 133rd rank among 146 countries in the 2012 World Giving Index, which is based on surveys of charitable behaviour around the globe. It is high time we individuals work towards changing this sad image.
Forums on cyberspace and media reports indicate that educated Indians are hyperactive on every possible issue under the sun. We sign petitions, we protest on every possible forum, we gherao our netas, we blog, we tweet, and we hog the media spotlight whenever a new controversy erupts – all classic signs of Armchair Activism!
Some of the working professionals among us do contribute a paltry sum to our company’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities and feel contented with it. However, have we done enough as part of our individual social responsibility (ISR)?
I agree that as working professionals we have to struggle to make to ends meet and there is literally no time left for real activism. I remember how much I had to struggle to get a few hours permission to join Youth For Seva’s candle light march against corruption during the heydays of Anna Hazare’s satyagraha.
So what could be done when we are constrained by limited time, money and resources? Pose yourself a simple question – Tigers are dying in the forest, children are starving on the street – can I could something about it beyond signing petitions?
There are hundreds of causes out waiting to be taken up. Instead of being an armchair activist who constantly talks about issues, let’s become Weekend Warriors who do what is possible during our free time. Here is a list of activities we could do along with some leading NGOs in the field –
- Educate underprivileged children by sponsoring their school education – CRY, World Vision
- Lend money to NGOs that offer micro-credit facilities to farmers and micro entrepreneurs – Rang De, MicroGraam
- Provide healthcare insurance to our housemaids, security guards, etc – Maid in India, Babajob
- Adopt a govt. school to teach as well as provide educational kits ¬– Teach For India, Youth For Seva
- Nurture poor but promising sportspersons to excel in their sports – Lakshya, Magic Bus
- Join a resident association in planting trees and cleaning garbage – Green Hills Group, Trees For Free
- Adopt an abandoned street dog or help NGOs working for animals – People for Animals, CUPA
- Persuade your company’s management to hire physically disabled persons – Association of People with Disability, Jobability.org
- Help a cultural institution in preserving India’s heritage – INTACH, Nrityagram
- File a Right To Information case to eradicate corruption – RTI India, Centre for Good Governance