Thursday, September 03, 2009



---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Mohan Gupta
Date: Wed, Sep 2, 2009 at 8:55 PM
Subject: [prohindu] India's amazing tradition of charity and philanthropy

Better know, before talking,+before+talking&artid=a0LdnUqZ4iI=&SectionID=d16Fdk4iJhE=&MainSectionID=HuSUEmcGnyc=&SectionName=aVlZZy44Xq0bJKAA84nwcg==&SEO=

S Gurumurthy
We have in our country a long but uneven tradition of philanthropy'. Thus
lamented Sonia Gandhi at the function in Delhi to give the Indira Gandhi
Prize to the American philanthropist Bill Gates. That was on July 25. Two
days later, the Wall Street Journal printed, unusually, her whole speech. On
July 29, Paul Beckett, a WSJ columnist, taking his cue from Sonia, mocked
Indian businessmen for not being even remotely close to matching Gates. He
pontificated: "India's rich, open your wallets".

Beckett used corporate India to dent the image of India itself, courtesy
Sonia. Had she not spoken the way she did, he would not have written the way
he did. What Sonia did not know - therefore, Beckett, who borrowed from her,
could not - is what differentiates India from the US. American corporates,
which almost exhaust America, are co-extensive with it; they account for
over 80 per cent of its GDP. Bill Clinton had nicknamed the US 'America
Inc', namely, the US as the aggregate of its corporates.

US corporate endowments aggregated are highly visible, like their brands.
This is to emphasise their nature; not undermine their worth. The US market
cap is some 40 times the Indian. Corporate India is insignificant in
contrast. Some 400 top private Indian companies account for under six per
cent of India's GDP. This includes all Sensex members.

Sonia is understandably unfamiliar with the practices of traditional India.
Indian charity, widely practised at the lowest unit levels down to every
home, is socio-religious, not secular, in construct. Traditional India has
high charitable propensities and deep philanthropic impulses. Indian
religions do not convert others; their charity is therefore less known. Here
are some examples of charity where the religious power is manifest.

Look at the charity run by Bhagwan Sathya Sai of Puttaparthi. His work for
the poor is unmatched; yet equally unknown. Here are just two illustrations
of his work. Anantapur district in Rayalaseema region of Andhra Pradesh was
known for water scarcity and water salinity and high fluoride levels in
drinking water. Moved by the suffering of the poor, Sai Baba decided to do
what the government could not for 50 long years; provide potable drinking
water to the whole of Anantapur - yes, for the whole district.

He declared in November 1995, "Today it is 'Raatlaseema' (rocky region); it
must be transformed into 'Ratnala Seema' (land that glitters like diamond)".
It took just 18 months. The work involved laying some 2,000 kilometres - yes
2,000 km - of water pipeline; building 43 sumps of 1.5 lakh to 25 lakh
litres capacity; constructing 18 balancing reservoirs of three to 10 lakh
litres capacity - where? - on top of hillocks; erecting 270 overhead
reservoirs holding 40,000 to three lakh litres; installing 1,500-plus
concrete pre-cast cisterns of 2,500 litres capacity, each attached with four
taps for people to draw water.

This is how the 9th Planning Commission document describes the initiative.
The Sathya Sai charity 'has set an unparalleled initiative of implementing
on their own, without any state budgetary support, a massive water supply
project with an expenditure of Rs 3,000 million to benefit 731 scarcity and
fluoride/salinity affected villages and a few towns in Anantapur district in
18 months'. Baba's trusts repeated this feat in fluoride-affected Medak and
Mehboobnagar districts. They provided water to some 4.5 lakh poor in 179
villages in Medak, and to some 3.5 lakh poor in 141 villages in the next.
The drinking water projects in these districts covered more than 1,000
villages with some 20 lakh people.

Then, he saw the poor in Chennai struggling for water. He declared on
January 19, 2002, "Today I have made a new resolve. Madras is suffering from
acute shortage of drinking water. The rich can buy water. What will the poor
do? I have decided to work towards bringing drinking water to Madras, no
matter how difficult and how costly the task". His central trust took up the
construction of a 63-km stretch of the 150 km canal in the Telugu Ganga
scheme, left incomplete for want of funds, thus denying water to Chennai.
Thanks to Baba, Krishna water reached Chennai, irrigating some three lakh
hectares of agricultural land on the way. These projects cost over Rs 600

The Sathya Sai trusts in Puttaparthi and Bengaluru run world-class
speciality hospitals. They have performed some 24,000 cardiac surgeries,
34,000 cardiac cathertisations, 7,000 neuro surgeries, 40,000 eye surgeries,
and 600 orthopaedic surgeries and treated millions more - all free. What is
absent in these two hospitals is a billing department. The bill for these
services might exceed Rs 1,000 crore. Baba's trusts also run free
educational institutions, cultural centres and music colleges. Secular India
generously released a stamp to note the charity in Anantapur. Compare it
with the Indira Gandhi award to Gates and the encomiums at the cost of

Take another religious charity, the Ramakrishna Mission. It runs 197
hospitals and its health-related work serves 85 lakh people annually,
including 25 lakh in rural areas; 1,186 educational institutions serve 3.4
lakh students including 1.24 lakh in rural areas.

Take the Swaminarayan movement. Its 14 hospitals serve over six lakh
patients annually; it runs 10 schools, eight colleges, 14 hostels; it has
built 55 schools in disaster-hit areas; it aids 20 schools financially;
gives 5000 scholarships annually. In Punjab, not a single man, woman or
child would have gone hungry in the last three centuries, thanks to the
langar in Gurudwaras feeding millions every day. Jains run huge charities
all over the country. So do religious Muslims and Christians. Even the
freedom movement was sustained by philanthropy. Lala Lajpat Rai gave all his
properties to the movement; Chittaranjan Das and many others went bankrupt
funding the movement. They never expected any Indira Gandhi Award. That is
real philanthropy.

Traditional Indian business communities allocate a fixed share of their
turnover for charity. The mahamai, an informal charity tax among the Nadars
in Tamil Nadu has funded hundreds of the community's educational
institutions. The Nagarathars in Tamil Nadu too, through their mahamai, run
huge charities. The Marwaris and others do so through the dharmada. Even
today this informal system prevails in non-corporate business in India. So
charity is by the community as a whole, not by individuals. But corporate
India is unfortunately neither Indian nor American.

This is India, about which Sonia is singularly ignorant even after 40 years
of domicile. When she said India has an uneven tradition of philanthropy it
only exposed her ignorance, besides exporting it to the WSJ. The result? The
WSJ is preaching to Indians about charity; the Indian media reports this
nonsense without challenging it.


At 8:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

dear sir,
sonia gandhi s words are true as far as the corporate world of india is concerned. except for the TATA group show me one corporate house of india which has donated regularly a percentage of the sum earned (millions if not billions) from india (with the blessings of ruling political parties.sonia gandhi please note).
the richest crporate house the reliance industries chairman mukesh ambani meets her frequently(i hope not for political donations)the speech would have been appropriate for him as her audience, or the birlas (who have built countless useless structures like hanuman temples)who owe their existence(not to speak of their wealth) solely to the blessings of the gandhi family.
i am not a millionare but i regularly donate a part of my earnings to credible NGO s like lok-kalyan samiti sos children s villages etc.
but sonia gandhi would not know this. how can she know anything about an ordinary indian .
and how can the corporate houses make donations for the poor ,when the have to make whooping donations to politicians like sonia gandhi.
it is just a matter of sums going to the wrong place and speeches made to the wrong audience.
will sonia gandhi please rectify this error.

At 5:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Keep posting stuff like this i really like it


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