Thursday, May 04, 2006

Hanging in Hunger

Behind the stock market boom, swelling economy and swiftest of cars & haute couture, there are basic amenities our fellow country folks are fighting for. And lurking round your very own corner is HUNGER.

This is no talk of urban-rural divide. This is the very ridge that makes for castles of crores shadowed by jhopadpattis in the sidelines in our urban cosmos.

What dawns your mind when you hear/read/think of 'malnutrition'?
Most likely than not, it's images of African Children starving to death.

So, like me you would be surprised to know that Ethiopia & India share the same malnutrition rate. 47%. Check out more on the report card on child nutrition 2006 here.

Feeding a hungry child is not charity its a social responsibility.


unforgiven said...

What is worse than our ludicrous and tragic never of poverty, despite being one of the largest economies in the world is, the propagation of this divide by digusting organisations like these "Children's funds"

They do so in two ways,
.) First, the money you give to them, most of it finds it into the pockets of the people who run the organisation. Whether they do it legaly or illegaly is immaterial, a majority of the money does not end up getting to the people who need it
.) Second, they provide the people, who might actually want to make a difference, a shortcut to ease their concience. These people, give some x amount of money to these organisations and delude themselves that they really have done something for their countrymen. Instead, if this quick fix to their concience wasn't available, its remotely possible that maybe some of them would actually go out and do something "worthwhile" for our people, like maybe take the responsibility of educating two or three adolescents from different families so they can get skilled jobs versus just labour. Or maybe make a foray into our rural tracts and help build a road to a town that has starving children because they can't easily commute to sell their produce. These people, possible, could actually fix the "real" problems of this country and help permanently decrease our poverty instead of have 1/10th to 1/20th of the money they donated feed three children for four days.

My concience personally, is quite satisfied with doing nothing. I don't believe in interfering with nature. *shrug*

If I did, I most definitely wouldn't like to do so with an empty gesture like donating to a "Child Relief Fund".

Simi said...

this is not a propagation and its not a 'disgusting' organisation either.

Akshaya Patra's funds are audited by KPMG and they are feeding lakhs of hugnry children all over the country.
come to think of it, there is so little faith in goodness here, in this world that even when somebody is doing genuine stuff the bitter experience of ulteriour motives denotes all the good work done to downright humility & disrespect.

being cynical seems to be the reasoning of the day. its one thing to condemn disgusting organisations, another thing to contribute in a genuine way and a totally different thing for hunger in ur eye n food in ur search.

abt interfering with nature? ya rite- we'd rather be content and comfy with all the comforts that elude us from reality.

and u know what... ur conscience is surely not satisfied with doing nothing- as your cynicism and apathy does it all. so, pat urself. ur doing something!

unforgiven said...

I have seen enough organisations in India and across the world who are regularly audited by government agencies. So they keep their things legal. There are enough ways to siphon of money legaly that the whole thing is a joke. If they can't embezzle it, they just pay themselves grand salaries or show expenses.

I am a cynic and I have been on the other side of the fence so I have an idea of what it is like to feel hungry and not have money for food. Granted, not quite in the same way that some people do but at least I've experienced it.

I won't go into the lessons it taught but yes it did contribute to my current opinions about 'help'. People don't want food, they want to be shown how to get food on their own. You don't help people by giving them your pity and shelling out some cash. You help people by truly caring and doing for them what you would for your own. If your brother or child were in that situation, would you just give an organisation 400 rupees so they can feed him or would you personally make sure that you help him into becoming someone who never has to worry about where his next meal would come from?

*I* personally, do nothing, yes. I realize where I can contribute and finding the hungry and poor of this world and helping them is not my calling but I am comfortable with that fact. I won't contribute to a CRY like organisation to pay their managers Rs. 8 lakhs an annum (that is what btw, one of my friends' friend gets paid. Perfectly legal. He nobly claims that his work is helping people but quietly fails to mention that he is getting paid handsomely for it). I am comfortable helping people that I come across in my daily life in whatever little way I can. That is the best I can do, I acknowledge it.

So, how could it hurt, if I actually send 500 rupees to this organisation and feed a few kids?
It will propagate the existence and breeding of such organisations, which even if don't blatantly suck away charity money (legal means have their limitations), do provide that 'quickfix'. It's almost like a drug. "Hey, pay Rs. 500 and feel good about yourself for days! Hell, we'll even keep sending you pictures and info to keep that 'I am such a great person' effect going for a long while!"

So, yes, I am patting my own back because I am doing something. What I do will help more people and a lot more significantly than someone who clicks on that link and sends in 500 bucks for their quick fix self-gratifying high.

The Argumentative Indian said...

There are 2 ways about being a socially responsible person. One is to do the the work ourselves while the other & easier way is to find someone else to do the work for us. However, if we choose the latter option, then this introduces a middleman; someone to buy our conscience for us from us. However, what is a fair & just compensation for these middlemen is not a decision for me to make. I guess it depends on the conscience of the middleman as on ours. If one were to assume that only half of the actual charity makes it to the people intended, isn't it better than none at all? Would any 'leak' of the charity be a penance of trying to buy our way out the easy way?

However, if one is apprehensive about donating to big charities, then one can find small organizations whose integrity can be trusted. Last year I donated money to buy couple of tricycles for needy handicapped students. How do I know for a fact that 100% of my money was utilized as intended? Well, I had tasked my dad & uncle with finding the beneficiaries. And I intend on doing it again this year.

I'm not trying to beat my trumpet here; but what I'm trying to say is that it might be difficult but there are ways for one to be responsible towards one's society without feeling ripped off.

There's another peculiar aspect of charity in India; It is much easier to get people to open their wallets when a religious symbolism is attached to the cause. Be it a construction of some new temple or some new Yagnya by an overweight Swamiji, money pours in. However, if it is some non-religious work, people suddenly close their minds & wallets in an instance. I would dare say that your 'Akshaya Patra' wouldn't be as successful in attracting charity were it not for its association with ISKCON. Even our corporates have a long way in becoming as active & as generous as their counterparts in the western hemisphere.

Well, the point of my long & winding rambling is this; It is easy for one to be come cynical. And considering how things work in our society, it is understandable. However all it needs is a little effort in making a small change in someone else's life the right way. It might not amount to much in the grand scheme of works, but it would go a long way in making us feel as if we did our part.

Time for some 'Asstma Chintan', eh?

Cruel Intentions said...

The MiddleMen eh?
Well Guess All The Clients Our Companies Have Should Write Their Own Code. We Should Not Depend At All On Anyone, We Should Grow Our Own Food, Raise Cattle, Fish In The Mountains And Have Orchids Near The Sea...
But Hold On... Did Laloo Not Eat Only The Fodder???

The Argumentative Indian said...

cruel intentions:

Did you even READ what I wrote?? Besides, I don't get the point you're trying to convey in your post. What

Have trouble staying off caffeine, bro? You seem to be trigger happy today ;)

unforgiven said...

I had a long conversation with DK about this yesterday. I guess it helped me to break this down to finer points.

.) I can't explain it. It is something you have to see. *Go* to where the underprivileged live (not the ones that show up for NGO charity fairs, I mean the real deal) and talk to those people. See what it is that they need
.) Even the poorest of the poor, more than money, more than resources, need the feeling that someone cares. They *can* make a living and can feed their families, if they just have a little support from the rest of the world, who they feel doesn't care whether they live or die
.) Providing money and resources through middlemen accomplishes close to nothing. As I said, I can't explain it any further, go see for yourself if you can
.) And for God Sakes, if all you can do is be happy about the quick fix feel good high of thinking you've helped someone by giving money to one of these organisations, please do your mental masterbation in private. Its disgusting to see this kind of a self-gratifying ignorance being flaunted around

Cruel Intentions said...

@ Argumentative Indian

Just Because Your Sign Off Name Has The Word, You Do Not Have To Proove (;-) For Rahul) Dat You Are One. Re-read What I Wrote, If You Cannot Understand... Stand Infront Of a Mirror and ARGUE
Don always take it personally, Get A Life ;-)
I Know You Gonna Pull Out Your Hair After Reading This But Lets Not Get Too Much After The Middlemen And Let The Barber Do His Job.

Simi said...

the issue i was concerned about was malnutrition- but that seems to have missed everybody's attention.

well, we are talking about 47% malnutrition here- not smthing that we can resolve on our own! another way out as u said was to generate employment- surely praticical and serves the longterm purpose and boosts self-esteem and the like. but to work towards tht we need atleast 3-5 years- wat happens to hungry children then??

we need all these efforts running simulatneously. then it will make sense. but we are all too busy arguing- so at the end of da day- hardly anything gets done!

cruel intentions:

MD said...

Some years ago I read an article about Indira Gandhi rehabiliation centre (or at least thats what i think it is) where about 200 children woke up everymorning not knowing whether they would have the food, electricity to study or even the water (Apparently water supply was stopped since the bill was not paid). For a while it did affect my conscience, but of course was forgotten after sometime. Simi certainly has a point here. We must have all the efforts running simultaneously to make a difference.

Simi said...

Hey MD-

Glad u agree! A lot many things are disheartening, but the efforts should not suffer the consequences of weak minds.
Ha! talking about weak minds.......chuck, will save it for another day, another post.

Dragon's Kin said...

Simi....good argument, one big vicious circle huh....hey u can use the mother child pic i took, if you want...its on flickr....would suit this piece....upto you!

Dragon's Kin said...

Simi....good argument, one big vicious circle huh....hey u can use the mother child pic i took, if you want...its on flickr....would suit this piece....upto you!