In Lucknow a few days ago, Prakash, a cab driver, mentioned that he is struggling to pay Rs 3,500 per month for his children’s fees. This made me think of that which I take for granted. While many of us are privileged — either by birth or even those who are self-made — a majority still struggle for the basics the world over and our country is no exception.
Even in the US, where almost $500 billion is spent in philanthropy, there are huge gaps in society. While philanthropy is commendable, we must not overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which makes philanthropy so necessary. Most of us fight the immediate problem, which is necessary, but leave the root cause for another day. Failing to invest in the less privileged communities also results in certain areas remaining backward, with low business activity and hence, low levels of employment. This is particularly visible in the rural to urban movement over the decades, something we could have arrested.
We need a whole lot of us to work on developing communities around us or our workplaces and take ownership of their successes and failures. A lot of the privileged set feels that they are best suited to solve every problem, and it is here that we go wrong. We should be open to people who bring wisdom to the table irrespective of their rank and file. Empathy is crucial in this regard. Understanding the perspective of the person experiencing the situation will help in reaching a long-term solution.
We need to think and align ourselves at the rapid speed at which things are changing. We must rise above the flaws and mistakes of the past, and understand that we are a better and a stronger lot today. Human rights will only be fulfilled if we all do our bit.
As Indians, we need to ask some really difficult questions on the subject of social justice and economic freedom. Seventy years after Independence, while we lag behind so many social indicators, we continue to criticise Ayushman Bharat, Jan Dhan and many other schemes. Direct benefit transfer schemes have not only stopped middleman-corruption but also restored the poor’s self-esteem. As responsible citizens, we must get all those around us eligible for Ayushman Bharat enrolled and explain the scheme’s benefits. A welfare state always has a record of every citizen, not to control people but to ensure a fair and just distribution of subsidies and grants. But there is resistance on that front too. COVID-19 has shown us the disparities in our society but has also held a mirror to the privileged class. We all criticise the government but overnight, we sacked the working-class people and left them literally on the road. Will the government now monitor and be accountable for our value systems also?
Among the 17 sustainable development goals of the United Nations, the current government has focused on 10 of them, including providing access to piped clean drinking water. We are impatient to see the results of the government’s efforts but we must consider the size of the country.
The Ministry of Minority Welfare has a lot to offer but once again, it’s also up to us. The new generation has a lot of aspirations and we all must play a role in giving them a platform. The fight for social and economic justice is never easy because of vested interests, but, as a society, I feel this is the most important fight we have. Giving is not only about money, equally or more important is time, skills and experience.
The writer is director, Allanasons Pvt Ltd