In Lucknow a few days ago, Prakash, a taxi driver, mentioned that he was struggling to pay Rs 3,500 a month for his children’s school fees. It made me think about what I take for granted. While many of us are privileged – either by birth or even self-made – a majority still fight for the bases around the world and our country is no exception.
Even in the United States, where nearly $ 500 billion is spent on philanthropy, there are huge gaps in society. While philanthropy is laudable, we should not overlook the circumstances of economic injustice that make philanthropy so necessary. Most of us fight the immediate problem, which is necessary, but leave the root cause for another day. Failure to invest in less advantaged communities also results in some areas lagging behind, with low commercial activity and therefore low levels of employment. This is especially visible in the rural-urban movement over the decades, something we could have stopped.
We need many of us to work for the development of the communities around us or in our workplaces and to take charge of their successes and failures. A lot of the privileged group thinks they’re in the best position to solve any problem, and this is where we go wrong. We should be open to people who bring wisdom, regardless of their rank. Empathy is crucial in this regard. Understanding the perspective of the person experiencing the situation will help find a long-term solution.
We need to think and align with the rapid rate at which things change. We must overcome the faults and mistakes of the past and understand that we are better and stronger today. Human rights will only be respected if we all do our part.
As Indians, we have to ask ourselves some really tough questions about social justice and economic freedom. Seventy years after independence, when we lag behind so many social indicators, we continue to criticize Ayushman Bharat, Jan Dhan and many other projects. Direct benefit transfer programs not only put an end to the corruption of intermediaries, but also restored the self-esteem of the poor. As responsible citizens, we must enroll all those around us who are eligible for Ayushman Bharat and explain the benefits of the program. A welfare state always has a file on every citizen, not to control people but to ensure a fair and equitable distribution of grants and subsidies. But there is also resistance on this front. COVID-19 has shown us the disparities in our society but also held up a mirror for the privileged class. We all criticize the government but overnight we fired the workers and literally left them on the road. Will the government now monitor and be responsible for our value systems as well?
Among the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the current government has focused on 10 of them, including access to piped drinking water. We are eager to see the results of the government’s efforts but we have to consider the size of the country.
The Department of Minority Welfare has a lot to offer, but again, that is up to us as well. The new generation has a lot of aspirations and we all need to play a role in giving them a platform. The struggle for social and economic justice is never easy because of vested interests, but, as a society, I think it is the most important struggle we have. Giving is not just about money, time, skills and experience are equally or more important.
The writer is director, Allanasons Pvt Ltd