Sunday, August 9, 2015

Indian Philanthropy

I saw one discussion with Aamir Khan and Bill Gates on news channel regarding social issues.

Bill Gates is active in health care issues through his foundation at international level. He has worked effectively on this front in India as well. Aamir Khan has also exhibited his concern for social causes with his popular TV show, "Satyamev Jayate". This program I saw was a discussion on their individual work, and solutions on other issues.

Some readers might not know this, that Bill Gates ranked as the richest person on the earth in fortune lists for several years. He must still be in a leading position in that, I am not sure. He donated half of his wealth for social and charitable causes, to try and solve some issues. Some other billionaires Warren Buffet, Marc Zuckerburg also joined him.

So in this context, he was asked about his experience in this area. And why in India, except for Azeem Premji and few others, no prominent example can be given. The host also asked Aamir for his opinion on this. Aamir quickly pointed out that, it's not that Indians don't donate. They do. But they are inclined to donate to religious institutions like temples, mosques, and churches. If the same donations would get channeled towards other issues, the situation would be different, and god would actually be happier.

In this discussion, they revealed the true picture of Indian mentality. Tirupati temple in India, is the richest religious institution in the world. Every year we read in news papers, that somebody gave millions of rupees, or few kg gold, or a golden crown to Sai Baba/ Tirupati etc. That many temples have collected crores of rupees in their donations.

How useful is it to our nation and our society? The great fakir, Sai Baba, who lived his life with simplicity, and gave the same message through deeds, was worshiped by his followers for those same reasons. But now the irony is, the statue/temple of same Baba gets a golden throne. diamond crown, silk clothes. How does it matter to a common devotee who worships him? 

We worship the gods or such gods-men for what they are, not for what they wear.


The donations given to such institutions are mostly spent on the same institution itself. It's a cycle. The temple grows in size, following, gets developed, redeveloped again and again. Hotels, shops, surround it and an industry grows with that temple at its center.This is very well depicted in the award winning Marathi movie "Deul".

In hindu customs, we make offering of food items to the god, and it is shared among devotees as a 'Prasad'. But now a days, it is not shared, but sold in temples. Outside many temples, you get to see a list of different "Poojas" carried out in that temple, and the rates of priests to do it. I get a feeling of looking at a menu card, it is so actually.

I heard somewhere that all the change that is collected inside temples as a donation is exchanged with notes of shopkeepers who need change. And the temples have their own exchange rates for such transactions.

At every big enough temple, we see lot of poor, crippled, hungry beggars outside. If the temples hold such massive amounts, why don't they take care of such people?

Beggars is altogether a different topic. I don't care for fine and healthy people who can work and earn, instead they beg in the name of god. But what about people who can't work, e.g. very old/ very sick, eunuchs, etc. They don't get earning opportunities easily. If few big temples/ religious institutions show strong will and act for them, they can support them. But we don't see it happening.

The point is the donation in a religious institution is not best deserved. And undeserving donation is as good as money wasted. 

I am not against god. I personally believe in god. I am grateful to him for my life. But I don't believe any more in donating in a temple. Except for a few rare occasions like when i got a job, when i got married, I have not donated much in the temples. Instead, I donate the same amount to a needy and genuine beggar outside.

It is possible, that we can divert our donations to NGOs which are actually benefiting our society, which are doing work that is really required. If a large number of people start doing this, they (good NGOs) will be empowered, and encouraged to work more. Our help would reach the needy people through these organizations, and make them smile. I am very much sure, God would be smiling too. :)

Read this post in Marathi : दानशूर भारत