Changing face of philanthropy

How Indian billionaires spend their money and if they at all give it to philanthropy

archana

Archana Mishra | March 15, 2017 | New Delhi


#charity   #billionaires   #philanthropy   #Pushpa Sundar   #book review  



What does philanthropy mean to India? For a country battling with inequalities at so many levels – health, gender, income – international aid has been a major support since independence. However, over the years, India has created its own league of billionaires, recognised globally. Some of them are even titled the most ‘generous Indians’ for their philanthropic acts. 

It is interesting to know how Indian billionaires spend their money and if they at all give it to philanthropy. Giving with a Thousand Hands by Pushpa Sundar tells how a country that donates money largely for religious purposes is short on philanthropy.
Philanthropy and charity are often considered synonymous. But they are distinctive, each having its own nuances. What drives the two is the same impulse – compassion. Still, there lies a difference. Giving alms to a beggar is the nature of charity, while providing vocational training to the unemployed to stop them from begging is philanthropy.

 

Chapters like ‘Why India needs philanthropy’ and ‘Are Indians charitable?’ talk about lack of imagination among Indians while choosing the cause. Education tops the list of ‘causes’ followed by child welfare, old-age care, disaster relief and health care. What stops rich Indians from doing philanthropy is lack of awareness and motivation, strong family and kin ties precluding from donation, lack of integrity and transparency of the social organisation and trust deficit between donors and beneficiaries. 
 
Sundar’s book clearly states that philanthropy through individual charitable giving, corporate giving, donations and grants by foundations and trusts, donations by religious organisations or even by an NRI has the potential to bring about a transformation. 
 
Indians are not new to philanthropy. Before independence it was used to make memorials and development of institutes like Banaras Hindu University, Bombay University and Birla Institute of Technology, Pilani. But between 1960 and 1990, Indian interest in philanthropy began to decline as the state taxed the rich heavily. With the end of the 20th century, the philanthropic streak was back again.
 
And the momentum philanthropy gained thereafter got equated with corporate social responsibility (CSR). Sundar extensively analyses the role of CSR – clause 135 of the Companies Act that makes mandatory for companies of a certain size and profitability to devote two percent of the average net profits of past three years to CSR activities.
 
Sundar, a development specialist, founder-director of Sampradaan Indian Centre for Philanthropy and author of Business and Community: The Story of Corporate Social Responsibility in India (2013) and Foreign Aid for Indian NGOs: Problem or Solution (2010), asks if spending on CSR will reduce individual philanthropy. The signals are mixed, according to her. It is because the ethics of philanthropy have been questioned due to inequality in wealth distribution. But at the same it has been used to gain status and acceptance in society. With the changing perception over the years, philanthropy has taken the shape of free loans, soft loans and equity investments. 
 
There is also emergence of new terms like venture philanthropy – establishing businesses addressing the social demand rather than being totally commercial. Like the Chotukool fridge by Godrej group, a refrigerator that runs without electricity and is only for the rural masses. 
Significantly, CSR was introduced to make private companies contribute towards social requirement, reducing social and economic inequality. But an important question pitched for debate by the author is: Can inequality be best reduced through taxation or philanthropy? She argues taxation has its limit, whereas experimentation and innovation have in the past solve humankind’s intractable problems. 
 
She calls philanthropy a catalyst which can be used in generating some fresh ideas and experiments, which can find way into public policy. India needs to spend on inventors and inventions. As it is, foreign aid is on the decline after the amendments in the Foreign Contribution Regulatory Act (FCRA). Still, funding is required to build strong civil society, by supporting reforms, especially when philanthropy is not restricted to health and education but now to environment issues and sanitation.
 
There is a downside of the philanthropy too, as addressed in the book. The power of big philanthropic organisations like Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation can influence a policy – a trend seen in the USA. India is still untouched by this trend, as the international aid is smaller than the government budgets. 
 
Overall, Sundar’s book presents a holistic view of how philanthropy has evolved over the years and its potential to bring a change. Questions asked by her at intervals reinforce the need to have a debate on how philanthropy can be encouraged in India. 
 

archana@governancenow.com
 
(The article appears in the March 1-15, 2017 issue of Governance Now)
 
 

Comments

 

Other News

Thackeray launches three fast-track DNA units under Nirbhaya scheme

Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray has launched three state-of-the-art human DNA units under the Nirbhaya Scheme for efficiency in criminal investigations. A wildlife DNA unit in Nagpur makes Maharashtra the country’s first state to have a forensic testing lab for animals.  

How foreign policy has been Modi’s focus right from the start

The Midway Battle: Modi’s Roller-coaster Second Term By Gautam Chintamani Bloomsbury / 400 pages / Rs 699 Gautam Chintamani, a film historian and author, has penned an in-depth chronicle of prime minister Narendra Modi’s second

Remove unauthorized constructions without pressure: Thackeray to BMC

Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray has instructed the Mumbai civic authorities to take immediate action on unauthorized constructions on war footing. In a virtual meeting held on Wednesday, Thackeray said no illegal construction will be tolerated in Mumbai and called upon the BMC to

Covid norms relaxed; Mumbai restaurants, shops to remain open longer

After extending timings of shops and restaurants as well as the reopening of cinema halls and theatres under specified SOPs from October 22, in view of the festive cheer, the Maharashtra government has allowed restaurants and eateries to remain open till 12AM and shops and establishments to function till 1

Global Hunger Index data collection flawed: Arvind Panagariya

Rubbishing the recently released Global Hunger Index 2021, wherein India has slipped to 101 position to be placed below Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh, Arvind Panagariya, professor of economics at Columbia University and former vice chairman, NITI Aayog, has said that data collection and methodologies used

‘Blue Zones’ concept of healthy living and its relevance in India

A long life span free from diseases and disability, the so-called healthy aging, has been a matter of prime interest to humanity. It is widely held that the life expectancy is a function of interplay between various genetic and environmental factors. There is scientific evidence to support the fact that on

Visionary Talk with Dr Arvind Panagariya, Professor, Columbia University & Former VC, NITI Aayog



Archives

Current Issue

Opinion

Facebook    Twitter    Google Plus    Linkedin    Subscribe Newsletter

Twitter