Since she acquired political autonomy in 1947, India has been described consistently as a developing nation. No other country (including the Commonwealth nations that became independent from British rule in that decade and in the fifties), it seems, embody the characteristics of a developing nation better than we do. Our society is divided into classes and a hierarchy of castes (this is unique to India) is rigidly set in place. We have low levels of education, no universal healthcare coverage system, poor infrastructure in semi-urban and rural areas, as well as a growing population, with the average age of an Indian veering down to less than thirty by 2029.
Giving in India
Last year, India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) touched USD 2.264 trillion. Economically, we are pulling ourselves above and beyond internationally agreed upon definitions of poverty. In fact, fewer people than ever before live below the poverty line in India, at 21.9%, which is still a staggering proportion. The poverty of India is a much discussed topic not only at summits organized by the United Nations, or in the foreign policy strategizing sessions of richer governments, but also a condition that has motivated artistes to make timeless cinema, paint immemorial pictures, and write telling books and essays. Economists, social workers and entrepreneurs have taken up the challenge of alleviating poverty in India. Banks and microfinance institutions have been set up. NGOs compete to locate funds and grants to enable the dissemination of direct aid. Philanthropists give unreservedly to the causes of poverty, hunger, and human rights.
The limelight on the poor
Because there is so much conversation around India’s poor and their lives in international arenas, our deprived populations suffer the damage of being exoticised for their penury. In a less than ideal turn of events, this very quotient of exoticness ensures that overseas philanthropic donations find their way into India, particularly for allaying poverty, more than to any other developing country. Prominent organizations like the Gates Foundation and the Clinton Foundation have done excellent work for healthcare and education in India. Amnesty International has crusaded for the environmental and political rights of marginalized peoples. Change.org petitions India’s privileged citizens to participate in policy making campaigns and to make each voice be heard, in democratic and inclusive fashion.
India attracts philanthropic engagement because, most importantly, there is great need here. We are beginning to tell our stories of need eloquently and unabashedly, and asking for help where aid can save lives and build communities of empowered humans. These stories allow donations in India to come in, with offline and online fundraising projects, with those who do good pooling funds to make a difference.