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Act of charity often encourages dependent mindset, beggar attitude among NGOs

By NS Venkataraman* 

Religious scriptures, mythological stories and speeches and writings of scholars advocate that love and compassion for others should be the central focus of the thought process of everyone. It is said that development of such mindset is the sure way of leading life process with peace and tranquility. Obviously, such mindset would result in the regular practice of extending support to the needy persons, animals and creatures in whatever way possible.
There are number of theories with regard to the charity concept such as that the person involving himself or herself in charity activity should not have personal motives and should not derive any benefits from the act of charity. Further, it is also said that act of charity need not be at the cost of self denial except in extreme scenario and should be practiced only to the extent possible after satisfying one’s requirements.
The third view is that “reckless charity” to all and sundry without scrutiny of the genuine needs of the recipients is not appropriate. There is also another view that the charity act towards any cause should not result in negative impact on others or in the society.

Dependent mindset

In number of cases, the act of charity sometimes encourage dependent mindset or ”beggar attitude” amongst the recipients, who could think that they can "earn their needs” by actively seeking donation and support from kind hearted persons.
In recent times, with high public discourse about the importance of charity, some people involve themselves in some pursuits such as costly education or treatment in expensive hospitals beyond their affordability, even when they know that there is no feasibility of making both ends meet. In other words, such people hope and expect that they can plead for support. In the process , they run from pillar to post to identify donors and request for funds, even risking some humiliating experience.
Such attitude is negative, create laziness and kill feeling of self respect and prevent the persons from putting forth hard and sustained efforts and work to earn their needs honourably.

Support sought by voluntary bodies

There are several non-government organisations (NGOs), which appear to be thousands in number all over India, who undertake some welfare functions voluntarily and plead for donation publicly. Most of such organisations do not have enough resources to carry out their intended social activities and take for granted that they would be able to get donations from one source or the other from India or abroad.
There are also rumours that some of these NGOs even appoint agents to collect donations for their welfare programme and provide commission to the agents for the services rendered.
Another disturbing issue is that some NGOs even face accusation of diverting the donation money for purposes other than for which the donation is intended.
As the source of fund is not ensured for carrying out welfare activities, several NGOs are facing difficult conditions when donations do not arrive as per their expectations and are even forced to curtail their development programmes.
The question is whether such NGOs should feel disappointed or they should blame themselves for launching welfare activities without adequate funds and proper plans for sourcing funds.
Possibly, their expectations on unconditional charity from others, who may be known or unknown, may be misplaced.

Charity dinner

What is known as “charity dinners” are organized and such events take place in luxurious settings , when a well known celebrity such as film actor would be invited and may be paid lumpsum “honorarium” and wealthy people would be invited to attend the dinner by paying hefty charges.
There would be good response from the invitees, considering the opportunity to interact with the celebrity. The participants in the event often do so for their own benefits. Surplus collections from the event would be provided to the voluntary bodies or deprived persons, which is incidental.
Most probably, neither in the mind of the celebrity nor in the minds of the participants , there would be any thought about the plight of the deprived persons. There is no spirit of charity here.

Feeding stray dogs on the streets

One of the big problems in India today are the roaming of the homeless stray dogs on the streets, which are estimated to be around 55 million in number. Some times, such stray dogs have become a safety threat for passers by on the streets and some people including children have been wounded or even killed due to dog bites.
However, many compassionate minded people feed these street dogs occasionally or as a matter of routine everyday. There is criticism now about feeding the stray dogs, which are multiplying in number and are becoming a threat for the safety of the passers by.
Obviously, the government policy with regard to management of the street dogs menace are uncertain and confusing and not improving the ground situation with regard to street dog attacks.
This scenario make some people wonder whether the act of feeding stray dogs as a matter of charity should be considered as appropriate. This is particularly so, since those who feed the street dogs do not take care of them partly or fully and do not make any effort to house them in proper conditions. Obviously, their charity act has limits and cannot be unconditional.

Charity should not be unconditional

There is no doubt that the act of charity is a noble and admirable concept. But, the concept would be diluted or even the objectives would be defeated, if charity would be viewed as an unconditional concept.
Act of charity should not lead to a situation where it would reach lazy persons or those without self respect or those who could misuse the donation amount . Then, it would mean that act of charity has lost it’s direction and purpose.
In Tamil language, there is a saying which means that donation should be extended only after careful study of the need of the recipient and the recipient should strictly deserve it and charity should not be unconditional.
---
*Trustee, Nandini Voice For The Deprived, Chennai

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