capital is an alien concept in our country. All of us want
to earn and earn, and acquire assets, in the vain hope that
large homes, accumulation of jewelry and huge bank balances
provide us security. We fortify our homes and live as prisoners.
But the moment we step out, mosquitoes swarm us, public defecation
nauseates us, filth infects our lungs, traffic jams enervate
us, and all pervasive corruption emasculates us. Where then
is the escape?
have to come to terms with the realities of human existence.
We should realize that we all have to hang together. We cannot
live in ivory towers. No matter how rich a person is, there
is no individual salvation. We all share a common fate and
collective destiny. Good schools, quality health care, pleasant
neighbourhoods, green parks, good playgrounds, safe traffic,
smooth roads, crime-free society and corruption-free government
- only these can provide security. Armed with this security
people can pursue their interests, be it business, philosophy,
physics or painting. No matter what the government does, or
does not do, we need to do a lot to make our life better.
That's what the philanthropists and civil society in the west
In the west, several private foundations like Ford, Kellogg,
Rockefeller, Mellon, Carnegie promote public causes assiduously.
Many hospitals, public parks and other public services have
been entirely privately funded. Even the recent effort of
Bill Gates to help eradicate preventable disease from the
globe is a good illustration of the ease with which private
wealth is utilized for public gain. Universities like Harvard,
Yale, Cornell, Vanderbilt, Stanford, McGill, Duke - all of
which have been built through private charities - are the
magnets attracting our youngsters.
privileged classes in India have not yet recognized that they
owe much of their wealth and success to society. Many of our
rich are only too happy to fund an unworthy candidate or a
corrupt politician. How else would it be possible to spend
Rs50 - 100 lakhs for an Assembly election or Rs 20 lakhs for
a municipal election? When a local warlord or mafia boss makes
demands, many are ready and willing to pay huge sums to save
their skins. And of course 'good causes' like caste associations
and temples always find money.
We, the urban middle and affluent classes, need to rethink
our role in society. Private gain and public good are an inseparable
whole. Many social goods that make life worth living can be
created only by philanthropy. The state can at best play a
supportive role creating a system of high reward for desirable
behaviour and high risk for unacceptable conduct. Hyderabad,
with its rich legacy should show the way to the rest of India.