Bill and Melinda Gates, and Warren Buffet, have convinced 40 of America’s richest billionaires to donate significant portions of their wealth to philanthropic causes. Even for Warren Buffet and Bill Gates and their history of philanthropy, the Giving Pledge is an impressive and admirable achievement. The people who’ve pledged their wealth will do so publicly and will choose their own areas for charitable work.
I find it hard not to compare contrast that with something I read earlier today. Mani Shankar Aiyar, who has become quite a devil’s advocate within the Congress of late, is one of the few people who seems to oppose the Commonwealth Games in principle, and not just after the epic mishandling of the current edition in Delhi (Rightly, I might add. The Commonwealth is the bunch of nations that were ruled by Britain. I see no reason we should celebrate the fact that we were fucked over by imperial Britain).
Aiyar was speaking at some seminar on the role of media in 21st century India. He points out that the 100,000 visitors to the CWG are likely to encounter only people in coats and ties; Not because Indians are prosperous, but because those who aren’t are being kept away from any places that the visitors to this country are likely to venture into. There have already been reports of the poor and homeless of Delhi being evicted, and streets of Delhi being ‘cleaned‘ of their vendors, so that the people visiting Delhi don’t have to even see, god forbid interact, with the poor of Delhi. This is to say nothing about places like the Jantar Mantar being delisted as places of political protest. (And these protests were for justice for the victims of Bhopal, 1984. You know, the people responsible for which disaster we wanted to extradite from the US not too long ago – we seem to have moved on, now, though. Forget rehabilitating the victims, or even letting them raise their voices. Pin the responsibility on somebody, and we can all sleep better).
“On their way to the Jawahar Lal Nehru stadium, they (the foreign visitors) should not chance upon those begging for livelihood at shrine of (Sufi saint) Nizamuddin Auliya,” Aiyar said, adding the “economic imbalance between the citizens and consumers is glaring”.
There seems to be atleast one sensible politician in the country. That this politician seems to have become a back-bencher in the Indian political scene, relegated to an honorary position in the Rajya Sabha is something we should be worried about.
If this is the Government’s (one that calls itself ‘democratic’ and ‘socialistic’) policy, perhaps one shouldn’t be surprised that India’s rich are among the least charitable people in the world, or that the costliest private residence in the world, the Ambani house, is going to come up at a cost of about 100 billion rupees in a city where there are some 7 million slum dwellers.