sustainable not charitable

Charity needs to be sustainable was the headline of a recent article in a leading magazine. Needless to say it caught my eye and I hastened to read it. It was an interview with a top honcho, a lady at that, who shared her view about CSR about charity. For her charity was a redundant term because it is a 'one-time' gesture and unsustainable. More power to you lady! I read on and could not but smile as once again it seemed our tale of forgotten biscuits was being revisited.

Ms Bali wants to make her biscuits healthier by fortifying them so as to fight rampant malnutrition 'covertly'. Hence everyone who consumes the biscuits made by her company, and they are consumed by a large cross section of society, would be 'healthier'! As she says: Our products are available throughout India. And, by fortifying them, if we are making them accessible to a large mass of people, we are not solving India's malnutrition problem, but we are contributing to alleviating it. That is what she means by social corporate sustainability a new mantra I presume. Good wishes to her. I will not debate the issue here as this is not the aim of this blog. CSR has always been my 'bete noire' and I am yet to comprehend its true motives. I do wonder how enriching biscuits that are then sold amounts to CSR. But I agree with Ms Bali on the fact that charity has to be sustainable and not a one time gesture.

When we sought help to launch and sustain our nutritive biscuits programme, targeted mainly at the beggar children of our city, we were hoping to address the child beggar issue by making the business of begging non-sustainable. If one gave a biscuit instead of the expected coin maybe the handlers and mafia would look for other more lucrative ways. In the bargain you also gave nutrition; a real win-win situation. But sadly it did not work out for reasons I am yet to fathom.

The same happened with our rupee a day programme where we hoped to tap in the one perennial resource of our land: the numbers of people. What we asked was something that each and everyone could part with as one rupee got you nothing, not even a cup of tea. The idea was to make everyone a donor and make everyone participate in bettering the morrows of others. And it seemed so doable as all we were looking for at that time was 4000 such donors. In a land of a billion it seemed simple. But again we failed. And again I do not know why. It seemed so logical.

This has been my battle for 10 long years, a battle I am still nowhere near winning. Right from the outset, when I was handed over my first donation, I knew that this was just a temporary phase and that we would have to look at long term sustainability. The idea of depending on others is neither acceptable nor feasible. Planet Why still seems very elusive as we wait for the expert validation. And where it to go our way, the whole project is daunting in more ways than one. The other side of the spectrum is the tried and tested corpus fund, something I have always abhorred. But has not pwhy been a personal journey of getting over my own bete noires. What is at stake is too precious: the morrows of children and their dreams. So help me God!