40 American businessmen, led by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, have pledged to give away half of their fortune to charity. Who says the rich are spoilt, self-centered and want to grow only richer?
And we may dislike many things that stand for America, but when it comes to philanthropy I feel they win hands down. From the time of Benjamin Franklin, Americans have always displayed a philanthropic trait. It has been pointed out that American “voluntary associations” have their roots in the colonial era when people got together to solve their own problems or raise funds rather than rely on a government based in far-off England.
In comparison, India glaringly lacks such a tradition. Whatever charity work the rich undertake is slapdash and whimsical. Correct me if I am wrong, Mukesh Ambani is building the world’s most expensive private residence in Mumbai, where the mushrooming slums stick out like an ugly reminder of the rich and poor divide, but I haven’t heard his name being associated with charity and philanthropy, in a way the names of Bill Gates’ is. India’s charity contributions apparently account for only 0.6 per cent of the GDP, as compared to 2.2 per cent in the US.
The reason, I feel, is that we Indians not only want to secure our future and our children’s, but also the next few generations’! Compare this attitude with Warren Buffet’s saying, “I want to give my kids enough so that they could feel that they could do anything, but not so much that they could do nothing.”