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Is charity a virtue or a vice? Anshu Gupta disputed the definition of charity in its original form to provide more dignity to those who earn it rather than those who give it. Explore this social entrepreneur’s mind-blowing dialogue at The xMonks Drive Podcast.
Gaurav: You know one thing which is very important to know about us is that we do not call handover material to people. I mean, rather we have been able to demolish or challenge the very concept of charity.
Anshu: There is no place in the world where charity sustained and the development happened. Charity sustains and development happens. The first thing the charity takes away from you is your dignity. And if you do not have a defined dignity, it is not a part of it. You can’t even think of development as absolutely simple. So this role out and free distribution, it can give you a very beautiful picture for Facebook and good data to the government or NGOs or individuals, but ultimately it will not solve any problem.
The other thing which we challenge is that, you know, there are demeaning words like donor beneficiary. The moment you start calling yourself a donor or giver, you create a platform for yourself. You create a bit for that person.
Because at the end of the day, the fact remains that you do not donate, you discard the waste that you have, okay?
Because this is something that you don’t need. And that is one of the reasons that 50-60% of your material actually comes absolutely dirty, without buttons, without soul, all that kind of thing. But a whole lot of people make sure that it is not discarded, it’s giving. So that’s where they really take care of the material and give it to us, but it’s still we say that it is not a donation. It’s just giving and let’s be thankful to the people who are using a secondhand material, because if those people do not exist, what are we going to do? And if you see so many other countries, which are so called developed nations, I don’t know why they call them that, but in certain aspects they are.
Gaurav: You have a beautiful quote from charity as well that it stirs the dignity of an individual. What’s that?
Anshu: If you talk about the village people, ultimately they move to the slums also. Because a set of village people not only in India, but across the globe, is their respect and their dignity.
You don’t find beggars in the villages. Begging is a typical city phenomenon. Begging happens in compulsion, not by choice.
When you force people, when you do not take care of people, when you do not arrange for even though roti is a very basic food or basic facilities, people migrate, people migrate in comfort. So that way even I migrated but I migrated by choice. But if you see 70-80% of the population of this country, they’re migrating by compulsion because we are not technical but they are very dignified.
There is no so we have no right to judge living their dignity by doing charity again and again.
I mean, one of the biggest problems with charity is that it takes away your dignity. Yeah. And if there is no dignity, there is no life. Today, the moment you see a kid not wearing good clothes, you make that kid a victim of charity.
You want to offer an ice cream then click a picture for your Facebook.
Gaurav: So on one hand, the society is actually recognising you for the good work that you are doing. And on the other hand, when you’re actually working at the grassroot level, there is a shift that you are going through as a person every single day. There’s something shifting inside you.
Could you recall a moment?
Anshu: So I mean, to be honest,to save a lot of churning. This is something I started questioning in a large number of my speaking engagements, when I put my hand before sleeping, and I asked myself that in the last 19 years, show me a hundred faces where life has changed with all of us.
I’m just not getting it. And then you come to this large word of the conference and seminar, data and full page articles, editorials and impact articles.
And because now I’m also part of many jurors for the awards, you know, and you see those entries and then you find the cover pages claiming that a hundred thousand lives changed almost every cover page and the moments and so many other NGOs and CSR became much, much more than that. So I’m really trying to understand that in my life, I’m not even able to change my own life.
A lot of us want to see some light at the end of the tunnel. And we are still looking for that. That may be very upfront, very honest, whether people like it or not, because there is no fun in living in false hope or creating false hope for yourself. Because if you have, you have decided to live in a certain way.
Gaurav: I’m curious, when you started, you started with the clothes, why?
Anshu: How do you decide that the person is poor? Or rich? Unfortunate but this is the first visible sign of you or me. Or power. And that’s how we judge people. That’s what we did.
That is how far empathy and consciousness takes us. Listen to Anshu more on the xMonks Drive Podcast. The world will not exist if we can not come together and help each other.
Anshu Gupta is an Indian social entrepreneur who founded Goonj, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) headquartered in Delhi.
Gupta is an Ashoka fellow and was conferred with “Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award ” by Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship in 2012. He won the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2015. Rewriting many rules of the development sector Anshu made the masses his prime focus – not only as givers and receivers of material but also as the prime source of money, skills and services. He also structured imaginative solutions with urban surplus, to some basic but neglected needs outside the radar of the development sector and the civil society.
Over the years as Goonj garnered major awards, including World Bank’s Development Marketplace award and NASA’s Launch award, Anshu also won recognition as an Ashoka and Schwab Fellow while he was also listed as one of India’s top social entrepreneurs by Forbes Magazine and Fast Company.
Now Anshu is focused on global replication of his model to bridge the massive gap of social and economic inequities between urban prosperity and rural poverty. He speaks extensively on national and international forums to instigate urban and rural masses to engage more deeply with the issues faced by the society.
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22nd Sept, 2021
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