Friday, August 15, 2008

Capitalist Do-gooders and the People of Bhopal

THE CREATIVE Capitalist entering the social sector for the benefit of the poor in expectation of public recognition as a reward is a good idea.

Only if it works in the field.

The suggestion for effective checks and balances is to go for continuous evaluation, and publish reports for assessment in a transparent way.

Grand ideas indeed. Will ensure some good work for those experts too.

But let me try to give the example of a small project I had seen in a school in my home town: They were producing vegetables in the organic way and the students and teachers were involved in this humble project which ensured the school kitchen received good vegetables at affordable cost.

Then came the government into the scene: a minister landed with his entourage, news cameras and a big ceremony of digging, cutting ribbons, ceremonial planting of saplings, etc, was organized and the next day when the students went back to their garden what they saw was a place that looked as if it had been run over by a thousand elephants in heat...

I do not blame the minister who came with an army of hangers-on to the fragile garden. For him the public glow was the essential part of the show, because he thrived on it. And I do not blame a CC do-gooder doing the same, descending on a small project somehow being run by a small grassroots group with all their limitations, but also with some limited success and applauded only by those local people who are benefited out of it and without much media glare. But when a powerful international group enters the scene with its immense media control, money power and resources, and puts up such shows with an eye on the public glow, then it would be doom for those small grassroots level movements that are slowly seem to emerge in many parts of the world, caught in this whirlwind.

So what is the way out? I would suggest to identify ways how not to trample upon the small shoots, how to be careful and culturally sensitive; how to help local people do these things themselves. But can the global capitalist powerhouses be so sensitive? I am not sure, going by our past experience.

It is around 25 years since the people of Bhopal,India, were gassed by a global company but no one from this philanthropic, crocodile-tear-shedding giants in the West cared to teach a lesson to this particular company and stand up for those victims who suffered for so many years.


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Raza Rumi said...

What an excellent post.. I am reading the posts and enjoying my visit.
Thanks for frequenting the Pak Tea House!
cheers, Raza