Social Cause: A Noble Cause or a Battle for Supremacy?

Social Cause: A Noble Cause or a Battle for Supremacy?

I have been thinking about this social sector that somehow I have come to be a part of. Suddenly it seems that everyone is out to change the world (including me!) and there is so much to change. It seems apt that India is becoming a fertile ground for the social sector to boom in. There are few countries who would match our levels of extremes- poverty beyond sub Saharan standards and a roaring economy which is adding millionaires by every minute. As per me, there must be a correlation between income inequality in a country and the number of NGOs. Only the rich can afford philanthropy and they need the poor to benefit out of their philanthropy . It is a quintessential market scenario where every product must have a demand.

Whatever the reason maybe, I see around myself all kinds of causes- you name it and someone is working on it, all kinds of people engaged in social/developmental work and popular media creating a buzz around “being the change”.

The causes are something that amuse me the most. I see people switching from cause to cause with equal enthusiasm each time convincing everyone that it is something they could die for TILL they find another one! While I do not mean that this makes them less honest about their work, its just different from a past generation of social workers who devoted their life to one big cause and everything that came around it. I myself am more like my generation who is likely to support everything good and take up any cause as the situation demands.

I have also felt this sense of unsaid competition among the causes- which cause is more niche (or even elite!). The talk about how many organizations are trying to teach the children/ work on health but there are few that are working on just this or just that or some new found problem that needs to be taken care of!

Everytime I sense it in the air, I hope I am imagining this unsaid competition!

Changing profile of people working in social sector is lending an accelerated dynamism to the field. While I was in school – the typical image of an NGO worker was that of a jhola chhaap guy, while today hotels and hip cafes serve as meeting places for many of our creed. As money flows into this sector- its obvious that the standard of living of the Jhola chhaaps has gone up too! And there are so many foriegners who have come to do their own bit – freely moving between socialite circles and their villages – their ability to adapt amazes me and their choice of life still surprises me.

Giving these people’s credibility is our popular media. It has made being a change agent fashionable. Whether advertisements are trying to sell a bike (Hum mein hain hero), a SIM card (Idea) or a Tea (Tata tea) – the hippest idea in town is it to make it about change, about leadership and self belief.

In the past two months, I have met atleast 4 people who are working on projects targeting young people and school children to sensitize them about the needs of the underprivileged and to inculcate leadership skills in them. While education was always meant to make people a function of the community and for the community – its strange that everyone seems to be coming to this realisation at one go!( I feel almost insecure that there are not going to be enough followers for the amount of leaders we are creating!)

Dynamic as this world of development sounds, I worry about what are we doing at the end of the day. No doubt that some of us are creating lasting impacts in our areas of work but we ever so often forget to talk to each other and keep reinventing the wheel! Some have taken such an anti-govt approach that they assume themsleves to be running parallel govts in their communities while others are so dependent on grants from the govt.

Its a circus out here and everyone is so tied up in their own act! Even though I am one of the performers- sometimes I myself am clueless on what the show is about!

PS: This is not about any particular organisation or individual(s). These are just my notes from what I see around me, would love to hear different thoughts on this.

Wake India Now

-Siddharth Arora

Its NOW or NEVER!!