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Lending hands to someone is better than giving a dole

While moving through the narrow lanes in the small village of Korba in Uttar Pradesh, the sight of youth sitting idle at home, who at this time should have been either studying or doing  a job, was worrisome. Under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act(MGNREGA), people who didn’t get job for the whole 100 days got “free allowances”, which made their slothful and indolent, reluctant to find job, study or increase their skill. Clearly,this scheme wasn’t actually lending a hand, but was actually proving to be a dole.

Let’s try to comprehend the meaning of this statement. “Lending hands” in literal sense is supporting someone. This support may be in the form of consoling wordsimplementation of schemes on ground level, instilling faith by providing basics (education and health),empowerment,humanitarian support and technical assistance. The second part of the statement says “better than giving a dole”. Dole here means “grant“, an “allowance” or a “benefit” being transferred basically understood in economic terms. The following write-up will find an interconnection between the two statements, and look for different aspects including economy.

First,let’s try to look into history about how this statement holds water. Despite the plight that the Women and Dalits had to face in the Indian society, Gandhi made sure they participated in Non Cooperation Movements. This idea evolved not only by announcing the fight against the colonists, but by making sure women and dalits were accepted by the majority. The impetus to national feeling wasn’t evolved as a dole(for free), but it took Gandhi’s helping hand to invoke that feeling in them.He himself did the works of the harijans and fought for the rights of women.

After independence, reservation was provided for a period of 10 years on the premise that the dalits had suffered years of  injustice, grief and dejection. But little focus was given on empowering them. Result? Reservation still continues, not for the betterment, but for vote-bank politics.

In the present national context, while the 14th Finance Commission recommended for the devolution of power and revenue to the state government, the other necessary budgetary allotments like for health and education along with maintenance of biodiversity was cut to eliminate duplication of efforts and hence putting oil in the fire already burning. But what the GOI forgot was that most of these benefits needed an expertise. Teacher training, capacity building and opening  new government colleges for future doctors, necessary recruitment for the trained teachers was their work, they have been failing in these.The solution lies in the problem itself.

Apparently, India’s poverty index is calculated on a very narrow basis i.e the family income. While it may be one of the basic parameters, it doesn’t count the people who are “extremely poor”, those who can’t even think of earning because of their infallibility to move, due to social depreciation or due to low confidence. We call this strata the “pauperists”. What did the government do? They went for Public Distribution system. This effort of the government, though a welcome step, proliferated the infallibility of the poor to come out of misery, because now they were getting food without working for it. Can we think of eliminating pauperism merely by giving them food, or instead instilling confidence in them?

Apparently,the government is focusing on Direct Benefit Transfer(DBT). Although a good step, it may be utilized by households for non-food purposes and end result will be adding to malnutrition. Increased responsibility towards health, higher education and marriage of a girl and hence dowry eliminates the basic idea behind DBT, it is instead pushing people towards more miseries and more debt traps. The solution lies in changing the mindset of sahukars, and not merely giving money to the poor. Dalit Capitalism is on a rise and Dalit India Chamber of Commerce and Industry is focusing on Dalit entrepreneurship to socially uplift them and pave a way to end caste discrimination.

Thankfully, there has been a paradigm shift in the thinking of government and now it focuses more on making “job befactors” rather than “job appellants”.The coming up of SETU, Start up and Stand Up India has enabled this. Government is now focusing on research and technology driven start-up’s and hence working on giving an enabling environment for these and also techno-financial benefits and incubation centers are being started. But the solution isn’t only about giving these “benefits” but making sure the funds are actually allotted, there are no bottlenecks and there is a commissioner in place to look for the loopholes in the system.

Moving on, nowadays there has been a rising fudge about how women have been denied cultural rights and how they are not allowed to enter the temple to offer the praying to the deities. The constitution, although under Article 15 calls for the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of gender, and Articles 25-28 talk of right to freedom of religion and its practices, they are denied equal rights. Why this discrimination that too in a country where women is worshiped as Durga and Kali? The solution is not in giving provision in the articles under the constitution, or setting up of National and state commissions, but the solution is in changing the “mindset” of the people, so as to make sure patriarchy is uprooted.

How can this be done? Many recent surveys reveal that as the inclusion of women into the Panchayati Raj Institutions increased, there was a steep decline in the cases adjoining domestic violence, alcoholism, dowry and child marriages went down. So, empowering women is a solution. The same goes for the menace of child labor. Although various laws in place to eradicate child slavery, the real solution is in providing education to the children and maybe some pension schemes for the families who are forced to send their children to work for living.

Moving on,at the Banking level, Priority Sector Lending quota is a way to penetrate the financial support by the banks to the rural areas, but banks shift it towards NABARD and SIDBI to reduce risks.So basically, there is an enabled provision but their but no ground implementation. Similarly, Indira Awas Yojana aims at free housing for the poor, but their is corruption in allotment processes,lobbying issues.So lot of poor become mere pavement dwellers. They want to make smart cities but they don’t want poor to reside there.

For coping with the aftermaths of disasters, National Disaster Relief Force (NDRF) was made and various agencies took power. Funds allotment took place at various level. But no nodal agencies was made which could integrate the works of the various departments, which leads to duplication of efforts, leakages and delays in field work. Also, much of the amount is spent on post-crisis management, the bulk expenditure of which could have been used for better plan of basic reduction risk infrastructure. The solution lies in a better framework for technical assistance to prevent the disasters instead of focusing on mitigation.

For curbing corruption, a legal framework was made and acts like Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA) was enacted. But instead of just giving the PCA, enforcement procedure needs to be focused on. Even though there is a code of conduct of various government official levels, but there has been no commission officer in place to punish the wrong-doers. So even though means is provided, the “helping hand”( in this case a commissioner from the house of legislature) isn’t provided.

Internationally, there is a focus more on “long term investments”, on “soft loans” rather than donations. Japan’s assistance to India with a soft loan worth a $100 Billion to build the Bullet, or be USA’s assistance to Vietnam and China’s building of Chabadar port in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir(POK), isn’t merely a “dole” but a “helping hand” by giving technical assistance and “special status” for trade too, though with a more focused motive of long term interest.

Similarly, during the earthquakes in Nepal, India was one of the first countries to provide the relief funds and the Indian Army was the first to give assistance for evacuation and rescue operations. Was monetary help the only way for showing out empathy for the misshaping? No. Apparently, the humanitarian support that was provided by Indian Army was much appreciated both by Nepal and around the world. Mere dole wouldn’t have increased this reputation of India.

Thus, we saw that the solution doesn’t merely lie in allotting funds for a particular work, but it has a social, humanitarian and political motive that needs to be connected too. The solution isn’t merely giving money, the solution is finding a long term measure. The government shouldn’t merely be focusing on how “laws” are made, but how they are “implemented”, not on how much “money” is given, but how they “earn” it themselves, not on how “reservation” should empower, but on how “instilling faith” would help us eliminate the menace due to reservation, not on how they get the “free money”, but on how they “give money” to others.