There is an inspiring quote from Billy Graham: “God has given us two hands -- one to receive with and the other to give with. We are not cisterns made for hoarding; we are channels made for sharing.” Unfortunately, many end up receiving and grabbing with both hands; refusing to give with either of the hands. It is this culture of “everything for me, nothing for others” which has become the bane of modern society. But there are beacons everywhere; guiding lights who take paths less treaded by people. Information Technology major Wipro’s founder Azim Premji is one of them. Last week he announced that Rs. 52, 753 crore, which is earnings from 34 per cent of his shares, will be transferred to charity works.
He is not alone in walking the talk in philanthropy. He has counterparts, across the globe, in Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Mark Zukerburg, Nandan Nilekani and his wife Rohini, Narayan Murthy and his wife Sudha, and many more. Apart from these people who are known because they are in recognized list of philanthropists, there are innumerable little known or unknown faces who lend a helping hand. Philanthropy is a state of mind. One does not become a philanthropist merely because he is immensely rich. The determining factor is the willing to share from what one has. Lack of willingness to part with a portion of one’s wealth can make even a billionaire turn a blind eye to charity works.
The relevance of philanthropy is gaining momentum in India as the gap between the rich and the poor is widening. The latest figures show that India has the third largest number of billionaires in the world, with the US and China holding the top two positions. The number of billionaires added to the list in the last couple of years shows that a few at the top have been able to reap the benefits of liberalization in the country while most have been left out. It becomes incumbent upon the ‘super rich’ to become open-hearted and loosen purse strings to allot more funds for charity works.
Every business house, under the law on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), is supposed to set apart a part of its profit for activities including eradicating hunger, poverty and malnutrition; rural development; slum development; promoting preventive health care and sanitation; and many more. However, reports suggest that several companies divert those funds for business development, taking recourse to liberal interpretation of CSR. There are also corporate tycoons who splurge money in building sky-rise residences, conducting lavish marriages costing billions and gifting jumbo jets to kith and kin. They should take a leaf out of the life of business leaders like Azim Premji.
As some of the top-notch business leaders show the way in mitigating the sufferings of those at the bottom of the society, the Church cannot lag behind. It has been the pioneer in social work and promoting education and health among the marginalized. But the recent craze for building palatial worshipping places or setting up institutions has raised doubts in public minds whether the Church is deviating from its commitment to the poor. There is no greater worship than serving the needy. There is no better ritual than rendering a helping hand to the deprived. Church has been a torch-bearer in this field. It should not deviate from this noble goal. The world needs more Premjis and Bill Gates as the task at hand is growing enormously.(Published on 25th March 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 13)