Special Feature

December, 2002
Most of us - Indians living outside or in India - would have helped some souls or many in distress, either directly or through organisations. Well and good. We have made some difference to alleviating misery. However, no matter what worthwhile projects we support , they still remain a drop in the ocean, compared to the scale of the problem of poverty/human development in India.

Let us do a back-of-the-envelope calculation. Assume that there are 100,000 Non-government organisations (NGO) in India and that each of them, in some fashion, is able to take care of all needs of an individual - food, shelter, clothing, education and health - for up to 50 individuals. That works out to 50 lakhs of individuals. Further, there are self-help groups today that are doing well. There are institutions that are not exactly NGOs but non-profit organisations or have objectives that are both commercial and social. Let us assume that they take care of additional 50 lakhs of individuals. May be, I am too pessimistic. Let us double this number. So, we have two crores of individuals taken care of by private initiatives. What is the proportion of this to the total population that is deprived of some or the other essential in life?

Indian population is about 100 crores. Let us assume that nearly 40 crores do not have any of the above problems. That leaves us with 60 crores. Now, if we have two crores out of sixty taken care of by private initiatives, it is about 3.3% of the population. About 96% of the population...

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