The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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A different scheme for donations

A direct-selling agent comes knocking on your door. But it is not credit cards or insurance on offer. The agent’s trump card is a donation package that allows one to contribute towards riot victims in Gujarat, Dalits and HIV-positive people, while getting a holiday package, free life insurance and tax cuts.

Action Aid India launched a unique concept in charity on Tuesday. To give concerned citizens further incentive to invest in the nation’s marginalised masses, the Karm Mitra programme offers donors a host of material benefits, supported by corporates like ICICI, Om Kotak Mahindra and Reliance.

So, against a donation of, say, Rs 5,000, the benefactor receives a 50 per cent tax deduction. He or she is also entitled to free life insurance policies, credit cards, holiday packages and concert, film and theatre tickets.

Children from an Action Aid Calcutta project and women representing Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee handed over a member card to actress-activist Nafisa Ali, designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee and danseuse Tanushree Shankar at ITC Sonar Bangla during the launch.

“We hope to reach out to individual funds through this scheme,” explains Jeroninio Almeida, chief executive, Action Aid India. The target, till December 2004, is “15,000-20,000” supporters, for the creation of a Rs 15-crore corpus. The NGO believes this is a realisable figure, particularly with the support of the middle class, who it hopes to reach out to through “multi-level marketing”. Already, since the October 26 Delhi launch of Karm Mitra, “cheques have been pouring in”, adds Almeida.

Low administration costs and complete transparency differentiate this donation scheme from that of other NGOs, stress officials. At the end of the first year, supporters also have the chance to visit projects that his or her money has gone towards. Karm Mitra members are given one of four cards — gold, silver, bronze and copper — depending on the amount committed. They are also free to waive any of the privileges.

Nafisa Ali, a brand ambassador for the NGO, spoke out strongly on the need for continued intervention in one of Action Aid’s project areas, riot-torn Gujarat. “I have visited all the riot-affected families in the area… I was very hurt by the disregard of the Narendra Modi government,” says Ali. She has also started a trust, Action India, which runs a shelter for HIV-positive patients near Delhi. In fact, part of the proceeds from an R.D. Burman tribute concert in Calcutta this January — for which Karm Mitra members will get free passes — will go to that cause, under the Action Aid umbrella.

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