The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Elite. It is a word that provokes negative reactions from all those who claim they are the do-gooders for society. Social abuse today is calling someone 'elitist'. All those who question, contradict or confront such 'do gooders' and their 'views', are deemed unfit for discourse by this particular breed of people. Anyone questioning their world, the work of NGOs and their equivalent, are damned 'the elite'.

Governments thrive on this kind of division in the ranks outside of government. To strengthen their own hands they have co-opted many non-governmental agencies and institutions by asking them to head task forces on specific issues, by putting them on advisory boards and councils, as heads of institutions, and such like. They have, in a subtle manner, absorbed these people by making them believe that they are in fact playing a critical role in influencing policy. NGOs have been made to feel that they are an indispensable and critical part of the process of governance. Their strut and body language exposes them. Soon they too will have red lights atop their cars.

A majority of these NGOs live on international dole, often from agencies of foreign governments, which they call 'funding'. By adding the word 'development', they believe the have made a great contribution to the underprivileged in this country. Heads of these foundations draw salaries that are, by any stretch of imagination, akin to those in the corporate sector. Within a decade many such heads are able to buy property, educate their children abroad and indulge in all that the elite and their children do. Many traipse around the world during the hot summer, 'lecturing' on X Y and Z as 'guests' of some institution or agency. With accumulated miles on their club class travel, ostensibly on 'work', they manage to carry the family across continents free. Great. But why abuse those who earn the same privilege by hard work and, most important, by taking risks' Why do these 'do-gooders' aspire to ape the elite' Why are they ridden with complexes' Is their true aspiration the same as the free marketwallahs who are motivated to make money and better themselves' The only difference is that the elite were never on any dole.

As poor as ever

In India, politicians are on the dole, government functionaries are on the dole, non- government do gooders are on the dole. Those in society who work and earn in the competitive and commercial space, and whose taxes help support all these different social 'types', are damned. All these chaps living on the dole, on varying kinds of dole, are imposing their archaic mindset on this country and preventing it from asserting and moving forward. The imposition of their selfish values on a young nation where a majority of citizens are under 35 years of age is bad news. This is India 2005.

Voices from outside are there to question, to warn, to expose. It is for governments to act. Both have a part to play in the theatre of governance. If this does not happen, the polarization that is bound to develop will lead to anarchic protest. That will set us back a few more decades. It is time to invade the intellectual space, to sow the seeds and nurture the intellectual elite, to generate fresh ideas, methodologies and solutions outside of the tired rhetoric that has overwhelmed us as we chant the mantra of lets-help-the-poor. We are compelling the poor to remain poor as we throw the shuttle across the frayed warp and weft.

Supporting the needs of the less privileged must be our first priority. Not by dole but by providing them with the infrastructure that is essential for dignified living. Enough chatter and enough of manifesto promises. It is time the prime minister headed a task force to ensure that all monies go where they are meant to. Manmohan Singh should make this his number one agenda. The rest can wait.

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