Sunday, September 19, 2010

Joy of Giving Week

This is the Joy of Giving Week and one’s thoughts automatically go to the Canacona flood victims with their smashed houses and lives. There are many who were so moved by the devastation caused by the flood, the cause of which everyone is still unclear about. Purses and chequebooks came out in a rush and aid in the form of money, food, clothing, building materials and physical help, poured into Canacona.

There was no joy there, not in the giving; not in the receiving. It was just something that had to be done. And the shell-shocked recipients of the help took it mutely; still unable to wrap their minds around the suddenness of the deluge and the havoc it left behind. The crazy rushing waters had swelled the river to five times its depth. It swept everything in its path carrying large uprooted trees as if they were the lightest of twigs. One chunky macho local youth shook his head with remembered horror and said, “I never want to hear the sound of that water again, but I keep hearing it in my sleep.”

Indeed people gave generously. The media got the message out clearly and immediately with lots of photo-ops for all the politicians who rushed in struck an attitude and made wild promises to bring everything back to normal. NSS student volunteers did wonderful work and slowly tattered lives were put together.

Those who contributed generously to the Canacona Relief Fund should be doubly joyful, because they did not just contribute to the people of Canacona. They bought donation coupons of Rs 500 each (cash) and all those coupons, no one knows how much or how many, went in a different direction from Canacona. Some say the amount was Rs 12 lakh, some say it was Rs 22 lakh, there was one news syndicate that calculated it at a whopping Rs 85 lakh.

Which bank account it went into was a mystery, the number of the bank account was a mystery. A record of the bank account is a mystery, but the money is safe we are told. It was collected by the Youth Congress and the Youth Congress dutifully gave it to the Goa Pradesh Congress Committee, completely forgetting it was supposed to go to the desperate people of Canacona.

But as the spokesperson is reported to have said, there was so much aid pouring into Canacona, they did not need any more and that the money was not actually meant for Canacona; it was meant for help in any emergency. They stopped trotting out that line when they were shown a copy of the coupon which clearly mentioned the money collected was for the Canacona relief. Not any old emergency relief. It definitely did not say it was meant for Congress relief.

Should we be angry about this turn of events? Should we say: we’ve been robbed? No. Not at all. Our donations are going to be used by the nation’s oldest political party whose name typically begins with Con. And what a con it was, you have to admire the sheer gall of these people. Their damage control is even funnier.

GPCC President Subhash Shirodkar said except for Rs 20,000 for ‘relief work’ not a paise had been spent. He said they will find out how many Canconkars need help during Ganesh, and Diwali and they will distribute the money then, to needy persons. The Youth Congress will be doing the field work of finding out how many people of Canacona need help. And if there is money left over, why it will be used for other things...!

This is a lesson that should humble us and we have to be abjectly grateful to the Youth Congress and GPCC. They have taught us Life Lesson Number 7. When you give, give for the joy of giving, don’t follow up to check where the money is being used, how much is being used and how much is going into the personal accounts of fat cats.

I have taken a valuable lesson from this contretemps too. I have learned that the only way I can experience the Joy of Giving is to give one tight slap to liars and thieves who steal from the hopeless to feed themselves.

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