Wednesday, 7 January 2009

When faced with poverty ...

One thing that I have wondered during this last trip to the Indian Subcontinent is this: what is the best course of action to take when faced with abject poverty, when you want to do something about it?
Some people in Delhi building a small police station. We watched them as we ate a meal that was probably worth more than they all earned in a day.

On one hand, many people argue that it's not a good idea to give to beggars , as it encourages the negative activity. Instead, they argue, one should donate money to an established charity, so the beggars may benefit indirectly from your money. Another course of action is to volunteer your services to help the poor, perhaps work in an orphanage for a while or build a school. On the other hand, some people argue that it's best just to give to the beggars. That way you are certain that the money goes to the person right in front of you. I haven't quite decided what I think yet.

A Tibetan refugee making handicrafts in Nepal.

Inside an auto-rickshaw in Agra. From what we understand the owners buy the rickshaw from the government and pay for a license then are able to pocket their earnings

In India, Tane and I decided not to give to beggars but to pour as much money into the local economy as we could afford. For example, once we knew we weren't going to blow our budget we decided not to haggle when all we stood to gain was an amount we'd spend without thinking in London. We tipped for good service, took local transport, and while we didn't want to be ripped off by locals, tried to keep in perspective what being ripped off meant. Sure, we paid 20 rupees too much for a rickshaw, but that's only 36p to me and unlike the rickshaw driver I don't have a high chance of contracting TB at a young age due to the nature of my work. I could lose 36p down the back of the sofa and probably not notice.

A rickshaw driver in Jaipur

What do you think when you are confronted with poverty? What do you do?

1 comment:

Ryan Kennedy said...

I give them whatever they ask for, unless they look obviously strung out looking for a fix, or are asking for cigarettes I don't have.

The other thing I do is try to find out the cause of the poverty and try to educate people about that. On India particularly Arundhati Roy has written and spoken extensively about the caste system being the root cause of India's poverty.