How to take social action on Literacy and Health?

Literacy and healthcare in India are in rampant shambles – this much is not up for debate today. At multiple levels of the democratic government, there is a severe dilution in attempts to tackle these critical issues, as a consequence of a culture of woefully narrow-minded thinking and reckless voting. In a large number of states, elections are swung more by promises of freebies, and hardened division lines over religion and/or caste – which are reflected in the ruling parties not deeming it a priority to work on grass-root level education and healthcare. And we are only speaking of the quantity here – numbers of literate people, mortality rates, etc. Quality is another discussion altogether, vital – but a bridge we have probably not reached yet.

The Indian government estimates that 22% of its population falls below the poverty line – Rs. 27,000 per annum (which translates to a ridiculous Rs. 75 per day). The demographic breakup of this 22% is primarily constituted by rural landless labourers, urban citizens operating in informal sector labour and the destitute unemployed. Rest assured that if you cannot cobble together Rs. 75 a day, you cannot possibly afford as much as paracetamol, never mind private sector hospitals. You also cannot afford to pay to educate your children, ensuring in effect that they do not receive the kind of employment that vaults them over the BPL.

Now public education, public healthcare – these issues only affect someone who cannot afford private sector remedies for the same, yes? Why must the millennial child born to a family that owns two cars and an apartment bother at all? Why the white collared gent in his air must conditioned office care? The truth is, maintenance of this status quo is a direct contribution to the woeful narrow-mindedness and reckless voting that has made Indian governments so reluctant to genuinely legislate to serve their people. And that is only if you choose to ignore the real people, flesh and blood who are condemned to live through absolutely squalid poverty with bottomless pits of loans and poor health while encased from above by glass ceilings.

What can be done to buck these trends? As a responsible citizen, what avenue of response offers some solution to these problems? Activism in India is a remarkably difficult field to venture into, and requires long hours and endless patience to produce results. And while it is undoubtedly crucial, it is not readily accessible to the average middle class Indian juggling a job/education and family. In response to this – a large number of organisations have mushroomed, to offer the concerned citizen a platform to serve society without having to work full time to create that change. These organizations encompass right to education as their primary working arena.

By educating a child we contribute towards the economic growth of the country. Increase in literacy is directly proportionate to better health and better health contributes to higher GDP by reducing sick leaves, ensuring healthy working environment etc. Under Right to Education Act, by imparting education to every child, we increase informative attitude and make people more aware of themselves. Thus, investment in literacy would by default augment health conditions.

Education plays a substantial role in every sphere of life. Right to Education is a great initiative by the government to augment literacy rate and eradicate child labour from the country. Thus, the vision and mission of the organizations thrived to bring a change in the society encompasses of educating children.

The fundamental equation in this kind of operation is beautifully simplistic. A large amount of man-force is required as a primary resource in tackling these problems. However, this cannot be tackled like a corporate would approach it. For one, capital is sparse – full time employees are hard to afford. These organisations appeal to citizens to volunteer their time, and accumulate man-force through sheer numbers, without having to spend to achieve this. As a result, these organisations cut costs at unprecedented levels and deliver solutions at a fraction of the rate that it would take a corporate or a governmental organisation.

Certain other organisations that exist in this very sector consciously follow a different model. In order to engage far more rigorously with the problems at hand, they choose to provide salaried positions – and demand the commitment of a full time employee. These too are Not for Profit, they are dependent on fundraising to survive and function. By providing a salaried position however, they provide people an opportunity to dedicate their professional lives to some improving ground realities in this country. The fact that this provides a meaningful work and a stable job makes this a very lucrative chance for people genuinely interested in making a difference.

Besides this, there are a group of organisations that work in the field of providing platforms to those who choose to tackle problems related to social justice, by providing the kind of financial and logistical support that is often hard to muster for someone starting out in the sector. By incubating these new initiatives and helping them streamline their processes using experience in the field, these organisations make available the know-how required to successfully approach an issue for someone who just has a basic idea in mind.

Overall, there are a number of choices available to the citizen who wants to help his community, especially in fields as primary as education and healthcare. By providing one’s own time – we also make a crucial statement, that this problem demands our attention, and our presence. Kids out there in shelter homes and on streets don’t need our sympathies and materialistic donations. All they need is our personal attention, mentoring, emotional support and above all education. A little time invested in a child can make a huge difference. So, next time make a wise choice between materialistic donations or few hours of productivity?

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