PEOPLE
Volume 19 Number 4
India I Care
01 August 2006

IF ONLY WE LIVED IN A WORLD where people didn’t drop litter, tell lies, cheat... but we do.

IF ONLY WE LIVED IN A WORLD where people didn’t drop litter, tell lies, cheat... but we do. In India, however, a group of people involved with Initiatives of Change (IofC) have launched a national campaign to turn the tide against corruption, injustice, poverty and disregard for the environment.

India I Care (IIC) seeks to replenish what one might call the ‘Character Bank of India’. The campaign aims to encourage every individual to make an honest deposit (a pledge in the form of a decision or action) in the larger interest of the country.

People are encouraged to listen to their inner voice (or conscience) while making their decision, for example, ‘I will not give or accept bribes,’ or ‘I will not cheat in exams,’ or ‘I will keep my surroundings clean’. The idea is that slowly and surely, each deposit will add to this unique bank and shape India’s future.

The campaign aims to reach out to different sections of society but particularly political leaders, business people, media and youth. Some of the questions IIC wishes to raise are: What kind of India do we want? If I am not part of the solution, am I not part of the problem? The following examples illustrate the personal steps some have already taken:

Sarla sold her apartment in a plush Mumbai locality and insisted on collecting her payment by cheque. Had she accepted part payment in cash there would have been a difference between the property’s value on paper and the actual payment received. People do this to evade tax.

Neha, a student from Jamshedpur, refused to accept chits of answers given to each student during exams so that the school maintained its pass record.

Pilu, a Jharkhand-based villager who brewed country liquor realised he was supplying poison to his fellow people. He announced at a village meeting that he would stop. A small-scale industrialist present offered him employment so that he could provide for his family.

These stories show how some are silently making their contribution to India’s moral capital through selfless acts of courage and integrity. Many believe these streams of goodness will dry out unless each person pitches in.

Unlike a monetary bank, no withdrawals are allowed from the Character Bank of India. Rhea from Mumbai drives home the point: ‘Be like a stamp, stick till you deliver!’ Mayur from Baramati remarks: ‘India I Care is like a watchdog inside me, which alerts me every time I am about to go wrong. It shuts my mouth when I am about to blame others. It makes me reflect on what contribution I can make towards a better India.’

So far the campaign has had some encouraging outcomes. At a school in Allahabad, students adopted the IIC theme or their Republic Day celebrations and shared their decisions.

The IofC leadership training group, Action for Life 3, carried the IIC message across different parts of India. After a presentation at a college in Coimbatore, they helped students clean up the litter from a music show the previous night.

A session on IIC featuring songs, skits and sharing of deposits is now part of every programme held at India’s IofC centre in Panchgani. And a website for online deposits and other initiatives are on the anvil.

Twenty-one spirited men and women participated in the Mumbai Marathon Dream Run, raising funds for the IIC campaign. As someone once said, ‘When people change, nations change.’ The marathon has just begun! Any runners? And that’s a question for people outside India too.
Harish Rao


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