Sunday, July 26, 2009
DON'T PREACH MR. PAUL BECKETT, LEARN
Don’t preach, Mr. Beckett. Learn
It is interesting that even in this era of decentralized information some people do not hesitate to spread cultural stereotypes they have inherited from their colonial past. Paul Beckett’s writing “India's Rich, Open Your Wallets” is one such example.
He writes about the “lack of dramatic, sustained, well-organized individual giving – practically a competitive sport in U.S. business circles” which he states is sadly conspicuous by its absence in India. Tax avoidance is at least a partial motivation for large charities in the U.S.
But, had the writer bothered to look into annals of history, he would have discovered that long before Bill Gates, Tata, the forerunner of Indian industries, popularized the motto of “Give back what you get”. Even during the colonial regime, which discouraged science and technology studies in India, Tata inspired by the nationalist monk Vivekananda, founded the Indian Institute of Science, which is today a national monument of excellence. How much does that account for “dramatic, sustained, well-organized individual giving” Mr. Beckett? The tradition continues. In 2004, Tata alone spent Rs 450 million on social services. It is not just Tata but also others. For example, Birla group also excels in such acts of “sustained well-organized individual giving” – like for example Priyamvada Birla Aravind Eye Hospital inaugurated last year at Kolkata that is performing every month 1000 eye surgeries of which 750 are free.
That said let us also remember that long before open-source and Microsoft’s war on open-source, that now belongs to the annals of software mythologies, India has fostered a tradition of open-source in vital areas of humanitarian technology.
Jaipur Foot technology brings legs to 20,000 leg amputees every year. It was invented by an unskilled Master Ramachandra of Jaipur-based Jain NGO which had not taken any patent of their light and flexible artificial legs. In the developing countries where the colonial narratives and stereotypes have nurtured countless conflicts which claim limbs of toddlers through landmines, patent less artificial limbs have become a blessing. Let me be more specific for Mr. Beckett's edification
Right in Afghanistan where US troops bomb the Taliban (who were the Frankenstein created by the “dramatic, sustained, well-organized” charity of CIA of course), these so un-American and so Indian open-source no-patent artificial limbs bring smile and lives back to natives who have lost their legs to landmines the conflicts US-USSR meddling created in the first place. In fact this open-sourcing of humanitarian technology with no hidden economic or theological costs is uniquely Indian ethos. For example, the reluctance for holding patents that Indian scientist Jagadish Chandra Bose exhibited is embedded today in the value system of Bose Institute of Science. Incidentally it is Bose institute which pioneered in the discovery of Cholera Toxin leading to the breakthrough in understanding of the molecular mechanism of toxin-receptor interaction in microbial pathogenesis, thus saving millions of human lives in developing countries.
Now instead of shifting the blames for colonial impoverishments on the so-called “Hindu rate of growth” and offering unsolicited lectures on “dramatic, sustained, well-organized individual giving” to Indians, Beckett would do well to ask his US companies and charities to take a lesson or two from the Hindu ethos of open-source humanitarian service to fellow humanity and not the so-called “I, the rich lucky Yankee me, give the poor damned you of the third world” charity.
Now that is a lesson Bill Gates could have taken very well from India and that would have saved him from the despairs and defeats he had in trying to quell the open-source onslaught on Microsoft.
-S. Aravindan Neelakandan
Editor's comment: India sincerely appreciates the generosity of Bill Gates, who is not hopefully
arrogant and condescending like Mr. Paul Beckett.