I believe that, Religion and or, Religious traditions in India, could be an obstacle to its development, both economically and, financially.
I shall not get down to naming the religious beliefs , since that might be offensive, after all, I am an Indian myself. However, what I want to highlight today, are some facts, which I have gathered from my very own experiences. An average Indian today, has a list of complains against our politicians (mark my words please, I mentioned 'politician' since India has not produced any leader since decades), for being the reason for corruption, poverty, weak economy (or slow moving and even no moving economy), unemployment, etc. etc. and the list could go on. Ask the same people, what initiatives have they taken to work on any of those in order to contribute towards the development of firstly; our individual self, and thereon the society? The answer most likely we might get is 'none'. Since most of us Indians love to move that blame to our politicians or even to others, instead.
Lets try to get some stats to prove my point and lets start with poverty.
Can money eradicate poverty? Yes and No. Yes, because in the short term it can, No, because in the long term when the money is used up, we will be back to the same square. Investing the money into an organized infrastructure may help eradicate poverty. Firstly, educating the people, which is most important and by education, I do not mean teaching the people from the village A, B, C, D ... or 1 + 1 = 2 or even English speaking skills to make them believe that, by talking in English you become educated. With education, I mean, teaching them professional skills. Skills through which, they can develop themselves as a person and, start their very own independent small scale project, through which they can create employment for others and, thus, create more opportunities for developing other individuals and thus, developing our society.
Our next question probably would be, where will we get the money from and, who has the time to do all that?
Well here we can use some math and stats. An average Indian sends more than Re. 1, per week, (that is probably a fraction of the amount I mentioned, because personally, I know that, there are people, who spend much, much, much more) into charity in the name of God, and donate that amount to Temples (for the Hindus) while Gurudwaras for the Sikhs etc. if we do a simple math here, an average of Rs. 5 per Indian would make some Rs. 5 billion per weak, which makes it around Rs. 20 billion per month and around Rs. 240 billion per annum, absolutely on the lower side, as I had clearly mentioned, earlier that, I personally know people, who charity much, much more in the name of God .. .and charity every day! Now I am sure you will agree with me but thats a lot of money to develop a whole nation of 1 billion people!
Whereas, most of that money feeds a few families of the priests, who are caretakers of the temples and, who further, encourage people to continue with their donation, even more in the name of God and thus the cycle of donation continues. Millions of rupees are used to first build a temple and then to decorate it, while we have home less people and children, right into the heart of Mumbai, the 'capital of the financial market of India'.
Lets share some examples please;
The amount of milk which is used to wash A God, just a part of his body, per day, would be enough to feed the starving children in Africa, lets forget the Children of Africa (sorry Africans, I have nothing against you, just using an example here), it would feed the starving street children in India itself! And still there will be millions of gallons left, to export to other deserving countries, which will bring in revenues, to add on towards the funds which can be used for the development of our own projects.
The amount of food which is offered, not in the name of God, but to the God itself, I mean to the stone or the wooden idol, for e.g. on Saturdays many people charity 'dal' (pulses - which we can actually cook and eat) in the feet of a particular God, together with some other essentials for e.g. oil (which can be used for cooking, heating etc.) and some more eatables. Average people willingly charity around 100 gm of dal, per person per week, once again, I personally know people, who charity much more, probably in kg. And excuse me, I had mentioned about offerings to just one particular God, on a particular day of the weak. We have at-least more than 10 Gods and Goddesses for sure and, 7 days in a week. So if we were to actually look into the daily offerings, I am sure the total sum of food we charity to the God itself, will be HUGE in numbers and, if we were to go with simple math & stats here, once again, at the end of our calculations, we will come to a figure, which would be huge enough to ration to the poor or maybe even the whole nation, probably for the whole year!
The fear of God's punishment is so strong, and with every visit to the priest, it becomes even more stronger that, people continue with their practice of their prayers and offerings and guess who is to benefit from all this?
I can continue with several more such examples, but, I guess its time to look into some other facts & figures.
Together with money, we need time also, to invest, into the development of an individual. While in Rotaract, I learnt one beautiful way of sharing education 'Each one, teach one'. For sure if we were to ask most Indians, or to be more precise, the educated Indians, to teach one person a day, the very favorable answer will be 'I don't have the time'. Whereas, an average Indian spends more than 1 hour per day, in prayers and once again, I personally know people, who spend more hours, some even spend around 4 to 5 hours per day, not in one continues sitting though, but in different sessions! Those many hours praying to the God, to make sure that, their sins in our last birth are forgiven, their sins in this life are forgiven and they are blessed with a good life after death!
But I say 'why sin at all'? Lets not sin and then we don't need to go asking God for forgiveness! We can make use of that time, or just about 30 minutes per day to teach one person a day! By the end of the first year, probably, we will have a nation full of educated people who will be self motivated, will have respect for each other, will have the ability to work on their own and thus provide an opportunity for others and, development will actually happen!
Is that hypocrisy?
People, especially men, of all age, and caste, kneel down to the Goddess to offer their prayers and offerings, yet, women in India are raped and molested often! And, if we were to check the numbers, it is on the rise for sure! Women are treated as a sex machine or a child making machine, especially in the Northern India, where there is such a strong belief that, a woman MUST GIVE BIRTH TO A SON, in order to bring prosperity to the family, and that better be the first child itself and even the second. A DAUGHTER IS NOT WELCOME, in fact, we have gone so far that, we have doctors, who have sign-boards out of their private nursing homes, which clearly advertise 'Abortion is done here' 'Abortion in one day, come in the morning and return the same day' ... etc. (I know thats not a very exciting ad liner, but thats what I can remember as of now, since its been almost a year, I last visited India).
People have the money to charity to God and time to pray, but, do not believe into forming up a foundation, and teaming together to act towards the development of an individual. Because, its that development of one individual, which will lead into the development of our society and thus, make our nation developed.
I am proud to say that, I have been a very active Rotaractor in the past and, still have a zeal to pursue working with a foundation with a strong cause. So if I were to actually develop one such foundation, how many of our Indian friends would charity, in order to achieve an objective as detailed above?
Contributed by: Mohinder Pal Singh
Date: May 5, 2010