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RangDe.org – Make your Social Investment Today

26 Jul

RangDe.org is a non-profit organization that focuses on providing Microloans (aka Microcredits) to the needy Indians living in village places to setup their small business thereby improving their lives. It is an amazing concept that works instantly the moment you decide to be part of the same. Just imagine the feeling of helping a poor family from a remote village of Jharkhand or Orissa or Kerala or Manipur or other states. What a satisfying experience!. That’s what RangDe facilitates while protecting your investment – Yes, it’s not like giving away money to Charity but you know the recipient of your little loan and be part of their success story.

What is MicroCredit?

Microcredit refers to the lending of smaller amounts of money at very low interest rates to new small business ventures, typically in the developing countries like India. In our context, the loan amount is usually in the range of Rs.5,000 to 10,000. The microcredit concept was actually popularized by the Grameen Bank – the bank of the poor – that was founded by the Nobel prize laureate and economist Mr. Mohammad Yunus from Bangladesh.

Refer to this Grameen Bank page for more details.

The microcredit concept has been spreading across the developing world since mid seventies and this is exactly the context under which RangDe operates.

How RangDe works?

RangDe.org collects the loan amount via smaller social investments (Rs.100 onwards) from Indian citizens (and those who are staying abroad) are provided to your selected borrower from poor village families with the help of NGOs in their respective states. You can search for a borrower from the list and make a small social investment of your choice to that particular borrower via online banking, credit card or cheque. So if a particular borrower needs 7500 rupees to renovate his kinaara shop or buy a goat, there may be several individuals contributing to that cause.

rangde.org

Once the required amount is collected, the NGO passes it over to the borrower. The borrower then has to pay back the loan, typically in one year, to the NGO who deposits the same back in the RangDe account. Basically you get back your social investment typically over one year and also receive a small interest of 2%. You can opt to forgo that for further social causes – that is up to you. Since, RangDe scheme has a repayment rate of almost 100%, you are guaranteed to get back your investment that you can withdraw anytime to your bank account. Sounds amazing right?

The typical interest rate charged to the borrower is 8.5% off which 5% goes to the state level NGO, 2% to you as an investor, 1% to RangeDe.org for their operational costs and 0.5% for contingencies.

The concept is working very well so far since RangDe.org became operations in 2008. For further details you can visit RangDe.org

Who is in need of your Social Investment?

If you want to know the typical borrowers that are listed online on the RangDe microcredit site, check out the following pictures (click to enlarge).


mahesh-tanti-jharkhand-rangde

 

parvaty-chami-kerala-rangde

…and now what prevents you from making a small investment to help a fellow citizen in need?

Visit RangDe.org Now and Pledge your Support!

 

The soul of India lives in its villages – M.K Gandhi

 

Corruption in India – It starts with YOU!

10 Apr

The past one week witnessed one of the most promising non-violent campaigns in Indian history post independence. A spirited septuagenarian activist by name Anna Hazare got the whole nation lined up behind him to fight the biggest threat that we are facing in India today i.e. political corruption. He adopted the Gandhian model of ‘Satyagraha’ (fasting) to press the government to implement what’s called the Lokpal Bill (Ombudsman Bill) to take on the corrupt public servants in India.

I have mentioned it before that corruption is one of the blockers on our way towards becoming a developed nation. Due to our colonial past and the divide-and-conquer strategies that the British adopted on hundreds or thousands of our regional kings, religious factions and highly sensitive people who spoke multiple languages, ‘corruption’, ‘hierarchy’ and ‘bureaucracy’ etc became part and parcel of our lives. Now, having achieved our independence more than 60 years back, there’s absolutely no point in blaming the past (and the British) because any other country with a positive mindset and strong governance would have got rid off menaces like corruption by now. Since, India could not do it yet, there’s every reason for Anna Hazare and like-minded people to drive a campaign such as the one we are witnessing right now.

The topic of the day is not Lokpal Bill or how corrupt our politicians are today. Lokpal Bill is more of a reactive mechanism to counter the corrupt public servants. But to prevent corruption, the best foot forward is to de-corrupt every individual of this country by way of living with the right kind of upbringing from childhood itself.

Nobody’s born corrupt!

Corruption, bribery etc are nothing but the result of unethical upbringing. Due to socio-economic imbalances that is prevalent in our country for years together along with the colonial aspects that I mentioned above, a big percentage of our citizens (including politicians) may have been corrupt. However, the current generation of youngsters has a huge role to play in bringing up their children the right way so that their kids would not become corrupt. For that to happen, you have to correct yourself the right away even before correcting and educating your kids. By the way, there is a huge difference between ‘getting educated’ and ‘getting a degree’. Many of us have qualifications but not really educated to behave ethically in a society.

In fact, corruption starts at a smaller level at your home or work place, a much bigger level within your social role, and at a mammoth level at those who handle higher positions within the government. It’s stupid to think that only those politicians who cause 100s of crore scams are corrupt.

Are you corrupt?

If you are one of those who stood by Anna Hazare in the past one week, you should ask these questions to yourself to make sure that you are not corrupt.

  1. Do you pay your income taxes on every taxable rupee that you earn? i.e. Do you really pay taxes on income sources such as bank interests, gifts received, freelance-consulting income etc? If not, YOU ARE CORRUPT!
  2. At work, do you misuse your office phone/mobile for personal purposes and not pay for that? Do you claim benefits using false medical bills or rental receipts? Do you claim reimbursements for non-official bills as well? If so, YOU ARE CORRUPT
  3. Do you break traffic rules? If so, you are UNETHICAL and to save your time or severe punishment, do you bribe the policeman? If so, you as well as policeman ARE CORRUPT. And if you do this when you are with your family, YOUR CHILDREN WILL BE CORRUPT, in the future as well
  4. Do you bribe a government officer to get a benefit that you don’t deserve? For example, passing an illegal housing construction plan or registering a property at a lower value? If so, YOU ARE CORRUPT even before the government officer is
  5. In your housing society or apartment community, do you pay your maintenance charges on time? On top of that are you setting right examples to your children by teaching them the rules and regulations prevailing in the society? If not, you are highly UNETHICAL and TAINTED
  6. When you happen to borrow money from someone, don’t you feel like returning it on time. I have known a few people who don’t do that and when such people go to a higher level, obviously they become CORRUPT because they like others’ money

There are huge number of such examples in life ranging from buying movie or match tickets in the black market to skipping a purchase bill to cheat government by not paying sales tax and so on. For all the above tainted and corrupt behaviour of yours, you cannot keep blaming the politicians or system because it’s you at the centre of such incidents.

Now you know where the corruption starts, don’t you? So first change yourself and set the right example to your kids and the society. Rest of the good will automatically happen in a few years without any Lokpal Bill. By the way, as of today the bill is still required as an impeachment mechanism to tackle the current corrupt set of people but hopefully, it’s not much required in another 25 years.

Be the change!

Racism: Are Indians any better?

24 Oct

India is on the way to become an economic superpower in the next decade or so. In the past, I have talked about (what it takes to become a developed nation) and I had touched upon a number of things that we Indians need to do to take us closer towards being totally self reliant and rich. One of the things that I didn’t quite talk about at that time is the racism and even the caste based hierarchies that has been prevailing in India for 100s of years now.

Racism in India

Well, India doesn’t have any permanent black or white (if I may use those words) migrants here. All that we get to see here are tourists or foreigners on work related deputation. I had a chance to attend a Boney M (re-formed) concert in Bangalore in 1998 where I witnessed a bunch of Bangalorean boys shouting ‘you black bi****s’ etc at the singers. It was a shock to me. It was like you give back what you got or even heard remotely. Something like ragging.

However, we Indians do not need any black or white here to take part in the racism related activities. Historically India had the caste hierarchy system for several hundred years and hence we have been the biggest racists ourselves within. How many times haven’t we heard of the North Indian – South Indian unpleasant references and certain Indian fanatics referring to Madrasis, Biharis or Chinkies using their unparliamentary language and extreme spite? And have you ever imagined our attitude towards some of our neighbour states such as Nepal, Bangladesh etc?

Economic growth and racist behavior

With India getting more and more rich, visible and powerful we are getting to see a different kind of racial behaviour from the Indians – the arrogance of a new rich man who was once underprivileged. At every given opportunity now India tries to take on the ‘white’ nations on racial related one-off incidents. Of course there are certain genuine cases that need international attention but the following are some of the examples where I thought we are being petty (and arrogant).

E.g. 1: There was this Facebook viral video of an Indian man getting electrocuted after touching the railway power line. I have myself seen a lot of Indians calling him a fool and making funny comments. The same was the reaction from other people around the world including some police personnel in Australia. Then it became a racial thing and even Mr. SM. Krishna, our External Affairs Minister, made his statements. Absolutely unnecessary and silly behaviour I would say. There have been, through, genuine situations where he had to actually intervene and he has done so.

E.g 2: BCCI’s (Board of Control for Cricket in India) using their money power and political influence to lift a ban on the Indian cricketer Harbhajan Singh, after he called the Australian ‘coloured’ cricketer Andrew Symonds a ‘Monkey’ is another example of the wrong racial behavior and then defending the same.

Inferior complex, Campaign mania etc

The above two examples, and many such incidents, are nothing but the unwanted inferiority complex that is building up within. Instead of taking part in the globalization and amazing growth potential, at times, we are pulling back ourselves with these kind of behaviors. I would say that, instead of focusing on such issues let us solve our problems within India first.

Yet another related bad behavior is the inability to think in an unbiased manner especially when it comes to sensitive cultural aspects, our iconic figures etc. For example, how many times haven’t you received emails to vote for Sachin Tendulkar, Amitabh Bacchan, Taj Mahal etc to win certain online campaigns? Majority of such spam is generated by us, computer literate Indians, out of unnecessary fanatic thinking process. The recent campaign mania example was the effort to persuade Barack Obama to visit the Golden Temple during his Indian visit. Does anybody really care if he doesn’t visit Golden Temple, Taj Mahal or Tirupati for that matter? Don’t we have better things to do in life?

Learn from the Chinese

My last request to my fellow Indians (global and within) is to learn a lesson or two from our big neighbour China. The Chinese people are actually spread out globally much more than the Indians but they chose to mind their own business and adjusted well with the other people and races without creating any issue whatsoever. They actually do not care about what others say. Instead of picking on every petty issue and blowing it out of proportion, let us follow the Chinese model of co-existence without disturbance (I am not going to talk about India’s stance on Tibet and Chinese stand on Arunachal Pradesh here) without going emotional about what others say.

Hope you understood what I was trying to convey…

What is a developed country and what does it take to build one?

12 Apr

India is cruising on an economic boom following the reforms that started a decade ago! As a result it is now leading the rat race of attracting the foreign investment – ahead of countries like China, Brazil and Russia. India has some advantage over the relatively non-English speaking and ‘closed’ business world in the other countries. However, the spending pattern seem to be much more planned in their cases and there are a few things that India needs to workout carefully in order to take the country to a different level in the next fifteen to twenty years.

Most of the developed nations in the Americas, Europe and Oceania achieved that status in the 20th century via exploiting the aftereffects of the industrial revolution. Some of the parameters that supported their positive development included low population figures, early democratization, less corruption and education reforms. If India has to get there in that list it needs to work on more topics than the above in a more intensive fashion. Let me try to analyze some of the key issues (not necessarily in the order of priority) that we have and try to identify some solutions for the same.

Population

The population growth in India for the past few years have been at an annualized growth rate of around 2%. While for the developed nations this figure sounds perfect, India has to really work on cutting down this growth rate by half. If we go at this pace, by 2020 we will have 1.5 billion people in this country. There has to be strict measures to bring the population growth rate to around 0.75% annually at least for the next twenty five years. This can result in a manageable figure of 1.30 billion people by 2030, taking into account the current mortality rate. Further on, the growth rate has to be brought down to 0.4 to 0.5% which is optimal for typical developed nations. The drastic guidelines to achieve this target for a better tomorrow, could include enforcing the one-child-per-family rule. An easy way to enforce this is via imposing heavy consumption taxes (Chinese model) to the government, if there is more than one child in a family. Further more, increased school fees, power/water bills etc can be enforced if the size grows further. But this can work only with 40 or 50 percent of the middle class community. For the slum dwellers and illiterates there has to be a special drive to induce awareness and prioritize the rehabilitation of those who are following one or no child rules. If there are religious, social or racial rules that promote more children, it’s time to abolish such rules via constitution amendments. Providing free contraception and free consulting etc are other options. The government could even think of providing additional benefits and tax exemptions for those who plan to go childless. Some of these things may sound unethical for typical Indian culture, but we have no other go.

Literacy & Education reforms

The population issues are directly linked to the literacy rate. The proof is the state of Kerala (my home state), the most literate state in India, that has the lowest annual population growth (~0.9%) and the highest health index. Back in the 80s this particular state government triggered a mass campaign with the help of various non-profit organizations and thousands of individual volunteers to achieve 100% literacy and at the end of one year they were very close to that reality. This is something that other states can easily implement. The need for education reforms comes next. It is about time the state governments set up larger number of free basic education institutes for primary and middle schools.

Public health

Health is indeed wealth for a state, not just for an individual. Health awareness is primarily induced via basic education and if the latter is taken care of, the health index will naturally improve. What the government has to do is to improve the free supply of basic medicines via more channels than just the government hospitals. In addition, the vaccination drives etc, has to be done via more effective campaigns. The public sanitation facilities really need a face lift the availability of good quality drinking water has to be ensured in each and every village of this country.

Arresting corruption

Bureaucracy is synonymous to democracy in many developing nations. Corruption complements bureaucracy very well and this usually begins with the politicians themselves. Most developed nations have managed to arrest corruption at all levels and this makes sure that funds and taxes collected for development purposes reach the targeted audiences or projects. In India, we need to definitely act fast on a few things. It is high time we set some basic qualifications and clean history requirements for somebody to compete the state assembly or parliament elections. Many of our politicians come from criminal backgrounds and to top it all their educational qualifications are questionable.

For India to become a developed nation, we need people with good sense, great knowledge and vision ruling us. Laws need to be enforced to make sure that our
rulers and leaders are acceptable personalities. Recent developments of disqualifying many politicians from competing the UP elections is indeed a great move. To curb corruption, it is also necessary to empower independent bodies like Lok Ayukta (in Karnataka) that has the power to bring corrupt government officials to the law.

Continue the reforms

With a GDP growth rate of above 9% and current approximate GDP of USD 800 billion, India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world today. Right now it has a healthy foreign reserve of USD 200 billion that has doubled since 2003. At the current pace, it is safer to use part of it to pay off some of our long term debts. Also, the measures taken by the current government to boost exports of cotton products, jewelery, software etc should take the country into an accelerated growth orbit for the next few years. Improved tax collection, extra ordinary performance of Indian companies, resurgence of PSUs, alarming growth in profit of the Indian Railways, Indian companies buying out companies in Europe etc are some of the examples of a great developed nation in the making. We just need to and continue reforms and keep up this pace (or even better it) in the next ten years or so.

Infrastructure

If there is one single thing that stands in the way of development in India, it is the infrastructure related issues. We are nowhere near many of the leading developing nations in terms of providing infrastructure to attract even bigger foreign investments. We really need world class road-rail-air connectivity in this country. This has to be supported by uninterrupted power for industries and good sanitation, drainage and pollution-free air and water. These issues have to be addressed with utmost priority and rest of the things will fall into the right places automatically. It is time we concentrated on tier 2 and 3 cities and even satellite towns to build the infrastructure rather than relying on stagnated metros and cities.

Agriculture

In India we have a variety of crops, oil seeds and spices produced in its states. What we have been doing so far was to bank on the huge man power available and do agriculture the traditional way. This is not a good approach going forward. We need to really modernize our agriculture sector by adopting scientific methods and machinery to prepare the country for a better agricultural growth rate for the future. The agricultural products can top our exports chart if we revolutionize this sector and enough funding is made available. ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kissan‘ is still a great slogan, but I would really like to see the defense budget cut by 20% (for the next ten years) to allocate the same towards agriculture. The agriculture sector growth prediction is not so interesting for the next two years. It stands at around 2% annualized and this is what pulls down the GDP which otherwise is doing great due to stable services sector and manufacturing.

Manufacturing

Maintaining a growth rate of above 10% (as in the case of past year) in manufacturing sector is a great thing but India would be targeting a growth rate of above 14 pc in FY2008. This is indeed a great news though long term target should be more realistic, say 9-10pc. Looks like the current government wants to prove a point by reaching a great milestone in manufacturing while the growing inflation rates and slower agricultural growth doesn’t do any good to anybody.

Change mindsets

More than the scientific ways to maximize growth, what really can take India to the next level is its greatest asset – its people. Historically Indians have been having laid back attitude and we were taught to be lenient and tolerant. This cannot be the case going forward. We need a new generation of people that is aggressive, hardworking, focused and career oriented. This does not mean that our forefathers didn’t do any good to us. They fought their own way and fetched us freedom. The next generation built on top of it and now it’s time for us and the coming generations to maximize the opportunities that lie ahead. This has to be our pledge going forward!