They Are No Billionaires, Yet These 26 Indians Have Pledged 50% Of Their Wealth To Charity

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The whole world recognises Bill Gates and Warren Buffet as two of the wealthiest influentials in the planet. However, very few are aware that Gates and Buffet pioneers the list of 154 billionaires who have pledged to donate more than half of their riches to charity.

In 2010, Bill and Melinda Gates joined hands with Warren Buffet to launch and commit to the Giving Pledge, which mandates them to posthumously give away 50% or more of their wealth to a wide variety of social causes, ranging from poverty alleviation to environmental conservation.

Over the years, billionaires and millionaires around the world have come forward to join the Giving Pledge. From India, prominent personalities like Azim Premji, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw and Rohini Nikelani also enlisted themselves in the list of signatories.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

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Living My Promise pledge in India

“If billionaires are hailing the idea of such a pledge, why not offer a similar opportunity to hundreds of Good Samaritans among affluent Indians?”, thought Girish Batra, an active participant of Kailash Satyarthi’s annual Daan-Utsav (Joy of Giving Week).

Around August-September last year, Girish floated the idea among his social circle of do-gooders. A few of them instantly consented to come on board. Together, they launched the #LivingMyPromise pledge which encourages well-to-do Indians to set an example in sacrifice and sharing.

“We created a website and invited like-minded individuals to join our platform. Many of them have their own NGOs and welfare trusts, while others are actively involved in the developmental sector. It didn’t take long for our list of pledge-takers to grow substantially,” Girish shares.

Some of the important signatories

Prominent personalities including famous actor Rahul Bose have pledged with #LivingMyPromise, along with families and couples who connect deeply with the cause.

“I shifted to the development sector around four years ago and ever since then, I have nurtured the idea of donating at least half of my wealth to charity at some point in life. So when I came across the #LivingMyPromise pledge, it took me just a second to commit to it. I knew that finally, my longstanding wishes would see an assured outcome,” reveals Atul Satija, a young social entrepreneur.

“Our needs are very limited, but our wants know no end,” he adds. He believes that a lot of people from a privileged background harbour the compassion to serve the needy. “If you truly want to give back to the society that nourishes you, there is no better time to start than today,” Atul urges everyone to be a part of the #LivingMyPromise pledge.

“You don’t take anything with you”

Rushabh, an author, businessman and philanthropist, thinks that kindness should be the only religion. A few years ago he had already pledged eleven of his vital organs. “I further promise to give away at least 50 per cent of my wealth to those who are less fortunate, to be able to lead a life well deserved,” he resolves.

“It was an instinctive decision for me to join the pledge as soon as I came to know about it on Facebook. When I shared my wish to my family, I received overwhelming support from my teenage son and my wife,” he shares.

Rushabh strongly believes, “In the end, you don’t take anything with you. It’s better that you put it in a good cause before it’s too late.”

The couple who pledged to students in poverty

All their life, Uma Kathyayini and her husband Javali Ramantha have worked as engineers with the state government of Karnataka. After retirement, the duo decided to start the GHVS welfare trust to provide financial assistance to poor but meritorious students in Gubbi, a township around 90 km from Bengaluru as well as within Bengaluru itself. They were one of the leading signatories of the #LivingMyPromise pledge.

“In my youth, I had received financial support from well-wishers to pursue my engineering degree, so I thought I should give it back to the students who need it now. That’s how GHVS trust came to fore,” informs Kathyayini.

One morning while leafing through the newspaper, Kathyayini came across a news about #LivingMyPromise. The idea really moved her, and before long, she and her husband registered for the same, to donate over half of their wealth to their trust. She is now content that her sacrifice would be able to help the society even in her absence.

Efforts For Good take

While globally the Giving Pledge is being acknowledged by billionaires, India is yet to see large-scale participation from rich businessmen and industrialists for a similar cause. Ironically, India happens to be a country with a stark economic disparity – housing a few of the world’s richest as well as a major portion of the world’s poorest population. In such a scenario, Efforts For Good urges more and more individuals to come forward and commit to the #LivingMyPromise pledge to envision a better and more poised future society.

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It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote

MyStory: “Two Months After I Joined IIT For My PhD I Was Diagnosed With TB”

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A person suffering from Tuberculosis (TB) not only battles the ‘Mycobacterium tuberculosis’ bacteria inside his lungs but also from the stigma attached to the disease. It weakens the patients in many different ways in their fight against the dreaded disease.  

My fight with TB was also filled with stigma. I joined IIT Kharagpur for my PhD in January 2015. Two months later, in March 2015, I was diagnosed with TB. I had to take sick leave from March 2015 that eventually lasted till June 2016. Initially, I did not respond well to medication. Further tests revealed that I had multidrug-resistant TB (MDR TB). This meant that the type of TB I had was resistant to two or more of the antitubercular medication I was taking.

About a year after the intensive phase of my treatment, I felt better and applied for readmission to IIT in July 2016. A prerequisite for rejoining was that my faculty members had to verify my application. With the formalities completed, I resumed my education, but I felt that something was amiss. 

My guide indicated that he did not want his work to suffer on account of my illness. I also heard from a senior colleague that my guide had said that I would spread the disease like an ‘infested animal’. I was disheartened at being subjected to this indignity by my supposed mentor.

However, my primary concern was defeating TB, so I didn’t dwell on it. Today, as I reflect on it, I realise the reasons behind the stigma were ignorance as well as fear.

Even among the educated, there are misconceptions about TB. People think all forms of TB are contagious. Others believe the patient is infectious for the entire length of the treatment. Some even believe that TB spreads through touch. This breeds the fear of contracting the illness.

As we know, people stigmatise and discriminate when they fear. I felt the impact of the stigma on two levels – in my professional life and my personal life.

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Professionally, the reluctance of my supervisor to mentor me and his discouragement affected me. I could not decide whether I should wait for the IIT authorities to tell me to leave or drop out. That decision was made for me by luck when I found out that my CSIR grant application was never processed. 

This meant that I would have to pay for my education. Given the expenditure on my treatment, this was unaffordable for me. This was the final nail in the coffin. I was forced to drop out and could not go back to completing my PhD.

What I faced was not technically illegal. I was discouraged from doing my PhD, but it was still a form of stigma. The external stigma I faced led to depression and isolation. 

Eventually, I realised I had to fight. The treatment for TB is difficult, requiring strict compliance and the management of side effects, and these demands resolve. I began motivating myself. I began following a proper diet and completing my treatment to ensure I could recover. I also turned to books as they transported me to other worlds and helped with my isolation. I also focused on reviving my old relationships.

Gradually, things improved. I could not proceed on my desired career path, but I am an educator now. I constantly realise that I have a role to play in shaping young minds. 

Workplace stigma has tangible consequences. It affects an individual’s career, financial opportunities and their right to work with dignity. So what can we do to address this stigma? 

First, we need to sensitise people by educating them about TB, and the impact stigma has on patients.

Another measure is group counselling involving the patient, the employer and the immediate supervisor. Informal versions of these sessions happen in the workplace in the context of illnesses like cancer. Why should it be any different for TB? 

The goal of this session would be to ensure that the patient is in a supportive environment. 

Finally, at a systemic level, there needs to be a workplace policy on stigma mitigation and a mechanism where the patients can anonymously register their concerns about stigma at the workplace.

A person’s career or job is often their calling and a provider of financial security. Workplace stigma creates a hostile work environment, affecting a person’s ability to do their job and their financial security. Financial insecurity and stigma make it harder for the patient to fight TB both in terms of means and motivation. Therefore, addressing stigma in the workplace is critical to patient well-being and recovery but also to their right to work with dignity.

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Quote
It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote
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