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Life Blood of Social Activism

Neha Buch

By Femida Handy , Meenaz Kassam, Jillian Ingold, Bhagyashree Ranade
Sage Publications, New Delhi, 2011, pp. 250, Rs.650.00


The past few years have seen an increase in the number of people around the world willing to step out of their homes in support of causes impacting the larger society. One such movement in India was the Anna Hazare led Jan Lokpal bill movement. The movement created a huge amount of discussion and debate across sectors, especially when it came to the multitudes who made their way out of their homes physically to the Ram Lila grounds or the street corners and sometimes virtually through facebook in support of the movement. Many questioned the intent of the crowds. Were they dedicated volunteers or simply a bunch of people taking part in a jam boree to feel good about themselves and have fun? Were they there to truly stand up and work for a cause or was it the chance to be caught by the media, make contacts, be seen in what seemed to be a big movement and get admiring pats on the back for having been part of a ‘noble’ cause and therefore a step up in the social ladder? Did the latter set of reasons make them any less of a volunteer considering the action of engagement was the same? Who is a volunteer? How is volunteering seen and perceived in India? How has volunteering evolved over the years? Who actually goes and volunteers and why? Is it really valuable and useful? These are just some of the questions that Femida Handy, Meenaz Kassam, Jillian Ingold, and B. Ranade, try and answer. They use a combination of empirical surveys, case studies and statistics and theories drawn from other studies in India as well as around the world in an effort to map and better understand the changing face of volunteering in India. Shabana Azmi says in the foreword, ‘Volunteers are the lifeblood of social activism and care in India, without whom our efforts would be fruitless.’ In a country where the gaps between Shining India and Bharat coexist the non-profit movements and organizations have a significant role to play. There is plenty to be done to create a society where the gap between the two extremes can be bridged and the non- profit sector has always relied on the support of volunteers. The book traces the history of volunteering back to the Rig Veda, and the concept of charity that appears in different forms in different religious ...

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