But not all public works need government funding or support. Time has come for the burgeoning middle class and the Indian diaspora to step into the shoes of merchants and princes of yore who endowed many public works. Huge salaries make no sense if there is no introspection accompanying them. In fact a new trend is discernible. GoodNewsIndia often hears from well-intentioned Indians looking for credible organisations that would spend their money wisely. DHAN is one of a handful of organisations that can ensure delivery with minimal overheads. It can be the often missing link between a donor and recipients. DHAN has a nascent Centre for Facilitating Philanthropy, which will short-list projects open for funding. Using an Internet website to list projects looking for funds, to acknowledge donors and to report to them will just be the transparency that many donors look for. DHAN will soon identify ten 'ooranis' [drinking water tanks saving rain water] in Tamil Nadu and invite donor participation.
DHAN is also looking at livelihoods opportunities in information technology and arid land development. An exciting and original theme they are exploring is in truly democratizing elected village panchayats. "Yes, panchayats are functioning as Constitutional bodies," admits Vasi. "But where is true debate in them? Where is the equivalent of the state Assemblies or the Parliament at Delhi? Today panchayats are implementors of government schemes. They must begin to have these one-size-fits-all schemes to be discussed locally and adapted."
DHAN has great experience in that line of work. It's an organisation that thrives on consultations and equality in decision making. In the last week of every year, the whole DHAN clan gathers for an annual retreat. Today they number more than 400. Everyone who has completed an year has to mandatorily attend. Some weeks before that, everyone has to send in a report listing his year's achievements, plans and difficulties. These self-evaluations are compiled into a book and issued at the retreat. For over three days they sit collectively and in groups to rethink their and DHAN's work. Receptionists and cooks, vehicle drivers and technical staff, sit in on meetings to comprehend what their roles are in the overall picture. Retreats ruthlessly flatten hierarchies. "We revisit and revise our mission statement every 3 or 4 years after discussing it," says Vasimalai. And, they recombine.
We are walking towards the station to catch a train. He, a large man, has an unfashionable little suitcase in his hands. Crowds are thick and in flow all around us. He speaks softly, his deep voice filled with a quiet excitement: "Our human resource potential stuns me every time I consider it. Look these people around us. Take almost anyone of them, and show him or her the way, give opportunities, present challenges. And they will excel," he says. "Never underestimate an Indian because he looks soft or is self-effacing."
M P Vasimalai, the country boy who graduated from our best B-School, might have been talking about himself.
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