A guest lecture was conducted at IFMR GSB where we had Mr Anshu Gupta, the founder of Goonj, with a mission to highlight some basic needs of people on the development agenda, using clothing as a metaphor. He is popularly known as the "Clothing Man" and is also the recipient of 2015 Ramon Magsaysay Award.
The NGO is spanned across 25 states in our country, with a workforce of more than 1000 employees. In his speech, he mentioned that there it is not the lack of availability of the resources but their allocation which needs to be addressed in the current scenario.
He threw light upon this issue by starting his speech by a quote "How often do we realise that while distributing sweets in the temple, someone outside dies of hunger".
This helped us to think in a broader perspective about the so-called "development" which we are concerned about at the cost of the poor and needy. He also shared his experience of a survey in Delhi wherein he observed a person who worked for the local municipality and his job was collecting dead bodies from areas close to his vicinity, roughly 4-5 kilometres. It was shocking that he collected 5-6 dead bodies per day and the number rose to 10-12 in winter.
This brought light to the issue that it was not the cold but proper clothing that was responsible for the casualties. Moreover, lack of clothing in the winter season is responsible for more deaths in our countries than natural calamities like flood, earthquakes, etc.
In another survey conducted in Bundelkhand and Khandwa, Goonj has worked for hand in hand with the local communities for addressing the issues related to the water crisis by building and cleaning of water facilities.
Goonj also had something in its repository for the sparsely spread Moosahari community. It opened primary schools which provided necessary facilities. They also went a step ahead by building in house garden within the premises of the school, in Midnapore(W.B.).
Last but not least, Goonj also realised the importance of women clothing and sanitation in our country. In his speech, Mr Anshu also mentioned that in back in 2004-05 there was no awareness or solution to this problem as women lacked access to sanitary pads and instead used dirty clothes, sand, mud and even plastic sheets during their menstruation cycle. Goonj works towards improving this situation by converting the discarded cotton clothes into sanitary pads and also uses hosiery clothes.
He also spoke about how he had built a genesis of a parallel trash- based economy between efforts of rural communities and urban surplus material as two new currencies.
In his concluding line, he asked us as the general management students to add "dignity" as an important lens to define development for people.
The session in the end was left open for the audience to think in a broader horizon on whether the activities and the subsidies which are meant for the development of society as a whole, how fruitful they have actually been and donations which are made are based on what we do not need or use and not on what the ailing population needs.
Student of IFMR-GSB Krea University