Is Charity Dying in India?

Three incidents in quick succession make me feel that charity is dying in India.

In February 2009, Jeevan Blood Bank and Research Centre, a Chennai based not-for-profit established the first Public Cord Blood Bank to help children with blood cancers and Thalassemia. The vision is to make available matching stem cells from donated umbilical cord blood to these children either free or at affordable cost.

For this project which will benefit children across India and children of Indian origin across the world, Jeevan needs 90 crores of rupees over three years to collect, process, test and store 30,000 cord blood donations. The only silver lining in fund mobilisation is the approval of 35 AC status to donations up to 47 crores of rupees – meaning 100% tax exemption to donations. Donations in US and UK through www.giveindia.org are eligible for tax exemptions.

In this background let us look at the events:

1. Letters to over 500 Chairmen and CEOs of Indian companies has not elicited any response – except two companies contributing to 30,000 rupees each! I suspect (al)most all of them did not even reach the their table. All that was needed was 30,000 donations of 30,000 rupees each across India – I am sure organsiations like CII can facilitate this as “CSR” activity of the member companies!

2. During a recent dinner meeting one of my good friends said his company has a significanT tax liabIlity this year because of extremely good business – money came from sale of consumables to blood bank industry across India. I was told that his CA had advised him either to pay the tax and retain the money or share it with employees and write off as business expense instead of “donating”. His reason – these “loyal” employees will bring in more money to the company next year!

3. Recent suggestions of the Ministry of Finance, Government of India to change the policies relating to tax exemptions to donations, if approved, will place the final nail on the coffin of charity.

We at Jeevan are debating about the options available to ensure availability of matching stem cells to these children while the country is watching IPL3.

We are born optimists – like every team and owners of IPL!!!!

Till next time….

Srinivasan