Whether it’s a banker or a gardener, time progresses the same way for everyone, acting as an equaliser. So, the Madhya Pradesh government’s Happiness Department plans to set up a Time Bank that would lend currency to an hour, which could be exchanged to learn a new skill without the need for any paper money.
Whenever a bank member needs a service or wants to acquire a skill, say gardening or playing a guitar, she could exchange a credit, worth an hour, with another member knowing the skill.
“It is a new way to link untapped social capacity to unmet social needs,” said Akhilesh Argal, CEO of the State government department. “The core values are that we all are assets and driven by reciprocity.”
At the start, the 50,000 volunteers registered with the department through local networks will form community-level banks and list skills they could impart or services they could offer. An experienced volunteer will induct new members and keep a record of all the transactions.
Striking a note of caution, Mr. Argal said,“Since there is persisting trust deficit in society, we’ll start by forming groups with people we know.” Whether you need someone to drive you to a supermarket, tend to an ailing grandmother or simply a jogging partner, it could all be sought at the bank.
Conceived at the Cincinnati Time Store in 1827, the concept gained currency with the setting up of the first Time Bank in Japan in 1973, and later when Edgar Cahn, CEO of TimeBanks USA, popularised ‘Time Dollars’. Today, there are more than 500 such communities across 32 countries.
In Madhya Pradesh, time banks will enable person-to-person, person-to-agency and agency-to-agency transactions. “Members will start with zero credits, which they could gradually acquire by imparting skills. Credits can even go in negative. And in case a skill becomes popular over time benefiting only a few members, other members will be compelled to do their mite with vigour to collect more credits,” said Mr. Argal.
As the bank would measure all kinds of skills and services through a common denominator — time, members would view them, and those offering it, as an equal, said Mr. Argal. “Networks are stronger than individuals. Heeding different voices will help promote equality and dignity of labour.” Those interested in becoming a Time Bank member could register on the department’s website as a volunteer.