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For Lord's sake work now!

MADHUR TANKHA speaks to the lady generous with information, parsimonious with secrecy... .

A NEW ROLE FOR RELIGION: Pushpa Sundar believes religion can play a positive role in social amelioration. Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar.

A NEW ROLE FOR RELIGION: Pushpa Sundar believes religion can play a positive role in social amelioration. Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar.  

AT A time when religion is being misused by a small section of unscrupulous, rabble-rousing politicians to gain electoral harvest, heads of faith can play a constructive role in meaningful work. This thought germinated in the mind of Pushpa Sundar, a retired IAS officer, who is the executive director of Sampradaan Indian Centre for Philanthropy (SICP). Established in 1996 this non-profit organisation is fostering a congenial atmosphere by encouraging religious affiliated organisations to give money to NGOs for social engineering.

Pushpa Sundar has come out with a book, "For God's Sake: Religious Charity and Social Development". Priced at Rs. 285 the book makes 12 case studies of religions of different denominations.

Since religious organisations are stacked with funds, Pushpa believes that money can be channelised productively by using it for the welfare of humanity - giving money to NGOs who can use that for building charitable institutions and varsities. The underlying motive behind publication of this book, says Pushpa, is to highlight how much green notes are spent by religious organisations on social development -- providing pure drinking water to inaccessible, obscure villages and orphanage -- besides disseminating on matters of faith. By encouraging these organisations to dole out finance for the common good of society Pushpa feels she can ease off communal brinkmanship, which has the cataclysmic potential of breaking the foundations of this nation.

At ease in her New Delhi office before the release of the book, Pushpa says, "Religion has been getting bad press. Instead of the conflict it is generating if directed properly it can play a laudable role in setting up educational institutions and hospitals. This book is informative for those who are curious to know what activities in terms of welfare of humanity are religious organisations engaged in." But it is like searching for a needle in haystack as the book exposes hollow claims of organisations which proclaim themselves as proponents of faith yet are reluctant to part away with wealth from their kitty for emancipation of women, tribals and destitute.

Writing such a book was not only a painstaking effort but also like running a long marathon with intermittent hurdles. Most of the religious organisations took umbrage about disclosing their fund utilisation. While they wanted to keep their financial position a closely guarded secret, some of the case studies of bigger names in terms of religious conglomerates have been done through second hand sources. Pushpa says, "We have done studies on Hindu, Islamic and Christian religious organisations. While Tirupati and Kashi Vishwanath Trust were willing to share information, almost everybody else was suspicious about inquiries."

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