Digital looters

Social work is good, but we must be cautious while donating lest we be cheated

Fundraising for any cause has been a daily pursuit of many self-made NGOs and Trusts in Kashmir where people give alms in the form of cash or wheat or rice to provide help to the needy or the intended person who seeks help from people. It is really good to appreciate the efforts of people who give alms and help the needy person. There were many instances in the recent past when people on social media helped hundreds of people to arrange money for their healthcare and treatment. 

But, this trend of raising funds for the needy people has given free-hand to digital looters who pretend to be saviors of the society, but, in actuality are looting and beguiling people, for example, multiple non-profit organizations had been flourished in Kashmir for last 30 years. The conflict has provided an opportunity for some people who can do social work and help people those who are in need of help. The orphans, pellet victims, and below poverty level people who are part of this society and deserve a better living. The social media networking sites are constantly used for crowdfunding for the purpose of helping someone who is in a dire need of money to save someone’s life and help in education. In the recent time, I have come across a campaign on mental health where someone has been helping the patients who are suffering from a stigma called mental health, anxiety, and depression. She has been a victim of depression and has suffered a lot that tells her Facebook timeline and updates that she often posts on her Facebook account. When asked about the campaigns that she runs on mental health, she said, she has been the pioneer in creating awareness about mental health in Kashmir which is an untrue and simple exaggeration of her assertion. 

There were mental health awareness programs happening before she began to commit herself towards this cause. When asked the purpose to do this selfless work, she asserts that she is asking for donations from the public and people pay the amount hearty without questioning. She is not working in any organization where she earns and contributes from her own pocket. Or her father is not in a position to contribute for charity causes, thus, she gathers money from the public by publishing her personal bank account where people deposit the money without accountability where that money goes and how that money is spent and which campaigns. Are these campaigns sustainable to provide relief to the victims or not? There are many questions that need be answered.       

I am not averse of fundraising in Kashmir for the causes and for the people who need financial help. I am but averse of people who collect the funds on behalf of the people who are sick or need some help. In another instance, I have come across a person, appealing people to help someone or the other. Recently, she has attempted to help the Pellet victims, as per the reports she has collected money from the people in an unorganized way. She runs a Trust without members and registration number, but, when a proposal is sent to the potential donors there is a mention of the Trust and bank account number where one is supposed to deposit money for the Pellet Victims. 

When we verified the Victim’s profile we were stunned that there is no such a victim existing on whose behalf the money was collected, however, there is a catch, she has organized an event for Pellet Victims which is good to help those who are needy and vulnerable. Space was provided by the a government department and money was facilitated by the organizers. The event was finished, and, afterward, no help was provided to the Pellet Victims who were transported to the place of the event.

She is highlighting the Mental Health related issues facing by the Pellet Victims. She is herself a victim of bipolar mental condition. I appreciated her work but the only thing that I am averse of things in Kashmir is that collection of money on behalf of the victims which never reaches to the intended victim. She gathers gifts and money from people for various events which she spends on herself and personal life. She plays a victim card of being women and social worker who is helping people but in actuality, she is not helping anyone else. If she had the intention to help people selflessly, she should have formed an organization and made the public whatever money she collects from the people and where does she spend that money? 

My only intention is to highlight such issues in Kashmir where are ready to help victims, but, we do not have monitoring cell to authenticate the people who will help the victims on behalf of the people who cannot reach to the victims directly. I request people to not donate money to such people who are putting grievances of people on social media to attract potential donors and never help them. If someone has the intention to help people, they should maintain the transparency of the Trust or NGOs. Otherwise, people are looting here smartly other people by collecting charity and money from people. That is an easy way to earn money than working in a complete organizational setting and help victims from their earned money or income. 

Nevertheless, people should help fellow Kashmiris, but that should not become a profession of the money collectors who spend a portion of money on their personal life and give the petty amount to the victims for whom the money was collected. I would seriously discourage such attempts and request the public to not fall into the trap of such looters who are not helping victims but themselves to earn laurels and loot money to build their own castles.    

Sheeba Lone is currently enrolled in the graduate program in International Affairs at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. She is also involved in generating community-based livelihood initiatives in Kashmir.