It is absurd that the police are confusing online crowdfunding with begging. Stop Fraud Not Charity
Crowdfunding may be new in technology, etiquette and reach, but the underlying charitable activity is not new. The pooling of communities to help a member in distress is quite traditional in our society. However, the new technological avatar raises new questions. Following a show cause notice served on a crowdfunding platform, the Bombay High Court has asked the state to answer whether private organizations are allowed to crowdfund medical treatments online. What the police themselves are noticing is whether showing children in such social media campaigns falls under the category of ‘begging’ which would make it a crime under the Juvenile Justice Act .
Crowdfunding has very diverse interests in the world today. Its targets range from high-tech equipment for the Ukrainian front line to lawsuits in the UK to foreign university bills from Indian students. It is a very competitive sector. So using images of children to attract potential donors is understandable, especially for children’s causes. It’s hardly ‘begging’. The police should not waste the public’s time chasing such shadows. Governments should also not impede private organizations acting as crowdfunding intermediaries. Their business has helped many families pay frightening bills during the pandemic. A country with unequal public services and great inequalities should not discourage any means for the needy to access expensive health care procedures.
But as in other countries, here too crowdfunding has its crooks. Complaints of fraud must be seriously investigated and sanctioned by the ICC’s provisions against breach of trust and cheating. At the same time, funders must make choices about the degree of due diligence they wish to perform. The act of giving is deeply personal. There are times when you just want to hit the donate button and say, I want to help. It’s good too.
This article appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of the Times of India.
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