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How often do we speak up against established power structures, privilege and hubris? This month’s IDR Select brings you articles that ask the uncomfortable questions and force us to confront the status quo.

1. Lest we forget…
P. Sainath for PARI, September 30, 2016

“We dreamed of bringing freedom to the common man. It was a beautiful dream. We did achieve Independence. But I don’t think the dream was ever realised… today the man who has money rules. This is the state of our freedom.” – Captain Bhau (Captain Elder Brother)

India’s 70th anniversary since independence is upon us. Captain Elder Brother, founder of The ToofanSena (whirlwind or typhoon army), is 94 years old and among the few surviving freedom fighters our country has.

The ToofanSena was the armed wing of the pratisarkar, which functioned as a government in the villages it controlled. Springing up as an armed offshoot of the Quit India movement of 1942, this group of revolutionaries declared a parallel government in Satara, then a large district. Its sarkar, seen as a legitimate authority by the people of at least 150 villages, effectively overthrew British rule.

Read more about this extraordinary story of a forgotten hero on the People’s Archive of Rural India.

PARI Captain_Elder_Brother
Photo Courtesy: Peoples Archive of Rural India

2. The ethical argument against philanthropy
Olivia Goldhill for Quartz, July 22, 2017

When the rich use their money to support a good cause, we’re compelled to compliment their generosity and praise their selfless work. According to Rob Reich, director of the Center for Ethics in Society at Stanford University, this is wrong.

Big philanthropy is, he says, “the odd encouragement of a plutocratic voice in a democratic society.” By offering philanthropists nothing but gratitude, we allow a huge amount of power to go unchecked. “Philanthropy, if you define it as the deployment of private wealth for some public influence, is an exercise of power. In a democratic society, power deserves scrutiny,” he adds.

3. Why do so many incompetent men become leaders?
Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic for Harvard Business Review, August 22, 2013

One of the main reasons for the uneven management sex ratio is our inability to discern between confidence and competence. We commonly misinterpret displays of confidence as a sign of competence and hence are fooled into believing that men are better leaders than women.

In other words, when it comes to leadership, the only advantage that men have over women is the fact that manifestations of hubris–often masked as charisma or charm–are commonly mistaken for leadership potential.

Yet arrogance and overconfidence are inversely related to leadership talent–the ability to build and maintain high-performing teams, and to inspire followers to set aside their selfish agendas in order to work for the common interest of the group. The best leaders are usually humble–and whether through nature or nurture, humility is a much more common feature in women than men.

4. Health is not wealth
Vipul Vivek for Indiaspend.com, May 08, 2017

Indians were the sixth biggest out-of-pocket health spenders in the low-middle income group of 50 nations in 2014 with 65.6% of total health spending in the country paid for by people themselves.

In contrast, the Indian government spent the least on public health (among BRICS countries), ranking 147 among 184 countries globally.

The implications of this are severe: In the 10 years to 2014, out-of-pocket health spending has pushed 50.6 million people back into poverty.

5. The roads most travelled
Ozzie Hoppe for the Guardian, 23 June 2017

Hitchhiking through India, photojournalist Ozzie Hope captures the lives and travails of truck drivers in India.

India Development Review

India Development Review

India Development Review (IDR) is India’s first independent online media platform for leaders in the development community. Our mission is to advance knowledge on social impact in India. We publish ideas, opinion, analysis and lessons from real-world practice.

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