Lending a Hand is Better than Handing Out a Dole


Often when we look to help somebody, our help ends up having the undesirable effect of making that person dependent on us. This is the negative effect of a 'dole' which is discussed in this article. Rather than simply dictating abstract principles, care has been taken to include ways to apply those principles in real-life scenarios.

Starting Off with a Story

Once upon a time, a man lost all his money in a gambling bout. His life began to fall apart. It was as if his life, happy though never lavish, had suddenly plunged into darkness. Seeing this sorry state of affairs, the man's friend who was quite rich, gave him some money. The man became happy. His life took a turn for the better.

Some days down the line, misfortune befell him again as he lost all his money in another round of gambling. Once again his 'helpful' friend gave him money. Once more he lost his money in gambling after spending a few happy days. After repeating this cycle for a couple more times, he succeeded in irritating and disappointing his friend. His disappointed friend in order to find a more permanent solution to this problem approached the wisest man of the city. The wise man had a simple reply to this seemingly complex problem:
"Give a man a fish and you satiate his hunger for a day.
Teach a man how to fish and you remove his hunger forever."
Next day the man's friend gave him a job in his firm. The man now prospered in his new occupation.

The Essential Difference

Why could the man not manage his money properly in the first case? Or how did he suddenly turn into a better person in the second case? The essential difference is that in the first case, he was given money as a dole. Obviously, in this case, he was given money without having to work for it while in the second case he received income for work. Herein lies the essential difference. When we do not work for something and yet reap the rewards, we do not realize the value of that reward. But when we are made to work for something we realize how valuable the reward is. Thus, in the second case, when the man had to work for the money he realized that money is not something to be simply wasted. Since his income was the fruit of his own money how could he waste it?

Lending a Hand

When we say we lend a hand to somebody it is necessary to understand how to do it properly. While lending a hand it is essential that we try to develop the capabilities of the person. The person should be taught to fend for himself even as we help him. If we don't do that and if we instead make the person dependent on us, then we would face the same irritation and disappointment which the man's friend had to face. The objective of helping itself would remain unfulfilled.

It is also necessary to ensure that we do not develop a superior attitude towards the person we are going to help. We should not adopt an attitude of noblesse oblige. We should not make that person feel that he or she is inferior to us. It should be understood that misfortune can befall anyone. Also, not everyone may have the opportunity to be equally skilled. In such cases, we have a moral duty to help others while at the same time not forgetting the principles mentioned above.

In Real Life

So far we have discussed the principles which must inform our actions when we try to help others. We have also discussed the difference between actual help and a dole. But without application to real life, these ideas would remain mere abstract material.

The Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan state governments recently announced schemes to give monthly allowances to unemployed youth. This is a classic example of a dole. If we examine this step in light of what we have discussed so far, then it corresponds to the case of the habitual gambler who repeatedly lost the money which his friend gave him. Obviously, not all unemployed youth are likely to be gamblers but a scheme like this does more harm than good.

In the past, we have even seen governments distributing mixer-grinders and what not to the people. Obviously, these are extremely beneficial when seen from the point of view of the ruling party but as far as actual benefits to the people are concerned schemes like this fall far short of what is actually needed. Neither is it good economics.

In the case of the unemployed youth try and create more job opportunities. Make them capable enough to earn their own living. Do not let them be dependent on the government. Make them skillful, make them self dependent, and make them productive.

The Exceptions

Certain state governments in recent times have started giving cash awards as well as two-wheelers (in case of Assam) to students who perform well in the tenth or in the twelfth standard. Should such schemes be considered doles in the context of what we have been discussing so far?

In the case of the above-mentioned scheme, rather than being a dole, it is more of an incentive. It is equivalent to, say, promising an employee a bonus if he works well. In the same light, scholarships should also not be considered a dole. Neither should relief materials to disaster-hit areas.

Doles may be given but only as a short-term measure. For example, certain state governments provide free textbooks (eg. Assam) or free uniforms (eg. Delhi). Such schemes are alright provided we also have a longer-term measure to help the poor students. In the longer run, we can provide more productive employment to low-income groups so that they can buy textbooks and uniforms for their own children.


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