Money Matters


Dr. Ravi P. Bhatia – TRANSCEND Media Service

All modern societies are dependent on money in the form of currency — dollars, rubles, Euros, rupees, taka, etc. Dollars are the currency of not only USA, but of other countries also — Australia, New Zealand, Namibia although their value is different from the USD (US dollar).

When goods or services are being exchanged between different countries, the currency is usually the USD. In fact, how well a country’s economy is functioning is measured in terms of USD in today’s globalised economies.

Earlier, the rulers of different countries or regions within a country minted their own coins of copper or other metals, often depicting the face or some other symbol of the ruler. It is estimated that coins were minted from around 600 BCE in regions around modern day India and Afghanistan. Today many countries honour their presidents or kings by putting their photographs on the paper currencies. India honours Mahatma Gandhi in several ways including displaying his photograph on the Indian Rupees. Similarly some Canadian notes have the photograph of Queen Elizabeth.

Apart from the metallic coins that represented various values of currency, gold or silver pieces were also agreed pieces of exchange of goods. Barter system also prevailed in many erstwhile regions — five shovels of wheat against ten of rice etc. This was applicable also in exchange of animals — cows vs goats, or horses vs donkeys etc. Often the wealth of a rich person was measured not only in terms of land he possessed, but also in terms of various animals in his possession.

There are other measures of wealth today of some unbelievably wealthy people — yachts, villas, apartments in different countries especially in Dubai or Monaco etc. Some of these were Indian diamond exporters who have amassed tons of money from their business or by taking huge loans from banks. They try not to return to India where they feel they would face persecution and likely jail.

I have been talking of wealthy people and wealthy countries. But what about the millions of people in many parts of the world in Africa, Asia, who do not have enough money even to feed themselves or their children properly. Poverty and hunger is writ on such impoverished people that leads to physical and mental stunting and occasionally to petty crime.

Why talk of some poor regions in other continents, one can see extreme poverty even in India and its capital Delhi . One can see women with babies begging on the traffic signals of several streets. There are also hovels and slums scattered all over metro cities of India. Probably the biggest slum in the world is the    Dharavi    slum in Mumbai — the financial capital of India as well as home to the Hindi film industry — Bollywood. Some popular Hindi films were made on the story of orphans or children begging on streets.

There are several International NGOs such as    Greenpeace  that inform people about the sordid conditions of the poor. They ask for monetary donations from people in order to alleviate the conditions of such people. There is a local Indian NGO whose volunteers move around in railway stations, bus stands and other crowded places looking for children begging on the streets and facing discrimination and torture. Many of these children are orphans or have run away from their impoverished families. This  NGO picks up such children, tries to find their families and in case they do not succeed, bring them to their headquarters, feed them, educate them and provide them some basic skills.

Another NGO in Delhi not only picks up small children but  also babies from mothers who  want to abandon them. These babies are then provided to those parents who do not have children of their own and want to adopt children. Sometimes foreign families come to this organisation looking for Indian children to adopt. Of course this NGO, like others, works on donations provided by well off persons.

One can continue to talk of value of money and the sorrowful repercussions in its absence. I end the article with a funny story relating to Winston  Churchill,  distinguished statesman, author and the Prime Minister of UK twice: from 1940 – 45 and 1951 – 55.  In his own words:

“I took a taxi one day and went to the BBC office for an interview … and when I arrived I asked the driver to wait for me for forty minutes until I got back!  But the driver apologized and said ‘I can’t because I have to go home to listen to Winston Churchill’s speech’ … Churchill says he was amazed and delighted with this man’s desire to listen to his conversation!  So Churchill took ten pounds and gave to the taxi driver without telling him who he was. When the driver collected the money he said: “I’ll wait hours until you come back, sir!  And let Churchill go to hell!”

Well, well, hell or not, we all need money for survival.


Dr Ravi P Bhatia is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, an educationist, Gandhian scholar and peace researcher. Retired professor, Delhi University. His new book, A Garland of Ideas—Gandhian, Religious, Educational, Environmental was published recently in Delhi.

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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 11 Jan 2021.

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