"Time Bank", a concept worth experimenting with

"Time Bank", a concept worth experimenting with M G Warrier My friend, philosopher and guide Shri Subbaraman, responding to a write-up about the Time Bank in Switzerland, picked up from the social media by me and and shared with him, responded : "The Time Bank concept is extremely attractive. I wonder why this has not become infective. Why not you send it to some progressive, benevolent, charitable-minded business houses like the Tatas, Bajajs and Birlas for starting jointly a Time Bank in India? Every change and every institution including ancient rituals to modern event management companies which arrange virtual funerals evolved over time proving the saying "Necessity is the mother of invention" again and again. The message to which my friend responded had the following brief elucidation about the concept of Time Bank : "Original Time Bank was an old-age pension program developed by the Swiss Federal Ministry of Social Security. People save the 'time' taking care of the elderly when they are younger, and when they become old, I'll or need care, can withdraw it. Applicants must be healthy, good at communicating and full of love. Everyday they have to look after the elderly who need help. Their service hours will be deposited into the personal 'TIME' accounts of the social security system. She goes to work twice a week, spending 2 hours each time helping the elderly, shopping, cleaning their rooms, taking them out for sunbath, chatting with them. According to the agreement, after one year of her service, Time Bank will calculate her aggregate period she has worked and will issue her a "Time Bank Card". And, when she needs someone to take care of her, she can use her time bank card to withdraw "time and time interest". After proper verification, Time Bank will assign other volunteers to take care of her at the hospital or at her home." I can appreciate, in the Indian context, it will be extremely difficult to sell this idea. First question will be "Who will bell the cat?" Let me rush you through the evolution of the idea of mutual help in the Indian society, with focus on developments from 1950's. The cutoff is from my childhood which makes it easier for me to give sort of an eyewitness account. Whatever be their negatives, the rich joint families including the Brahmins and Royal families ensured that basic needs of people in the neighborhood were met to a certain extent in various ways. In large families, members who couldn't progress much took over care-giving and other 'smaller' jobs and remained busy. The concept of mutual help was carried forward with urban migration also. When small housing societies came up in cities, like-minded people with comparable needs and resources came together and groups of families staying together helped each other reminding the erstwhile joint families. All these have become old-fashioned and things of the past. Let me fast-forward to the last decade of the last Century when I was working in Mumbai. For about 7 years we were staying in the same quarters provided by the employer. In the same quarters in the suburbs of Mumbai we were around 300 families. Quickly groups with common language and comparable interests came together and helped each other in all situations. There were individuals whose help can be taken for granted in hospital etc emergencies. I feel, if the concept of Time Bank was prevalent those days, some of us would have accumulated huge balances from which we would have been availing benefits now when we are in our seventies and eighties. Beyond selfish interests, the present and future generations can feel more secure about aging, if Time Bank concept is formalised and institutionalised through a Public-Private Sectors Partnership in India. **************

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