The test of a government is how it treats the vulnerable among its citizensthe children, the aged, the sick, the handicapped and those that have been rendered vulnerable due to some calamity like the floods. The charitable impulse at the root of much aid-giving is at its most potent in a calamity like this. It is, however, blind as a bat. It might raise a lot of money but it also often stifles all questions about the uses to which that money is put and makes those who ask such questions look rather churlish. Criticizing humanitarianism is like criticizing motherhoodit is just not 'the done thing. One of my colleagues expressed the problem particularly well, Humanitarians ask individuals, and government of Pakistan, to give funds out of charity to allow them to save lives, heal wounds, comfort the weak. Compassion expects everyone to agree. And since they are guided by a moral virtue, compassion, any obstacle in the path of carrying out a humanitarian objective is deemed immoral. Since the objective is so good, it is inconceivable that recipients would fail to be grateful. But what is it, precisely, that the recipients are expected to be grateful for? In some cases it is a good deal less than donors both national and internationalare lead to believe. Whether the aid is charitable or official, funded out of direct public donations or through foreign aid, the aid personnel of all the concerned agencies, inevitably, play a crucial role in the field and bear a tremendous responsibility. They must interpret needs of the recipients correctly and must meet those needs competently and quickly enough. It is generally taken for granted that they do both these things and do them well. Press and television reports tend to play up relief workers as hard-pressed saints. Some recipients of emergency assistance have, however, expressed (ungracious) doubts about those who have come to help. The aid personnel who consume these resources are all kinds, representing diversity of the rest of humanity. Some are very good indeed and undoubtedly deserve the praise they earn. Some can be bad, especially if unskilled in their work, or extraordinarily bad, having questionable motivations and negligible, or even harmful, in put. All too often during floods, the staff, experts and consultants hired by aid agencies are not subjected to any careful scrutiny before they are sent into field. Common sense gets abandoned in the rush for help. It would help if the disaster victims themselves were consulted about their own priorities. This usually does not happen. -UMER MUMTAZ, Rawalpindi, August 21.