Thursday, December 2, 2010

Azim Premji does a Bill Gates!

With personal wealth estimated at US$18 billion, the third richest Indian, Azim Premji, is donating US$2 billion or about Rs.8,850 crore to fund education, this is in addition to US$150 million or Rs.700 crore that he has already donated for improving schools in six districts of three Indian states. It seems that at least one mega-rich Indian industrialist has got the American billionaires’ disease, at least the beginning of it, of earning huge amounts of money all to ultimately give away as charity.

Today the name Carnegie suggests Dale Carnegie of the ‘How to win friends and Influence People’ fame but in the early twentieth century Andrew Carnegie was the richest man in the United States, perhaps in the world. No one inherited his wealth because he gave it away, all of it, to philanthropic causes including creating thousands of public libraries all over the U.S. The Rockefellers of Standard Oil put major part of their wealth into the Rockefeller Foundation, a charitable organisation. In the present time, of course there are Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, world's second and third richest persons, who have decided to leave only US$300 million and US$1 billion, respectively, to their children, dedicating the rest to Melinda and Bill gates Foundation, which is engaged, among other things, in funding research for finding cure for diseases like malaria and tuberculosis. These diseases, called poor people's diseases, have been below multinational drug companies' radar for obvious reasons - there is no big money in their treatment.

Let Premji be the trend setter for India's growing ranks of dollar billionaires; creating loads and loads of money is great but much greater is spending it on activities directly benefiting society.

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