Will Bill Gates contribute Rs 200 crore for a scheme to improve the living conditions of tribals whose lives are affected by Maoists? Minister of Rural Development Jairam Ramesh is hoping he will.
In a meeting with Gates, the second richest man in the world according to Forbes magazine, in his office yesterday Ramesh sought Rs 200 crore in funding for the Indian government's Bharat Rural Livelihoods Foundation, which seeks to improve the living conditions of tribals in areas affected by Naxalism.
"BRLF provides support to Civil Society Organizations to scale up best practices to empower Community-Based Organisations to improve livelihoods of the extremely backward and poor people in 170 naxal-affected districts in 9 States," a press release from his ministry stated.
The government has already allocated Rs.500 crore for the scheme and is trying to garner another Rs 500 crore from private donors as an initial corpus for the scheme. Ramesh had earlier said he had written to Tata, Reliance, Infosys and Wipro for help in putting together Rs 500 crore .
And while Gates hasn't committed to the project, he has expressed interest in the scheme and reportedly stressed the need for keeping the dialogue open for future cooperation. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is already funding health campaigns in India that battle polio and the spread of HIV.
Ramesh, who also holds charge of the drinking water and sanitation ministry, sought Gates' foundations to help the government in finding sanitation solutions for the country and said a global joint initiative should be launched to develop low-cost technological solutions for clean toilets in Railways.
Given the billionaire is currently funding schemes in Africa to improve sanitation, Ramesh pointed out that in India over 50 percent people still defecate in the open and perhaps he could fund schemes here as well. But whether the Gates Foundation will fund Indian institutions working on developing low cost sanitation solutions only time will tell.
Gates, unsurprisingly did not issue any release and kept a low profile throughout his trip. Only a few tweets about his visit to Lucknow were any indication of his plans.
"Happy to arrive in India after a great visit to Beijing. 44C today in Lucknow. A HOT start to a busy trip," Gates tweeted. The Microsoft founder also met with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav yesterday as part of his trip to India.