Bill Gates meets with business leaders in India
At top; Bill Gates Jr. meets with Harshad R. Mehta. Middle; Rajashree Birla welcomes Gates to a meeting with Rotarian business leaders in New Delhi, with Past RI President Rajendra K. Saboo seated at left. Bottom; Gates with Rajnikant D. and Sandra Shroff. Photos courtesy of the India PolioPlus Committee
A shared desire to protect the world's children from the ravages of polio brought Bill Gates Jr. and Rotarian business leaders together in New Delhi on 5 November. The meeting resulted in three major commitments to help fund Rotary's US$100 Million Challenge.
"The worth of a person is measured not by what he possesses but what he gives," said Past RI President Rajendra K. Saboo in introducing Gates at the event, hosted by the India PolioPlus Committee and Rajashree Birla, a member of The Rotary Foundation’s Arch C. Klumph Society. "The Gates family has proven this by committing their resources through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation toward global development and improving public health worldwide."
Gates spoke about his visit to India, where he observed polio surveillance, immunization, and outbreak response activities and met with health officials and experts to learn firsthand about the country’s progress in ending the disease.
"The commitment from everyone involved is impressive, especially Rotary International, which has launched their worldwide program," said Gates, cochair of the Gates Foundation. "I am more than glad to be among you and share our vision of a polio-free world."
Birla, an honorary member of the Rotary clubs of Bombay and Mulund, Maharashtra, expressed her hope that India's business leaders would emulate Gates and help support polio eradication through their companies' social responsibility programs.
"We strongly believe that business and industry is uniquely positioned to contribute significantly towards polio eradication not only in India but across the world," said Birla, who contributed $1 million to Rotary's challenge earlier this year. Then she added, "We in the Aditya Birla Group are pleased to commit an additional $1 million today."
Harshad R. Mehta, a member of the Rotary Club of Bombay Metropolitan, committed to giving $2 million to Rotary's challenge last December. He stepped forward at the New Delhi meeting to pledge an additional $1.5 million.
"On being advised that additional funds would be required for polio eradication and seeing the commitment and resolve of the Gates family, I was duly enthused to increase my commitment," Mehta said. "It is a good investment in the future of the children of the world. I would appeal to all Rotarians and like-minded friends to improve on their commitment and support of The Rotary Foundation's effort for polio eradication."
In addition, Rajnikant D. Shroff and his wife, Sandra, both members of the Rotary Club of Vapi, Gujarat, committed $250,000 to the challenge. "Looking at the problem of polio in India, I feel whatever we have done is a very small contribution," Shroff said of the pledge. "I am confident that if everybody decides to contribute in a small way, we will be able to make India polio-free and eradicate this disease from the world."
Gates Foundation Cochair William Gates Sr. and his daughters, Kristi Blake and Libby Armintrout, also attended the meeting. Other Rotary leaders present included India PolioPlus Committee Chair Deepak Kapur and past RI directors Sudarshan Agarwal, Kalyan Banerjee, Sushil Gupta, and O.P. Vaish.
"Rotary is one of the finest organizations on earth, with an army of thousands and thousands of dedicated and committed Rotarians, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is honored to support their fight against polio," Gates Sr. said.