Buffet, Gates optimistic of gathering support for ‘The Giving Pledge'

“India has a remarkable tradition of giving and it was an honour to meet with those families who talked quite enthusiastically about their own approach to philanthropy.”

Bill Gates, co-founder of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said this after meeting with 70 wealthy people of India here on Thursday. “There was a tremendous give-and-take in the session. It is clear that there is some great thing going on about philanthropy,” he said.

He spoke of the country's history of philanthropy and of some of the great philanthropists it had produced. “I am certain it will continue.”

Asked whether any of the 70 rich people had pledged their wealth for good reasons, Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, said the experience was enthusiastic but a follow-up remained to be seen.

The Gates couple and Mr. Buffett are in India as part of their “The Giving Pledge,” which was launched in the U.S. last year to establish a new tradition and culture of philanthropy. The initiative asks wealthy families to make a public commitment to give away at least half of their wealth either during their lifetime or after their death. The initiative has already gathered support from 59 wealthy families in the U.S. who have pledged 50 per cent or more of their wealth to philanthropic activities.

The list of the guests at the discussion was not made public in deference to their wish for privacy.

“The U.S. receives 2 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product from philanthropy and we hope it would increase in the coming years. India will also see an increase in the number of givers. The people in the room were enthusiastic,” Mr. Buffett felt.

“We heard many people having made a lot of money in India and willing to give it back to society but were still looking for a way to do so,” Melinda Gates, co-founder of the Foundation said.

Candid on his view that philanthropy was a way of converting “bad money into good money” in India, Mr. Buffett said that if a vaccine manufactured from bad money saved a life, no one would inquire about the source of the money. However, Mr. Gates sought to steer clear of the tricky question by saying it was the responsibility of the police and the governments to look into these issues.

Describing the evening as special, Ms. Gates said the families were clearly thinking very hard about how to make the greatest impact and bringing their business acumen to the world of giving. “Bill and I spent much of the week seeing first-hand the need and the opportunity India has before it. I am quite optimistic these families will do extraordinary things with the good fortune they have received.”

Azim Premji, founder of Azim Premji Foundation, said he was completely committed to supporting the larger ambition of catalysing social change to build a better society.

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