25 July ; The President, Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil, presented the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development for the year 2007 to Mr. Bill Gates who received it on the behalf of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation today. Speaking on the occasion the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh said:
“The Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development, set up just over two decades ago in memory of one of the most charismatic leaders of the last century, honours those who have made extraordinary contributions to these causes, so dear to her. We are both proud and humbled that so many great men and women and so many distinguished institutions, on whom the world showers awards and distinctions, honour Indiraji and us by accepting this Prize.
Improving standards of public health was one of Indiraji’s top priorities, and in 1996 we gave this award to Medecins Sans Frontieres in recognition of their work. This year we once again recognise the work of an organization, and its truly extraordinary leaders, whose contributions to public health around the world, have been truly exceptional and an inspiration to others. The Prize for 2007 is being conferred on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The Foundation has, of course, done more than focus on health care and the eradication of disease. It tackles the root causes of illness and disease by seeking to eradicate poverty. Indiraji gave us the watchword “Garibi Hatao”. Banish Poverty. There can be no better tribute to her memory than for us to recognise some of the most outstanding work being done to eradicate poverty worldwide.
This ideal is also the focus and inspiration of our work in Government. We have undertaken a very ambitious programme for the social and economic rejuvenation of the millions of our people who have been on the margins of India’s growth story. The National Employment Guarantee Programme, Bharat Nirman and the National Rural Health Mission have been successful, but huge challenges remain. There is still so much to do and we are grateful for the help offered so generously by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the many other NGOs working in the field for rural reconstruction and uplift.
One of the pioneering initiatives of the Foundation is the Avahan programme – a large-scale HIV AIDS prevention programme which has targeted 280,000 individuals from high-risk categories. Under our third National Aids Control Programme, the National Aids Control Organisation has worked closely with the Foundation while developing key strategic interventions and formulating programme guidelines. It is a shining example of partnership between government and civil society in a critically important sector. I commend their work.
Going through the list of the 23 recipients of this Prize, I realised that Bill Gates is the first business leader to receive this award. We have so far honoured people in public life, political leaders, scientists and social activists. It is appropriate, I think, that Mr. Gates is the first business leader to receive this prestigious award. In this, as in so much else, he breaks new ground.
He is, after all, a unique business leader. Others have also showed the world how to create wealth from knowledge but very few before him have worked as hard and as selflessly as he has to share that wealth with marginalized people and also create knowledge in the process.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is an inspiration to business leaders around the world. Many business leaders in India too have been inspired by its example and their work and come forward to join the battle against poverty, ignorance and disease. But I very much hope that many more Indians who can – more of our business leaders and our wealthy – will learn to share their wealth with the people of their country, by investing in their education, their health and the care of the elderly and the disabled.
The work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is based on the principle that every human life has equal worth – that the life of a poor child in a developing country is as precious as the life of a middle-class child in a developed country. The same innovation and scientific genius that brought the digital age to millions of homes around the world can equally be used to make billions of our children healthier, better educated and empowered to live lives of dignity and self respect. This is the vision and the promise behind the work of the Foundation and indeed of the work that we do in government.
The ancient Greeks said that all dreams pass through the gates of horn and ivory, but the gates of Bill and Melinda make the dreams of millions real. I compliment Bill and Melinda Gates for their inspiring leadership and their deep humanism. May their path be blessed.”