Bowing before strategic charities!
By Tarun Vijay
MONEY matters but money is not life, neither does it bring culture. But Bill Gates? recent visit to India has made an impact that simply says, money makes everyone bow.
He met the Prime Minister, but the media chose to publish Manmohan Singh'sphotos with his wife. He made a profitable investment but the leaders said he has helped India and the charities. He had himself photographed with his wife, chatting with ?AIDS activists? and with street children posing for commercial photographers with tricolour in their hands, inaugurated a portal on Hardwar, met certain chief ministers and gave interviews obliging journos.
It was as if a viceroy has visited the natives.
When an India is emerging out of its shell, her sons and daughters are making big news all over because of their own capabilities, Bill Gates emerged.
We were overwhelmed with our own Narayana Murthys and Azim Premjis and Sanias and Irfan Pathans. Bill'sbillions tried to puncture that. Just because of the moolah he promised? There was a time when American mothers used to tell their kids on the breakfast table?finish your food, Indians are starving. Now they say, get good grades, Indians are coming. That'sthe change, a paradigm shift so vividly described in the celebrated book The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman. But the recent visit of Bill Gates proved we are still a colonised mind.
Real motive as doles behind the billions announced for health and other purposes is nothing but it'smarket hunting and creation of new avenues for business.
Every penny that Bill Gates announces to spend for the hungry Indians is an insult and an embarrassment for a citizen who has any sense of history and future.
He sells only those of his softwares and the packages that would help promote his business. And for that, image counts. An image that tells he is seriously interested to help India, to see that the downtrodden and the disadvantaged are made upwardly mobile because of his dollars. But it'sdisgusting to see the mainstream Indian media failing to realise the motive and succumbing to the lure of the dollar and publish full-length interviews with Gates.
Actually Gates is a merciless trader. He wants to promote his software in the face of a challenge, which is getting serious, because of his proven tactics.
That'sthe challenge from the Gnu-Linux system. It says that all the software should be free and the user should be allowed to change and modify it. The expectation is that the user will return the changes to users as a repayment of debt. Microsoft has been convicted by the US courts for monopolising and is being criticised all over the world for promoting business interests beyond the moral line.
The Free Software Foundation (FSF), established in 1985, is dedicated to promoting computer users? rights to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute computer programmes. Microsoft fiercely opposes this.
When Bill Gates visited Australia, people opposed his motives. Australian Democrat IT spokesperson Brian Greig lashed out at Bill Gates over local charity contributions which he announced as part of his visit to Australia.
According to Greig, ?the software tycoon'sglobal philanthropy exercises carry a hidden agenda to persuade beneficiary governments to reverse policies promoting the use of open source software.? He hinted at the case of the Indian government, which was contemplating a similar strategy to NSW government up until November 2002 when Gates announced he would pump over US$ 500 million into the economy.
According to reports at the time, in addition to assistance from Gates? highly publicised global vaccination programmes Gates committed US$100 million to help combat AIDS in India. The remaining US$ 400 million went to expanding the company'sactivities and ?improving computer literacy? in the country. ?
It'sinteresting to note that during the Microsoft chief'slast visit, the CPM'smouthpiece Peoples? Democracy had published an article under the headline, ?The Real American Interests In AIDS Scare? which asked: ?Are the CIA, some NGOs in India, and various US Foundations working in tandem with some key officials in the Union Health Ministry to bring profits to MNC pharmaceutical companies under the garb of an AIDS package to India and an AIDS vaccine? Have AIDS figures in circulation been cooked up to cater to the AIDS industry? And who cooked these figures? Is Bill Gates visit to India designed to ward off stiff competition to Microsoft and to also sell his AIDS package??
Similar doubts have been expressed by the Swadeshi economists many times and there is a strong lobby, going beyond party lines who believes that Bill'sbillions have a strategic angle rather than just help.
What Gates spends and promises in a country like India, must be taken with caution.
(The writer can be contacted at [email protected])