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Delhi watch on Gates’ funds

New Delhi, Nov. 11: The Centre wants a firm commitment from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on its larger participation in the $100-million AIDS project Bill Gates announced today.

On the surface, the relationship between the Microsoft chief and the government appears cordial, but there are indications that the Centre wants to keep tabs on the flow of funds for Gates’ “Indian AIDS Initiative”.

Government sources said the health and external affairs ministries have advised the Prime Minister’s Office that there should be a broader understanding between the Centre and the foundation on the modalities and nature of funding the project.

The PMO had sought the opinion of the two ministries after Gates reportedly wrote to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee — before landing in Delhi — listing things he wanted the government to take note of in the run-up to his initiative.

It is learnt that the health ministry suggested that the government enter into a memorandum of understanding with the foundation so that project modalities were clear. Sources said the foundation was apparently not averse to this.

“We will work with the Union government as a partner and also with all other state governments, NGOs and private companies,” Gates said at a news conference after meeting the Prime Minister.

He expressed satisfaction over the meeting. “The Prime Minister has appreciated our efforts,” he said, adding that Union health minister Shatrughan Sinha would be hosting a reception for the foundation tonight.

A government official said the Centre was insisting on an MoU so that flow of funds could be regulated and enquiries made on how the funds would be utilised and what kind of people would be involved.

The external affairs ministry reportedly told the PMO the quantum and scope of fund flow should be ascertained and enquiries made whether the foundation would make a one-time investment or a sustained donation.

The government is already apprehensive about the exaggerated AIDS figures quoted by foreign agencies.

Gates said the initiative would work to combat the social stigma attached to the disease and increase awareness through nation-wide communication and advocacy efforts. ( )

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