| Bill Gates with Chandrababu Naidu at a village clinic in Shadnagar on Thursday. (AFP)
Shadnagar (Andhra Pradesh), Nov. 14: He was hailed for his benevolence. So the king of computerdom returned the compliment, praising his host as a “role model”.
When Bill Gates and Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu met for the fourth time in the last four years, compliments flowed. He is a “role-model chief minister for not only the rest of the country but also the entire continent”, the Microsoft chief said while launching the second phase of the Hepatitis-B vaccination programme in the state.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is donating vaccine worth $11.5 million, which will be distributed in all 22 districts of the state by primary health centres.
Under the first phase launched in 2000, over three lakh children in six districts were given vaccine free of cost.
Asked why Andhra had been chosen for the programme, the man who perfected Windows said the state had agreed to initiate the pilot project of Hepatitis-B vaccine in the country.
“Under the leadership of your chief minister, the state also took up the initiatives for progress and also creating a disease-free society,” Gates said. Naidu, he added, was not only “receptive” to new initiatives in the realm of information technology but also in health and economic reforms. “You are lucky to have a chief minister like Naidu.”
“What your chief minister has achieved is something superb in putting the IT initiatives into practice — e-governance — for the good of the society at large,” Gates said. Not to be left behind, Naidu said Gates’ concern for AIDS and Hepatitis victims was well known.
In the morning, Gates addressed a round table conference on the immunisation programme. He also interfaced with Naidu for half-an-hour.
Speaking to reporters at the rural clinic in Shadnagar, in Mahboobnagar district, Gates, however, parried questions regarding the safety and side effects of the Hepatitis-B vaccine. He appeared restless when the same question was repeated.
He asserted that the vaccine had been used on millions of children in over 150 countries and there had been no complaints of side effects or about safety procedures. “We are pursuing new approaches as in the use of disposable syringes and we have to make it an incredibly safe programme,” Gates said but dodged a reply when asked if the foundation would consider paying compensation if there were complaints.
Gates denied any link between his visit to India and the setback in the Anti-Trust case. “My visit had nothing to do with my software company Microsoft. In fact, I wanted to undertake philanthropy at the age of 60. But after I saw the havoc caused by some diseases on children and youth, I decided to begin now itself,” he said.
Gates and Naidu walked across to the rural clinic waving to cheering crowds. At the community health centre, the Microsoft boss administered polio drops on a few babies. Most of the residents, however, at first mistook him for former US President Bill Clinton.
“They kept saying Bill is coming. From the high security and speedy arrangements they were making, I thought it must be the US president,” said Padmavati, a local schoolteacher.
Gates said the model of partnership in the immunisation drive was functioning well. “This is the first model of partnership with a public institution that we have ventured into India. Now based on this experience, we are entering into another partnership with the Government of India on its immunisation programme.”
Gates said Naidu had all the “qualifications” to become the brand ambassador for the anti-AIDS campaign “my foundation wants to begin in India”. His foundation has assured $100 million for prevention of AIDS in the country. “I want to launch a serious research for discovery of drugs for AIDS spread over 10 years, besides an awareness campaign, and make the drugs available at cheaper cost,” he added.
The Microsoft chief visited the Satyam Technology centre at Turkapally in the afternoon where he addressed the Nasscom executive committee and lunched with software engineers.