BILLIONAIRES FOR GOOD
Forbes India|December 4, 2020
Although a handful of Indian billionaire families have stepped up to help mitigate the pandemic’s fallout, India is yet to inculcate a culture of philanthropy
PANKTI MEHTA KADAKIA

In 1918, an influenza virus emerged (probably in the US) that would spread around the world, and one of its earliest appearances in lethal form came in Philadelphia. Before that pandemic faded away in 1920, it would kill more people than any other outbreak of disease in human history.

One cannot know with certainty, but if the upper estimate of the death toll is true, as many as 8 to 10 percent of all young adults then living may have been killed by the virus. And they died with extraordinary ferocity and speed.

Yet, the story of the 1918 influenza virus is not simply one of havoc, death, and desolation, of a society fighting a war against nature superimposed on a war against another human society.

It is also a story of science, of discovery, of how one thinks, and of how one changes the way one thinks, of how amidst near-utter chaos a few men sought the coolness of contemplation, the utter calm that precedes not philosophising but grim, determined action.

When American author and historian John M Barry wrote these lines in his 2004 book, The Great Influenza, about the spread of the Spanish flu and its impact on American society, he likely didn’t anticipate the relevance his research would have 16 years later. Arguably, more so in the Indian context.

Barry writes about America of the early 1900s, when Europe dominated the fields of medical science and research. Back then, many American schools handed out medical degrees to any student who attended lectures and passed examinations; others still did not care if students failed several courses and never touched a single patient—they still got through med school. Science and religion were at odds with each other.

Through the pandemic, an important theme that emerged for America was the sudden impetus in medical research and discovery, especially the work done at the Johns Hopkins and Rockefeller institutes. In a note that Bill Gates wrote on the book in May 2020, he says that among his big takeaways for Covid-19 from the book is that philanthropy has an important role to play.

“In fact, things could have been much worse if not for the gifts of John D Rockefeller, Johns Hopkins, and many other donors,” he writes. “These gifts fundamentally transformed American science and medicine in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, giving the country hundreds of thousands of well trained professionals to treat those who fell ill from influenza and guide the public-health response.”

In a country where medical education is largely considered a racket and where a sizeable population is taken to believe that home remedies can steel them against Covid-19, could India stand to make similar gains from the pandemic?

POWER OF BILLIONS

Released in November, the EdelGive Hurun India Philanthropy List 2020 showed that Azim Premji maintained his top spot from last year with ₹7,904 crore in donations. According to the list, Premji, through the Azim Premji Foundation, Wipro and Wipro Enterprises, committed ₹1,125 crore towards the pandemic, in addition to their regular philanthropic initiatives. This amounts to Premji having donated ₹22 crore a day.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM FORBES INDIAView All

Selfless Service For Minimum Pay

ASHA workers such as Vinimol and Indu in Kerala have been the foot soldiers in the fight against Covid-19, and yet not acknowledged enough

4 mins read
Forbes India
January 15, 2021

The Way We Shot (From Home)

With barriers to film production brought in by the pandemic, filmmakers came up with creative ways to tell and shoot stories

7 mins read
Forbes India
January 15, 2021

Lending A Helping Hand

Billionaires, CEOs, philanthropists and celebs went out of their way to help citizens deal with the pandemic

10 mins read
Forbes India
January 15, 2021

Will The Pandemic's Lessons Go Viral?

Besides scaling up the health workforce, infrastructure, equipment and management systems of primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare facilities need to be strengthened

6 mins read
Forbes India
January 15, 2021

Heroes Behind The Wheel

Ambulance drivers have transported those who succumbed to Covid-19, regardless of risk to their own lives

4 mins read
Forbes India
January 15, 2021

A Tailwind For Digital Transformation

Across sectors in India, the Covid-19 crisis pushed businesses to embrace technology at a rate they wouldn’t have thought possible otherwise

10+ mins read
Forbes India
January 15, 2021

Friends on the Frontline

Cops and municipal workers ensured humanitarian help and essential supplies were readily available during the lockdown

4 mins read
Forbes India
January 15, 2021

Eye For Innovation

Five companies launched and modified products to address health care needs and simplify treatment during the pandemic.

8 mins read
Forbes India
January 15, 2021

Lessons From Lockdowns

Industry leaders from across sectors talk about what their learnings—professional and personal—have been through the Covid-19 pandemic

10+ mins read
Forbes India
January 15, 2021

10 Big Questions For 2021

The Covid-19 crisis wreaked havoc on the economy. Will the New Year herald a much-needed recovery?

10+ mins read
Forbes India
January 15, 2021
RELATED STORIES

YOGA & PEACE

DEEPAK CHOPRA speaks with DAAJI about the role Yoga has to play in bringing about world peace. This is an excerpt from their conversation broadcast on International Day of Peace, September 21, 2020. That documentary is available at https://heartfulness.org/en/international-day-of-peace/.

6 mins read
Heartfulness eMagazine
January 2021

Create the habit of meditation

CHIRAG KULKARNI, Co-Founder and CMO of Medly Pharmacies in the USA, speaks with RISHIKA SHARMA about creating a regular meditation practice, so as to make it a habit. He also shares how meditation has benefited both his personal and professional life.

7 mins read
Heartfulness eMagazine
January 2021

The Top Secret to a Healthy Gut

50-POUND WEIGHT GAIN, ANXIETY, AND DIGESTIVE PROBLEMS

4 mins read
Better Nutrition
January 2021

SHIA'S PRIVATE TEMPLE OF DOOM!

Indiana Jones gig derailed by abuse scandal

2 mins read
Globe
January 11, 2021

Let's Dish

"Food Raconteur” Ashok Nageshwaran wants to tell you a story.

2 mins read
DesignSTL
January/February 2021

THE MAKING OF A MODEL MINORITY

Indian Americans rarely stop to ask why our entrance into American society has been so rapid—or to consider what we have in common with other nonwhite Americans.

10+ mins read
The Atlantic
January - February 2021

Interconnectedness

In 2017, DR. VANDANA SHIVA spoke with KIM HUGHES about the sacredness of the Earth, the work she has been doing to bring awareness and change in the field of sustainable agriculture, and the importance of understanding our interconnectedness with Nature, and how we can change the way we eat.

8 mins read
Heartfulness eMagazine
December 2020

DIAMONDS - A Luxury Gem Steeped in Fact & Fable

The diamond is one fabled gemstone! For example, google “Hope Diamond” to see all the legends associated with just this one stone said to bring misfortune to its owners.

2 mins read
Rock&Gem Magazine
January 2021

Women's World

Brown Sugaa and Medusa

2 mins read
Born To Ride Southeast Magazine
December 2020

Women's World

Brown Sugaa and Medusa

2 mins read
Born To Ride Florida
December 2020