Development sector bows to IT czar Azim Premji’s philanthropy pledge, hopes more super rich would follow suit

Azim Premji Foundation also fully funds students from the weaker sections at the Azim Premji university that offers undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate courses in education and human development

KV Lakshmana

Thursday morning saw a wave of feel good and inspiration sweeping through the development sector and the industry and business community after IT czar and Wipro Chairman Azim Premji announced ₹52,750 crore for his philanthropic activities.

The statement from his company declared his great commitment to philanthropy by an irrevocable renunciation of his personal assets and giving it to the endowment that supports the Azim Premji Foundation’s philanthropic activities.

An industrialist from Bangalore, unwilling to be named, said the latest announcement making Azim Premji the biggest donor for philanthropic activities was sure to inspire others to come forward. “He is a shining example and is certain to inspire countless others, big and small, across the country to come forward to help the not so privileged,” he said.

Atul Satija, who runs an NGO Nudge and a skill upgrade centre – N Core -- in Bangalore, was thrilled as he opened his morning papers. For staring out from the front page was the smiling picture of Premji and his pledge. “It is definitely inspirational, at a time when the super rich were giving lesser than they did as charity and such philanthropy is not visible on the ground,” he said adding “I am sure this will spur many others to seriously consider giving back to the society in any form they think fit.”

What now is needed is a structured effort at collective philanthropy, something that is not seen in India unlike in the USA where the super rich also collaborate to do good to the society at large, Satija said.

Bowing to the man and his simplicity and even more than it all, his humbleness, Rampati Kumar, Chief executive officer of the Centre for Environment and Energy Development (CEED), said Azim Premji’s gesture will encourage other big corporate houses to come forward and help the society in a big way. CEED works for the development of deprived sections in Delhi, Bihar, Jharkhand, UP and other states. "Such charities can reach segments where the government has not been able to reach,” he said.

Continuing in a similar vein, Prashant Agarwal, President, Narayan Seva Sansthan in Udaipur, Rajasthan said “Azim Premji has changed the lives of so many people by providing them with the right platform and opportunities to grow. Azim Premji Foundation has aimed going beyond the foundation and taken philanthropic initiatives like improving the lives of disabled and street children. His contribution to society will surely inspire other personalities in the nation."

The man earning so much of fulsome praise and respectful adulation from different parts of the country does not come into the limelight and in fact does what he has to do quietly.

“I don’t remember when he gave an interview last,” said a senior journalist with a leading daily on the business beat.

His latest pledge, taking his commitment to philanthropic endowment corpus to a whopping ₹145,000 crores ($21 billion) was made in a company statement issued in Bangalore on Wednesday.

The statement said that Azim Premji had earmarked 34 per cent of Wipro shares worth ₹52,750 crores ($7.5 billion) for his philanthropic activities.

"Azim Premji has increased his commitment to philanthropy, by irrevocably renouncing more of his personal assets and earmarking them to the endowment, which supports Azim Premji Foundation's philanthropic activities," the statement of the Foundation said. This foundation is active in education sector, working to improve the quality of education and helps other non-profit organisations through grants. At present, the Foundation is working in education sector in Karnataka, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Puducherry, Telangana and Madhya Pradesh. It has also entered the North East. The Foundation works with 150 NGOs across the country to improve the living conditions of those from the marginalised sections of the society.

Now, the Foundation has plans to scale up operations significantly. At present, the team of the Foundation is 1600 strong. This is expected to increase significantly, the statement said. The Foundation also fully funds students from the weaker sections at the Azim Premji university that offers undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate courses in education and human development.

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