After screwing Greenpeace India and the Ford Foundation, the home ministry has turned its gaze on to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the eponymous non-governmental organisation founded and run by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and his wife Melinda. The home ministry is looking into the foundation's role into the funding of a prominent Indian health body following inputs received by it from intelligence agencies, but insisted the exercise was an informal one and is in preliminary stages. "It is not a formal inquiry. It's only a look into the affairs after certain information has come to our notice and we are in the process of checking it out," the home ministry official said.
The official insisted that the exercise is different in intensity and scope from the ministry's recent actions against Greenpeace India, whose FCRA licence (which enables it to access foreign donations) has been suspended and Ford Foundation, which has been placed under the 'Prior Permission' category under which the government vets donations made by it to Indian organisations. A spokesperson for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation said it was unaware of the home ministry's move. "We have not been approached by the government of India," the spokesperson said.
The foundation is the largest private organisation of its kind in the world which is set up by Bill Gates in 2000 and is a major donor to many Indian NGOs and associations. Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH), an American NGO was pulled up by a parliamentary standing committee in 2013 after the death of seven tribal girls in 2009 in Andhra Pradesh. PATH had conducted observation studies for cervical cancer using drugs and the study was sponsored by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The foundation funds several organisations as part of its work on public health and all these organisations partner drug companies in some form or the other, raising questions of conflict of interest. Both Bill and Melinda Gates, are ranked among the most influential people in the world and were awarded the Padma Bhushan last January for their contribution to social work, a recognition that will likely to weigh on the government's demeanour towards their organisation.