Calling Microsoft founder Bill Gates a "unique business leader" and an "inspiration", Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday appealed to corporate leaders to help banish poverty, improve health services and promote education.
"The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is an inspiration to business leaders around the world. Many business leaders in India too have been inspired by its example and their work and come forward to join the battle against poverty, ignorance and disease," Manmohan Singh said here at an event marked to confer the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development on the Gates foundation.
"But I very much hope that many more Indians who can -- more of our business leaders and our wealthy -- will learn to share their wealth with the people of their country, by investing in their education, their health, and the care of the elderly and the disabled.
"Going through the list of the 23 recipients of this prize, I realised that Bill Gates is the first business leader to receive this award. We have so far honoured people in public life, political leaders, scientists and social activists. It is appropriate, I think, that Mr Gates is the first business leader to receive this prestigious award. In this, as in so much else, he breaks new ground."
Bill Gates received the award from President Pratibha Patil on behalf of the foundation.
Praising Gates for his human face, the prime minister said: "He is, after all, a unique business leader. Others have also showed the world how to create wealth from knowledge but very few before him have worked as hard and as selflessly as he has to share that wealth with marginalised people and also create knowledge in the process.
"The work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is based on the principle that every human life has equal worth -- that the life of a poor child in a developing country is as precious as the life of a middle-class child in a developed country.
"The same innovation and scientific genius that brought the digital age to millions of homes around the world can equally be used to make billions of our children healthier, better educated and empowered to live lives of dignity and self respect. This is the vision and the promise behind the work of the foundation and indeed of the work that we do in government," Manmohan Singh said.
The foundation, through its India initiative Avahan, has worked for targeted interventions in six states affected most by AIDS.
"Under our third National Aids Control Programme, the National Aids Control Organisation has worked closely with the foundation while developing key strategic interventions and formulating programme guidelines. It is a shining example of partnership between government and civil society in a critically important sector. I commend their work," the prime minister said.
"The ancient Greeks said that all dreams pass through the gates of horn and ivory, but the gates of Bill and Melinda make the dreams of millions real. I compliment Bill and Melinda Gates for their inspiring leadership and their deep humanism," he added.