The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have agreed to commit Rs 500 crore for the execution of health projects in selected districts of Bihar.
The 'in principle' agreement towards this end was finalised during a daylong meeting here recently between State officials led by Principal Secretary (Health) C K Mishra and a visiting Gates Foundation team.
The 11-member Foundation team, headed by Ashok Alexander, consented during the meeting to offer "co-operation and funding" for the projects. It subsequently had a meeting with Chief Secretary Anup Mukherjee.
When contacted, Mishra confirmed that an agreement had been reached. "A formal Memorandum of Understanding with the Foundation representatives will be signed soon", he told HT.
The Principal Secretary (Health) said the amount committed by the Foundation "for the time being" was in the vicinity of Rs 500 crore, thereby appearing to indicate it might go up subsequently.
One major area of the Foundation's focus will be projects on Reproductive Health and Nutrition. But it is also interested in funding efforts to combat and control tuberculosis, kala-azar, pneumonia and polio.
Going by immediate indications, the Gates Foundation aided projects will get underway in fiscal 2010-11. The idea gaining ground is to start with about eight districts and see where it goes from there.
Sources indicated that the formal agreement between the Bihar Government and the Foundation would be signed during the current financial year, probably by March.