Head of Gates Foundation posted on RBI board, RSS affiliate says conflict of interest
The Gates Foundation has been in the crosshairs of the Swadeshi Jagran Manch, which had alleged conflict of interest in the health ministry for signing a MoU with the US billionaire-couple’s charity.india Updated: Apr 07, 2018 22:11 IST
The Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM), an affiliate of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, has questioned if it wasn’t conflict of interest that the India director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is also on the board of directors of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
The appointments committee of the Union cabinet approved in August last year Gates foundation head Nachiket Mor’s reappointment as a member of the eastern local board of the federal bank and nominated him to its central board.
“The Gates Foundation is regulated by the RBI and it is an absolute conflict of interest to have Mor on its board of directors. The government should have not allowed this,” said Ashwani Mahajan, the national co-convenor of SJM on Saturday.
In his defence, Mor said that “all appointments to the RBI board are made by the central government in accordance with the relevant provisions of the RBI Act”.
The SJM, which works on economic issues and pushes for indigenous production, wants the Centre to draft a policy detailing conflict of interest, bar bureaucrats from advocacy groups, and keep organisations from specific fields out of government-controlled panels.
The Gates Foundation has been in the crosshairs of the SJM, which had written to the Centre, alleging conflict of interest in the health ministry for signing a memorandum of understanding with the US billionaire-couple’s charity to augment efforts to achieve universal immunisation.
The SJM prepared a draft white paper on the Gates foundation, questioning its influence on health policies, particularly the immunisation drive.
The organisation had accused the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) of collaborating with multinational companies to import food for infants, not permitted under law.
The SJM said the government should ensure its policies are not influenced by advocacy groups.
“There is a working group on nutrition formed by the NITI Aayog, which has on board multi-national companies that manufacture packaged food and beverages, which again is a conflict of interest,” Mahajan said.
Responding to the allegation, a Niti Aayog official who does not want to be named said the government think tank’s “job is to hear all voices”. He said no important role has been assigned to members of any of these “corporates”.
But the RSS affiliate insisted that clearer and stricter guidelines should be placed to ensure policies are not influenced by pressure groups.
“The issue of conflict of interest was raised by PM Narendra Modi. It is a serious issue and the government must take urgent steps to ensure that policy-making is not affected by commercial interests,” Mahajan said.
In 2015, Modi told senior BJP colleagues that party MPs having conflict of interest should avoid becoming members of parliamentary committees.