New Delhi: NDTV:
Hello and welcome to India Questions
. It is very,
very rare, and this programme has been around for a long time, and to
get in my opinion two of the really greatest human beings that we have
living on this planet today and both together. They have never been
together before, although I have had them individually. They have so
much in common. Bill Gates and Aamir Khan. What do they have in common?
Two of the world's greatest school and college dropouts. So if you are
going to drop out then don't worry, this is your future. They are also
in a way moving on to phase two of their lives, a new chapter. I can
give you a little anecdote. About two years ago or may be a little more
than that when Bill Gates was in phase one of his life, and we were
talking to whole lot of software people, rather than more interesting
people like you, I asked him to give a sound check, say one two three
four and he said one billion, two billion, three billion. He was
counting notes then and now he is counting people being saved by
vaccination, by vaccines, in terms of millions and millions of them.
It's a huge terrific change in your life, phase two. And Aamir, in a way
you have also moved from, of course you have not given up your earlier
acting career, but you have also moved on to social issues with this
more path breaking television programme, which had a huge impact and
everybody said you are nuts, why are you doing this sort of stuff? Why
don't you stick to movies? So what motivated, what caused that change?
You know I don't know. I think it's; you know I was
at a discussion sometime back and you know one of the questions asked to
my team in Satyamev Jayate
was, what are the good qualities that
a NGO should have? It was a question asked to Satya actually, my
director. And he said that one of the good qualities any NGO should
have, or any person who wants to be a part of social service should have
is that, it's not just the emotion of wanting to do something for
somebody else, which is in itself a good emotion, that you want to do
for someone, but if you feel that your life is incomplete if you don't.
So you are doing it for yourself really, of course you are doing it for
someone else. But I think that's what is important. If, and it's
something that happens to you if you feel like. It doesn't have to
happen to you. But I think in me what grew was this feeling that I need
it to for myself, do something. But I felt better about myself when I
felt; I feel I am so privileged in so many ways. And I feel that. I
really feel that when I see people around me who are not as privileged, I
can't just sit by and be comfortable with that. There is a need in me
to reach out and perhaps help if I can.
And in a way you are lucky to have a position where people will listen
And I like it to use it to the best of my abilities.
So I guess that's why I have moved into this space where I am. It's for
my own emotional or mental, you know, peace of mind and satisfaction.
Bill Gates you have also got a little more emotional in
phase two. I have seen you almost choke up talking about your Dad, about
how your wife motivated you, how your Dad's your hero, and how all this
means a little more to your heart then your head. So what motivated you
to make your change?
Well I think it's very similar. I loved my career in
software and being part of building Microsoft, the personal computer and
3D internet. In my 20s and 30s I was fanatical. I saw what innovation
could do. But there came a point when I thought that I should turn that
work over to other people and think about how innovation, does it
naturally benefit everyone? Does it reach down to the person? In fact I
got a chance to see all of that as I travelled the world, and a big
believer in innovation. I thought okay, we can push it in that
direction. So it's allowed me to learn a lot of new things and I
wouldn't be able to do it except for the luck, the ability to resources
that came from that first career. And actually use a lot that I learnt
then in terms of engaging scientists and driving innovation as fast as
And how important was your wife in this chapter two of your life?
When I first said to my wife that I was considering retiring from my full time work in Microsoft. You know she...
She said are you crazy
Well she was careful not to jump on it because she
wanted it to be my decision you know, that I will never look back and
feel like that wasn't, that I really picked the time, that I felt
comfortable with that. Because it has been so central to my life I'm
certainly enthused about it. During my time in Microsoft, I always had
somebody who was my key partner, Paul Allen in founding a new era. Steve
Ballmer as the company became big and complicated and now in this era
it's truly my wife who's my key confidant and so we get to do this
And a great motivator. She is a driving force behind a lot of what you do.
Absolutely, she is very energetic about these things.
She is actually in Malaysia this week at a Women Delivers Conference,
talking about the reproductive health and how women get access to those
tools. She is equally passionate and also was at Microsoft. So some of
the ways we think about the measurement and managing people, getting the
best people, that's a common background.
Aamir when Bill Gates got launched into this phase two, he
talked to and convinced a lot of billionaires around the world,
especially Warren Buffet, to donate a lot. To be philanthropic and
donate to his organisation and to other organisations and make changes.
What about India, we do not see enough of that. We have got a great
example of Azim Premji whom you highlighted in your...
Yes in our show we did showcase what Mr Premji is
doing and I think he is doing really wonderful work and really we
should, we should all take a cue from that. And certainly I feel that, I
mean I do believe that in India there is a lot of philanthropy, there
are huge amounts that we often donate, but it's usually to religious
organisations. We donate a lot to religion. Maybe that is a need in us
to try and safeguard our passage into heaven and, I don't know; you know
because we feel that if we donate a lot to temples, mosques or you know
religious institutions and that's where I see most of the big donations
going. So it's not that, it's not that we don't donate. We donate huge
amounts but they go into religious institutions. Whereas we don't donate
to education or to health care. And I personally feel that if you, if
you, you know donate to education and health care, the God up there is
going to be really happy. So he'll probably be happier. So I mean I
think that it's time that people who are well off financially in India
and who would like to contribute to nation building, to building this
nation into what it can be and to trying to achieve its full potential
for the youth for the kids of our country; and for you know, emotional
happiness for all of us, that is one area that we can really help in,
you know, in donating huge sums to education, healthcare and other such
things rather than just religion.
You think like you need two hands to clap or it's a bit of a
failure, the lack of institutions that they can feel save, the money
going to the right place. Like if you donate to the PM's Relief Fund,
you just feel God knows what will happen, where will it go, be part of
the budget. But if you got something, the Indian equivalent of the Gates
Foundation or something, where you know, I spend the money here it's
not going to go to salaries, it's going to go where targeted.
I don't agree with that entirely Prannoy, because I
feel that while yes, we are concerned about you know where are we
putting our money, or where are we donating. So that's a concern that
all of us should have certainly. But I don't think that you won't find
any institution or...
If you will look you will find them in India as well now
You will. It will take you a week or so to find it
out. And you will if you really are interested. I don't think it is that
difficult to find out.
That's not a sufficient excuse
Yes that's not a sufficient excuse as far as I am concerned
Bill Gates when you meet India entrepreneurs, billionaires,
are you getting any traction with them that they should also donate to
the second miracle or miracle of say vaccines?
I am sure that philanthropy in India will continue to
grow and I think if there is awareness that, although the government
can do a lot, that there is something sort of innovative, whether it's
good schools showing a way on that. The people like Pratham who I think
are doing an amazing job and I am sure there are others like that. In
agriculture there is Pradan, getting smart young people, getting out
there, pushing innovative techniques. And so yes, philanthropy is going
to grow. The only thing I do is as people are interested in philanthropy
I share with them how much fun it could be. And talk to them about the
fact that you should move from the place that you are, were, successful,
usually business, you are going to feel uncomfortable, because you are
going to be in an area where the measures are not as clear and you
haven't had the 20 or 30 year period of experience where you are really
familiar with the territory. You will have to engage with the government
to at least to show the way on certain issues. So it's tricky. I think
that one of the earliest philanthropists anywhere was the Tata family.
They were actually a few years, even before Rockefeller and Carnegie and
I learnt a lot from those early foundations because they were pretty
brilliant in what they did. I think the more people give, the more it
makes other people think that, should I do the same? And I hope that in
10 years from now we can say that this was the golden era of
philanthropy in India and the rest of the world
You do find some traction when you talk to them
Absolutely, the interest in discussion is very
strong. In fact there have been in a number of meetings and people are
finding their way. That boundary of how you connect and you know show
models of government, some capacity building is taking place. The US is
in this respect further down the learning curve. There is no lack of
places to give. And some agree that the universities have to reach out a
little more and have to say that, okay here is programme that you can
fund and they should. That's how that happened in US, which is the
Really organised, beautifully organized, universities of
America. But I must say from talking to people that you have spoken to,
you, yes you, had made them think and they are kind of on the verge,
wondering how much, because when you've got 20 billion, what's a couple
of billion or ten billion actually.
Well you can promise that you can't take it with you. You know building kermits is out of fashion.
When you say, just getting back to the score of the topic
today, when you move say, from the miracle of software to the miracle of
vaccines, what is the miracle of that? In a nutshell, what do you mean?
Well, when you say what's the most tragic thing in
the world there will be a lot of things that would come to mind. But I
think parents having to bury a child would very high on the list and
particularly if there is a tool that exists that could be very
inexpensive and it could get to every child, literally will stop
millions of these deaths. You know if there was nothing to stop it,
okay, you can almost think of that as fate. But when there is a vaccine,
that actually rich kids who are not at the risk of the disease much are
getting, but the kids who need it the most aren't getting, that struck
me as a terrible tragedy. Where has the innovation gone wrong? So now we
can see that we are making progress, we're getting more vaccines out to
all the kids in the world including the kids in India.
Give us like a success story. I know you are like an eternal optimist. Are you also an optimist?
Yes I think I am a kind of idealist actually
But like, that you feel things will happen. That's what...
Yes I believe, I believe, I believe in the good in people and I believe that will emerge and it is emerging
That's also a motivating factor when you feel that
I feel, I mean I feel that in India right now. You
know when I was in college, the two years that I was in college, at that
time I felt that there is a different kind of buzz around me, and as
time went by I feel that, you know, from the era of oh nothing is going
to change, oh this is how it is going to be and this is how it is, I
think now there is a change. I think people want to contribute. People
are eager to contribute and that's a specific change that I felt. You
know even the show like Satayamev Jayate
. When we started the
show we had no idea on GC if you are talking about, you know, female
foeticide, general entertainment channel where people are watching
serials and you know, fun stuff, here we are doing a one and half hour
program on Sunday morning when nobody watches television, it's called
graveyard time. And we are coming with a one and half hour programme on
topics like domestic violence and child sexual abuse and female
foeticide, you know, who's going to watch this?
And it had huge ratings
So, but why? That means people want to change. They
want to understand; they want to make their lives better. And I feel
that, that the fact that it became such a huge success, it became such a
movement, indicates to us that India is ready for change and it is
changing. And that was really encouraging to someone like me and you
know people who want things to move
These youngsters are much better than us, right? Not that we are at the same, well we are roughly the same
Well yes, I mean I would like to believe that. I
think that today the youth is really motivated, they want to bring about
a change, and I feel that happening. I feel that happening I mean, when
was the last time you saw people coming out on the road and you know
protesting about something? I have never seen that in my, when I was in
school and college I never saw that. But today we see that
Yes, huge numbers
There is a lot of energy that is you know...
You know in our age why was there a feeling of
hopelessness, was that the country going for 50 years at a rate, growing
at a rate of 2.5% a year? It's called a Hindu rate of growth and we
thought that democracy never works. You've got to have a dictatorship if
you want 8%. But India has proved that democracy can get you 8% growth
rate and these kids are doing it. When you go to the only large
democracy that grows at such a high rate it brings hope. But it does not
mean that there is going to be a trickle down, the market does not
Well some agree the market has been interfered with
when you have subsidies, labour, land, you know, not allowing companies
to come in. You will be surprised by how all the market works if we give
it a chance to work. And that's for when we do the reforms
But in certain areas doesn't, like vaccines for example. But give us some, an example of a successful vaccine programme.
Bill Gates: Well India at this point has 1.7 million children under the
age of 5 who die every year. And it is such tragic thing. But if you go
back 10 years ago it was over 3 million. So it has come down a lot. So
you might say what's going happen going forward? Well we know that if we
get the new vaccines out there, if we treat children in the first 30
days we can get it below a million. So a recent development is that Dr
Raj Bhan, an Indian scientist, and a group he works with has created a
very effective and low cost vaccine for rotavirus, which is about 40% of
all diarrheas. And that's in the process of being approved. There is an
Indian company that is making it in high volume. So you know when that
gets out there that alone would cut well over a hundred thousand of
those deaths. And a lot of kids will grow up and their brain will
develop in a better way. And so as we improve health it is pretty
magical, it's not just the deaths that go down, it's the potential of
all those kids is realized, where diarrhea, malnutrition, a variety of
these things have held that back now.
It is such a simple way. A vaccination can bring your death
rate of children down by half. It's just like a no-brainer, which we
haven't done for 100 years. It's like crazy.
Actually I feel it's how we look at health and how we
look at children. So it's our whole approach and whole point of view
towards children and towards health care. Now India, you know we spend
1.4 % of our GDP as I discovered during Satyamev Jayate o
care, 1.4%, which I believe is very low. I am not an economist; my
understanding is the average is about 8%, you know, in other countries
That's shocking 1% as compared to 8%
And In the US it's even higher
19% spent on health care. So I am saying that how
much do we value our health? We have to ask ourselves that question. How
much do we value our children? If we really do value our children, then
why are we not moving in that direction? If we do value our health why
are we not moving in that direction? And we need to ask those questions
to the people whom we are entrusting. When we hold elections we entrust
people to look after the country for us and run it for us for five
years. And when they make up budgets in which they put, you know, less
money for health care and more for defence, then that's a question we
need to ask them, is my health not important enough? Why has public
health been sidelined so badly? That someone like me, who can afford it,
can go to a hospital which is a private hospital, but what happens to
someone who cannot afford it? So what happens to that person who,
because of the taxes he or she is paying has a right to that public
health? You know a lot of us do not understand this. So let me explain
this because a lot of people are watching this on television. I am being
very simplistic, but bear with me. You know a lot of people feel that yaar
I am not paying taxes because I am not rich enough to pay the taxes, I
don't come under income tax so it's not my money that is coming back to
me. No, you are, indirect taxes, you are buying salt you are paying tax,
you are buying sugar you are paying tax, and everything you purchase
has got a tax on it. And if you are poor, then you are probably paying
more proportionately from your income in indirect taxes than a person
who is rich
You are quit a good economist yaar
What I am trying to say is that this is your wealth.
The money that the country collects belongs to you and me. It has not
come from anywhere else. It is my money. It is your money. So we do have
a right to ask what are you doing with my money and how are you
spending it. I want to know how you are spending it? Why is such a
little is being spent on health care? That is my right. I should not be
begging for it.
They should be doing what you tell them to.
The people we appoint are selected by us to do a job you know, so we have the right to ask them why that is not happening
Yes, I think there is the budget question of keeping
the priority of having the health budget grow. There is also the
question of quality of execution and that's often at the state level.
And so if you look at India, the variation between the quality of taking
the money and actually getting the delivery is quite vast you know. You
go almost from the worst in the world to almost the best in the world
between the various states in India. So it's very exciting to me that in
some of these elections, instead of people asking is that person from
my club, they really should be asking hey, what they did about
So when we have that competition in excellence then
there is inter state jealousy. If their state can do it, why my state
can't do it. I think it is one of the more positive dynamics in the
country because you do have some wonderful examples of getting a lot
done, even with quite limited budgets that exist.
Actually it is the major change that you are talking about.
The first 40 years, whether you did anything or not in your
constituency, you were voted back into power, 80% people were voted back
in power. Now if you deliver you are voted back, if you don't you are
thrown out. It's a 50- 50 ratio now. If you deliver on roads, on water,
electricity that was 10 years ago, but now they want roads, water,
electricity, education, health. You deliver on those you are voted back.
So the people in our democracy are pushing our politicians at last.
It's a mature democracy yes, that's how it is supposed to work.
Let's take questions from these youngsters. I do have one from Uruj
Fatima. Are you here Uruj Fatima? Yes you are. Why don't you, which
college are you from?
LSR, Lady Shri Ram. The question that I wanted to ask
is that you know there are so many debates and protests held over LPG,
petrol hike, etc. However nothing such happens when it comes to the
health of young children. Why do you think this is happening, has the
government really institutionalised the inequity to the point that the
voices of the poor are no longer heard?
You know I don't know whether we should blame the
government for that. I think we should ask that question to ourselves,
that when we are willing to protest about certain things like LPG gas as
you mentioned, why we are not protesting about health of our children?
So that's a question we really need to ask ourselves. Nothing can stop
us from protesting, if you want to, on any issue.
I think it's partly invisible because it happens one
at a time. You know its 5,000 children every day, but unlike the price
of LPG going up all at once, you know that day everybody comes together.
This is happening to people in isolated ways and particularly more in
the rural areas. So the idea is that you come all together to say hey
this should not have happened. A plane crash gets more visibility than
the 5000 kids who died that day.
Exactly. Any other questions, quickly
I am Vaishali from Lady Shri Ram College. My question
may sound as an aberration to what we are discussing but it's very
inter-related. While millions go hungry every day there are a certain
section of the society who suffer from over-nourishment, as we all know.
So is it time now that we should also consider the gap that we have. We
should also mind the gap. Instead of we all put down a lot of stress on
under-nutrition, but what about the over-nutrition, which indeed is
very related to under-nutrition?
You mean obesity or may be tax on obesity. Also let's take question from the boy next to you.
I am from Modern School. My question to the panel is now
we have India boasting about its scientific and its medical technology.
Whereas many women in India today are forced to, you know, deliver
babies in a most unhygienic condition. Well as very bluntly pointed out
that India spends only 1.6% of its GDP for health care. So my question
precisely is, where is the lacking? And who should take responsibility?
Right, both are the tough questions. One to do with
inequality and the other is who should take responsibility to change
You know I personally feel that we all have to take
responsibility and I think the crux of the matter is in really what we
feel a democracy ought to be. Because we are working in a democracy, so
what is our understanding of a democracy? Does it mean that once in 5
years I have to vote and I have done my job, you know, to be the part of
the democracy? Is that how I see and I think most of us see it that way
unfortunately. In fact most of us, in fact many of us, don't go to vote
also. And ones who do, most of us feel that I have voted now, I have
done my job. So then you know all of these things start happening after
that. So I think in a democracy we have to understand that we have to be
more engaged. We have to spend a little more of our time engaged with
socially what is happening socially around us in our own areas, in our
own small little areas. I live in Pali Hill. I need to know what is
happening in Pali Hill. I need to know what are the issues that are
facing people living here. Yes I think people living in Pali Hill are
perhaps more financially well off because of the area that I am living
in, but they will also have their own issues. But that's not necessary
true because in Pali Hill you also have slums, because India is such a
complicated country that you have a building and next to it you have a
slum. So Pali Hill also includes a number of slums you know. So we need
to get together and figure out what are the issues that you know, that
we can interest on a local level. And every time we can't point to the
government and say hey yaar
what are you not doing. Of course you
have to ask them some very hard questions, I am not saying that we
don't need to. But equally we have to feel responsible for all of this
ourselves. Because the thing is that we engage more, then only the
change will come. I don't know whether you can expect a change from 570
people and say that these 570 have to change our country.
Parliament. You can't expect 600 people to change the country yaar
All of us have to change it, you know each of us have to do our own and
in that I think you need to look, re-look at how we see ourselves in a
democracy. What is my role? Is it limited to thinking for myself? Or am I
to engage around myself and see you know, for example women's toilets.
Is there a women's toilet, public loo in my area? If there isn't then I
should work toward getting one. Or education for children, healthcare or
whatever the issues may be. I need to have one meeting a month at least
in my area. I have to start engaging. If we all start engaging then you
will realise that there is a lot of strength in us and then the people
we select will also start behaving in a different manner, that's what I
I must tell you a story about women's sanitation. It was in
a time when Rajiv Gandhi, it's quite a long time and Aamir was not even
born. He held a meeting with a lot of people and he said each one of
you tell me one thing that you would like in this country, something
that one thing that they should do. When it came to my turn, well I said
I think we need women's toilets all over the country and everybody
started laughing and so I felt so stupid and awful after that meeting,
my one chance to make a difference. Everybody was laughing
That's a big difference
But you know I still feel that we still need that today and
that was 20 years ago. So sanitation is a huge issue that you are also
Yes we need innovation now. To start this delivery
issue I do think when the government does something right we should give
them credit. I do think with NHRM, with JSY payment to encourage people
to deliver them facilities. Those numbers have gone up a lot. Now put
pressure on making sure those are facilities good. This country has
changed from making most out-facilities, where you couldn't get certain
interventions, to now the majority in-facilities and that's a pretty
successful programme. In terms of obesity it is interesting to look at a
country that has done a good job on this. You know the things like
vaccination coverage, lots of countries they have better than 95%
coverage. So it can be done. So obesity is a tough one because a lot of
it is about your own intake, personal discipline and your activity
level. So the United States for example has a very high level of this,
it's still wrestling with the question of what's the role of the
government in restricting certain kinds of snacks and sugary drinks and
things like that. For toilets I think we need innovations
You are working on toilet technology
That's right it's called reinventing the toilet
Don't laugh, toilet technology is very important
The gold standard of the flush toilet, we bring a lot of
in and have to send it back out through processing plants, that's very
expensive and uses water which is a scarce resource. So we engaged
scientists, put a lot of challenges, money, isn't there a way to do it
inexpensively and have it as good or better than that flush toilet. We
got some prototypes; we are having a union next year to see the latest
toilet so everybody is...
Its crucial to have the gold standard toilet, of water flushing in and flushing out cannot reach everybody. It's a...
It's a rich world solution and it doesn't scale
Yes and I also feel that, I don't know much about
this but whatever little I know is that the last thing you ought to do
is actually is mix water with your faeces. Am I right about this?
No its, it's strange that, that's the best we have done because there are other ways
No we do even one step better. We mix water and then put it
in the Ganges River you know. That's all the Yamuna; that's our
solution, so we definitely need that, we are killing that river, the
Ganges it's dying. Yes the young man in front here
Sir I am from Modern School, I like to ask...
From school, okay, okay
Here we are talking about sanitation and malnutrition.
You said that we provide vaccination to children when they are born so
that they don't die, but what about when they grow up, leave alone
education or proper sanitation, what is the guarantee that they will
even get food to live and they won't die hungry at night?
Aamir you have done a lot on nutrition
Actually yes, I mean; but we have been concentrating
on fighting against malnutrition for children upto the age of two,
that's the area that I have been working in. So that does not answer
what he was saying but I will like to tell you...
You want to see the PM about this, right?
I did. I did went to see the PM. Actually for me this
journey began in slightly, so I am going to go off your question, I am
sorry but we will come back to it. A group of MPs from different
political parties came to meet me one day and I was very curious to
know, why. You know they were from different political parties and they
came to meet me and they said we feel that malnutrition is a big problem
India's facing and we want you to work in that area. So I was quiet
impressed, because they were from different parties, and there was
obviously nothing, political happening over here. So that's a good
example of you know MP's from different political parties wanting to do
something in the right direction. And they came and met me. First they
wanted me to give some messages and I did that. But they continued to
come back to me and they came back to me after two years. In that period
they met me a couple of times, they said we want to do some thing much
larger and we want there to be a big communication campaign, because
people don't know about malnutrition and they don't know what is the
first thing to do and what is the basics to do, and we feel that it's
important for this message to reach across the country. So they said,
can you please come and meet the PM and perhaps request him to create a
fund, in which you can create these ad films, to begin and communicate
these things to. So I actually went and did that and the PM was kind
enough to okay that and then we worked with UNICEF. So UNICEF, the
Ministry of Women & Child Development and myself and Prasoon Joshi,
so we worked for about an year and a half on this campaign because
Prasoon and I had to take in a lot of information about nutrition or
malnutrition, to understand the issue, before we can start
communicating. So this was the journey in which I learnt a lot about,
well a fair bit about this issue, and the campaign is right now on air
as we speak. It's a fairly large campaign as it is in almost all of the
languages in India; so it's in multiple languages, multiple regions. It
talks about four most important things and lots of people are watching
this on TV so let me just repeat for t hem quickly. One of them is the
moment a woman is pregnant, she has to be fed appropriately for one more
life inside her. So the process of nutrition, good nutrition for the
baby, starts from the time that the woman is pregnant and that in India
unfortunately is not focused upon, because over here the woman is told
to eat last. It's considered good manners when the woman is the last
person to eat in the house.
That in itself is shocking, whether she is pregnant or not...
You know so the woman is the last person to eat, so
that's absurd. The women has to be the first person to eat, the woman
who is pregnant should be the first person to eat if you really care
about your child. So it's the in-laws that need to understand this. The
husband needs to understand this, that the woman needs to eat first
before you can eat, and especially in the houses where economically they
are weaker, they need to understand that. And they also need to
understand that you can actually, once you are pregnant, you register
with the aaganwadi
worker and then you get you get more, the
government provides you with food for the mother and the child. So you
need to know what the government is already doing for you. So let me
quickly go to the four points. One is that you should start feeding the
women; second is that she needs rest; thirdly the moment the child is
born, the first 48 hrs to 72 hrs, the milk of the mother that comes out
is called colostrums, and that needs to be fed to the baby. Some places
in India they feel that it's not good milk and they through it away. So
that helps in building the immunity of the child and that's very
important, that's two to three days that milk is important, And for the
first six months it should be only breast milk, not even water, because
water causes diarrhea and many other diseases, so only breast milk for
six months and then, after six months, breast milk along with other
food. So breast milk is ideally for one and half two years.
So Bill Gates...
These are the 4 basic things that we are trying to educate.
It's a basic thing that can make the big change...
And tell them actually what the government is doing
for you. So it's very well to give information of this kind, but I need
to have access to food and facilities of this kin. But the aaganwadi
workers will provide you with that and they have been funded for that. So you have to go to the aaganwadi
and say that I am expecting a baby, and I have to register and they
will register you and then the process starts for you. So it is
So you use your communication skills, media and all that to
have a huge impact, and yours is a different channel. You are down
there getting out vaccines, getting, convincing people. How do you find
the people or the system reacting to what you did? Like you want to go
out and change things, you want people to have polio drops and you have
been pretty successful. But it's not although we haven't got rid of
polio completely, but very few cases, but we need to eliminate those
cases as well. So how do you find the system working? Is it easy to work
Well polio is a wonderful triumph. The last polio
case In India was when it was back in January 2011. And so polio
worldwide, last it was less than 300 cases. It's only in 3 countries and
I spend the majority of my time on polio because we orchestrated a
signature campaign and we will take three years to get rid of all the
cases, and three years to really get things certified. It's in Pakistan,
Afghanistan and Nigeria, so India needs to keep vaccinating all the
kids until we really finish the fight. But they have done a very good
job on that. That was a wonderfully executed programme and the question
is some thing I ask myself, before we got into this, which is if you
improve health or you just increase population growth and therefore all
these issues such as food, education and stability, what ever, the
environment is going to be tougher. And the amazing thing that I learnt
was that, as you improve health, as more children survive, our families
choose voluntarily to have less kids. So the only places where you have
very high population growth is where you have terrible heath and as you
improve health, the population growth definitely goes down. This, and
you should also make available tools for reproductive health, if the
women, those who have that, you should educate women because that also
helps. So that three factors mean that by investing in health you are
actually helping yourself with all these other issues. We also get
involved in agriculture because productivity is also important. So our
experience in India has been quite positive, the willingness to look
around new vaccines. That Pentavalent is being used in part of the
country, it's about to go national, it should be a huge milestone.
Helping design systems where we can really measure things, get feedback,
who is doing things well that's where we have been engaged and there's
more to be done.
Actually that's an area where Aamir could learn something
from you. Everything he does is measured and results are monitored. It's
not like you just spend the money and hope something happens. So that
is probably where we, tend to be a little bit in India, we do our bit
and hope things happen. But you got to be...
... is it not important?
Well certainly if you want to draw in people to spend
money on these things, they being of a business mindset, that are we
doing things in the right way and it turns out you can measure things
and most things include, you know we can have satellite maps, cell
phones, lot of ways that its getting easier and easier to do good
So you can use technology rather than make it bureaucratic,
because that's the old style as you have so many forms to fill in and
Yes it's is lot of paper.
So you do that?
Slowly, but truly, that's going to go down.
Another question? Young girl in yellow
I have this question, whenever I see the picture, when we
take the newspaper in the morning I see that two different world we are
living in. One world we have people like Aamir Khan and Mr Bill Gates,
where they are trying to make it a better place. But again you have this
business world, all these trips going on where you are trying to curb
the production of generic drugs, which is very, very important for
certain people, for example HIV-AIDS patients. The drugs, which are
produced in India, they are very important for patients in certain
African countries and of course world over. So there also is this
campaign that is going against production, these generic drugs and to
extend the IPRs, and I am not saying whether it is right or wrong, but
then there is always a dualism in every thing. So how do you think can
we tackle this thing? I mean this is very important aspect of health?
You know if you allow generic drugs and copying, then you
won't get so much of investments and research, but if you go the other
extreme, you get drugs that are far too expensive for most of the
population to use?
I mean yes, it's a tough one. But as far as I
understand it, when you patent a drug or when you come out with a new
drug, I think that you are allowed to use it without it going generic
for a period of ten years, there is particular period in which you can
earn, you know as a company you can earn, and then after ten years or a
certain period then its allowed to go generic. If I am not mistaken
that's, that is what is followed. Which seems to be a fairly good model
and because it's important for companies to invest in research and
development and for them to earn, I suppose back, what they have
invested and at the same time the benefit of that should also come to
people who are less privileged, and I think generic medicines in that
sense is very important. I mean what we see happening in Rajasthan is
quite amazing. The government of Rajasthan has shops, the government has
opened shops all across the state, in which they supply generic
medicines and they have a department, which purchases medicines from all
these various big companies, pharmaceutical companies.
And subsidies in...
At very low rates and subsidises and sells it. Gives it free actually.
What's your answer to that, it's a tough question?
Actually the ideal system is fairly clear. Which is
that even during the period that they have their patent, that the
poorest should just either get it free or subsidised by the government,
or pay the marginal cost, so the lowest cost possible. And then people
who have higher incomes need to pay higher prices, because after all we
want these research activities to invent new medicines, more vaccines,
more drugs. And so what's being done, which is so very imperfect, is
that the US pays over a, 70% of the profit of marginal medicines comes
from the US and then from other rich countries, and some of that. So
it's being by country by country basis, where you know a country in
Africa gets all, gets this at very low price. But India some what
complicates this picture because you cannot really pick the right price
from India because it has a middle class, that would probably contribute
to the research, and it's got poor people who should get it at very
lowest price. So figuring out how you differentiate the private system
versus the state system it is tricky. But I feel like we will be able to
strike a balance here. After all you want lots of research jobs in
India, lots of these great drug and vaccine companies are growing up in
And of course in India it's difficult to identify who is
rich and who is poor in here, actually doling out medicines. So we have
this Aadhar system and Nandan Nilekani is working on this, a system
where you can identify and target the poor and target the rich
separately. Unless you do that you won't be able to provide subsidised
medicines and full priced medicines. So its a complex issue, but the
solution is insight.
The principle right?
The principle yes right. Yes Sir you are not the young student, but you are little older than Aamir, my age.
I'm Rajiv, I am a pediatrician, a doctor who trained
in the US and returned to this country 12 years ago. Sir the whole issue
that we are discussing here, whose responsibility is it to protect the
children? India produces; we have 27 million babies who are born in
this country, 440 million children, so we are creating one Australia
every year. The thing is if we say it's the government's responsibility
alone you cannot achieve those goals. But if all of us collectively,
like you said just now, and the proximate community where the children
are born say panchaya's, the villages. So what we have done, a group has
adopted a village, name Bago, which is about 70km distance from Delhi
and we go there weekly and make our visits and it's just been a
wonderful, a shining example, because not only we see survivals
improving there, but the children are in school because we are looking
beyond survival and the child development.
This is some thing that every body should do...
I think one should reach out to communities. We have to do it...
How many of you do some kind of social work, means go out
to villages once in a while. Oh that's a good number. That's a 70% and
other 30% are the honest ones...
What was your question Sir? Did you have a question Sir?
Sir my question is whose responsibility is to protect
the children? I personally, I am trying to find my own answers. My
question is whose responsibility is it, because the problem is big? You
cannot blame the government. We need to contribute, so whose
responsibility it is to take care of these children? Like vaccinations
are the most effective, preventive ways, but there is an expense to it
and the government sometimes is not able to pay. Then whose supposed to
do it, our community, our proximate community?
You asked for the question...
Well I think when it comes to healthcare, when it
comes to payment of vaccines for the poor children who can't afford it,
perhaps then that certainly should be paid. I mean we are all paying our
taxes in any case either directly or indirectly, and I think that the
wealth that is accumulated by the country is not a small amount.
Certainly we should be using enough of it to make sure that our children
have the right to health from the time they are born, even before they
are born and that right can be in the amount that we are decide to spent
on them. That can be taken take of.
Bill Gates who is responsible for that? How much as an individual do we have the responsibility?
Well for immunization to have that system that
reaches out and gets every child, that's really, that's primary
healthcare and it's a public good, pretty squarely on the government.
They can use NGOs or private sector to help them a little bit, but it's
up to them, and they should be elected, or not, based on that. But it's
said that the parent needs to be educated, whether it's nutrition or
breastfeeding you talked about. Often women groups are very powerful to
get the word about these best practices, and those are kind of grass
root, organised at the village level, without the government having to
play much of the role at all.
Are any of these problem's intractable? I think I have
heard you say that they have got deaths mainly due to diarrhea,
pneumonia and malaria. Diarrhea you seem to be now taking on, at least
one form of it, pretty effectively, very soon and malaria has been an on
Yes on a global basis it is a big killer, a little
bit less in India, but that's a huge investment and there is a new drug
and there is hope that if we can get polio done, that would have
credibility and energy and few new tools, then the world will go out and
take on malaria eradication as the next big global campaign and...
DDT kills mosquitoes and you can cut the way of
biting down. The other new tool that's very powerful is called the bed
net. So you sleep on the bed at night, so all those mosquitoes that bite
you at night are not only blocked from doing that, but there is
insecticides there, actually killing those mosquitoes. That brought the
death rate down from about a million worldwide to under 700,000. But we
need a few more tools before we can push down to have the global zero in
Are the mosquitoes now immune against DDT?
Yes if; it's a strange thing if you use DDT intensely
then the mosquitoes will evolve so that it doesn't kill them. Because
we haven't used DDT much recently...
We forgot about it
They have evolved back to DDT sensitive. So for
indoor spray DDT is a fantastic. It was a mistake to use it in
agriculture because it was causing some problems. But using them against
mosquitoes in a targeted way actually works very well.
Young lady in front here?
My comment entails a critique of the media and especially
TV and Radio because I think these media lack the rigor and nuance that
subjects like sanitation and malnutrition require. I also think that the
debates around sanitation and malnutrition in media remains sanitised
of topics like caste and religion, because what we don't hear is that at
and or a nutrition center, which is dominated by
upper caste, a Muslim women and a Dalit women feel discouraged to even
take her child for that vaccination, and what we also do not hear is
that if we are giving toilet loans to people in Bihar, then we are
probably giving the 2nd toilet loan to somebody who already has a
toilet, but excluding the Muslim person or Dalit person, who does not
own that piece of land that he or she is living on, which is a mandatory
requirement in giving out that toilet loan. So I think that we, as
concerned participants in this nation building, we would like to see the
news media, our actors, our philanthropists engage the middle classes
on these issues. So probably the next advertisement that you do or the
next proposal that you sign out for the next show that NDTV does, you
know these issues along with caste and religion need to be discussed
more explicitly, because if there is one medium that can change mindsets
powerfully, that is the medium of TV and radio. I am keen for your
I think the media has a very important role to play
in that I completely agree with what she is saying. So I think the media
does have an important role to play. And I too would like to see more
I hope today is an example of that, at least you spoke...
I think what you are saying is right and we need to think more of that. The media is doing a fair amount but I think...
But she is saying it doesn't, skirts around it...
It does, it does. I think she is right. We don't give
it enough value. You know we don't give it the edge that it really has
already. I think that's news actually also, because a lot of media feel
that we need to sell our newspaper or my channel needs to have TRPs,
which I completely understand. But I think these are the news worthy
things as well.
For something that you mentioned earlier, we do a couple of
programmes, for matter we do a show called India Matters where we do
these kinds of, I mean documentaries. And everybody said you know so
don't do that, no body is going to watch, but actually the viewership is
very high. Just like your show, so it's not that people don't want to
No, no, people want to watch. And I think that, so I
think that what she is saying is completely true I agree that the media
needs to do a lot more and I would like to see that happen. I think the
caste issue was one that we picked up in SMJ and it is something that
affects all of us.
Is the media important? Do you, was it over, over estimated, over hyped?
Well I think the media has to be given facts so we can
measure this appropriately if you knew caste by caste what the infant
mortality was, even in different areas, you know looked at different
religious backgrounds and where you could see a differential, so I think
there will be an outcry. So to a degree we don't measure these things
it, easy for them to go unnoticed. I do think; a few years ago I went
out and stayed overnight in a village in UP with Rahul Gandhi and he was
really pointing out that the women's group if they have done right can
be very inclusive. It's really one of the measures that they have; they
try to do this well. And they are kind of the voice that gets around the
intermediaries, the big man in the village, or the things sort of
blocking a lot of these well-intended government programmes of getting
out to some body. There is hope in the future that the digital
registration and the direct delivery of cash, circumventing some of
these blocking factors. We have just, and this is just the beginning, I
am seeing that can really make a difference. So measurements, new
delivery systems and inclusive groups at the village level are probably
the best hope. And media should track the progress on these things.
You meet Rahul Gandhi a lot, you met him today also, is there a connect their on these issues?
Well he was very keen to say to me that hey, some of
these things you think are delivered are not being delivered. And it was
kind of refreshing. Usually politicians are telling you have great
government programmes, you know how so many say. Be realistic about
whether its health or agriculture. You need to think through these very
complex dynamics. That was very interesting and you know we are here to
help so we are open to people telling us what the problems are. How we
can be constructive and I think that is my wife Melinda does it
instinctively, but for me it was pretty eye opening in terms of the
importance of the women's groups.
Actually during SMJ, one of my big learnings, two big
learnings for me personally, one of them was, that you know a lot of
our problems and issues that we face in India as a society boils down to
how we look at women. A lot of our issues boil down to how we look at
women. One single thing and there were two things that came through for
me, big learnings, one was that if we just start looking at the girl
child differently then half our problems will get solved there only. So
just look at it, first we don't allow that baby to born. Okay. When we
allow them to be born we don't give them equal opportunities, whether it
is healthcare, whether it is education. So all the girls who survived
all of that, the dice is loaded completely against you, for a woman, in
India at least at this point of time. Except in NDTV.
I want to make one correction, in NDTV 70% are women there is a dice loaded against men.
That's because you are a charming man...
It's also true that Indian women are smarter and better than Indian men.
Yes, no but I am saying that's not important yaar,
who's smarter and who is not, completely unimportant. They have right to
life whether they are smarter or not. I should get healthcare, I do not
have to be intelligent to get healthcare. So my point is that we have
to be fair about these things, so the way we look at women that's
something we really need to change.
No healthcare for dropouts...
And the other thing is wherever we saw people working
together as a community, putting aside religion, putting aside caste,
really working together as human beings, those are the places where we
found that they were prosperous, they were happy, even financially and
economically, they were dynamic because of the fact that they were
working as a community. So these are the big two learnings that we felt.
That when people work as a community they prosper. When the moment you
start thinking about yourself then things start going downhill from
there. The moment you start doing things you realise are good for
everyone, those are the areas that are prospering. Those are the
villages that are prospering. The moment I feel; I will tell you for
example, I want water, I don't care whether the other villagers get it
or not. So I have got a little bit of money perhaps more money than the
others, so my bore well will be deeper than the other people. So I can
pull out my water from the deeper depth so I get my water. But bore
wells are intrinsically harmful to those villages, in any case we
shouldn't have bore wells, nobody should have bore wells. We should just
work together and lift the water table. If you lift the water table
then everyone has water, you don't need bore wells after that. And you
don't need electricity to pump water from down also. So I am saying that
where people have worked as a community we find them to be prosperous.
And where women are given opportunity, you find there things changed
Just couple of more questions
I am a student and I really would like to know how I
can contribute to it. I have 2 hours a day and I can't see anything
around me. But I would really like to contribute towards healthcare,
vaccination. So what can I do?
I think that is a wonderful question and that has come from
the right place. A lot of people feel exactly what you feel. Bill
I think we should make it clear through our websites,
where people care about these things, where they can get involved. Like
advocacy or helping the NGOs, look into the education front, can often
take their volunteer time. There are people who mentor a kid from a very
poor part of the city, you know like going to the slum and help them
about their education. There should be NGOs who can take that digital
tool to help you match up and find that opportunity
Well actually you know there are two things I want to
say to you. One is at this point of time you really should apply your
mind as to how you can help. And perhaps you probably are the best
answer to it. What are your strengths, what are the things that you can
offer. Maybe you are good in maths so you can teach maths to the kids
in the slum near your house. So you can choose what's your strength and
what you want to share with others. So that's one way of looking at it.
This is one of the things in SMJ we realised that we could have done
more on and in season 2 we are working on. That is exactly what Bill was
saying, is that when we take an issue, we also create partners and try
and figure who is doing what in this field, which we are doing in any
case, but on our website on which we got a huge amount of hits. If we
bring together people who need help and who are wanting to help and we
give them a common platform to meet on. So that's what we are going to
do in season 2.
And that is where Aamir Khan and Bill Gates are going to
tap, he will give you the technology and you are going to give him the
reach. You don't need technology to get these things together.
You know that happened very organically in one of our
episodes, which was on alcoholism. So in our episode on alcohol we had a
very strong partner, which was AA. AA was our partner. They gave us
help and information etc and as you all know at the end of the episode
we would always donate a lot of money. People would donate from all over
the country, and AA refused to take money because our policy is we
don't take money. So they didn't take money. But how we worked together,
but how we worked together which is what gave us the idea for the
following season is, AA and all its members organised themselves and on
the show we gave the information about AA and said that if you have a
problem with alcohol, and if you feel you need help, this is the number
to call. I think they had thirty thousand members uptill now in the last
65 years of their existence in India. I think in about two week they
had three hundred thousand calls.
Now when you help one alcoholic person you help not
only that person but their entire family. So you know what AA is doing
is really amazing. And we were the via media who could spread out that
information and bring people together, who are wanting and able to help
to people who need help. Now that is something that happened organically
in the case of that particular episode, but we want to replicate that
for our season 2 in all the various topics.
I have just one last question, which is totally different
from everything we have talked about. Something else you get emotional
about, would you like to have seen Steve Jobs here? What could you have
said to him in this whole process, chapter 2?
Well Steve did brilliantly, worked in the IT industry
and it was a pleasure to be partner with him on the Mac. You know
compete with him, and he was a brilliant designer and I am sure he would
have gone on to do great things in other areas.
So had he joined you in this new venture?
I don't know. It's a tragedy that he is not here so
we can't say what his great sense of aesthetics and justice would have
let him do in the next phase of his life.
Do you miss him?
I miss working with him. I got to see him quite a bit
in the last year and he and I got to talk about lot of things. but he
was a very unique person.
Now you have done a lot of things to spread vaccines, to
spread immunization, but Aamir insists that you do one more thing and
that you dance for vaccination, Aamir wants you to dance. Lets have some
music. You have some music
I don't understand one thing, what is it with television channels wanting us to dance?
I will tell you what, TRPs.
You know if you know how badly I dance, the TRPs will go down.
This is another thing women are better at.
What's happened to the music?
Aamir Khan: Nahi
dance wance mat karao yaar, ek aur
. I think that's important
I live in that region of Punjab where Hepatitis C is
really very widespread and my own Dad has undergone vaccination therapy.
So in Hepatitis C there is a risk that the pregnant woman may transmit
that to the foetus and secondly if she undergoes vaccine therapy then
she is advised not to get pregnant, because the child is at the risk of
developing birth defects. So what she can do like, if she undergoes the
vaccination therapy she can't get pregnant and if she doesn't, then also
she is at the risk of transmitting the disease to the foetus. So can we
hope for a vaccine to develop in future, which can help in such
situations, because I really see a lot of people, innumerable people in
my region suffering from Hepatitis C and I pity them. I really pity them
and I hope that such a vaccination could come which can eradicate
Vaccines, which can prevent people from getting ill
at first place in parallel there to people who work on so called
anti-viral drugs that would help people actually that have the
infection. As yet they are quite complex and quite expensive and so
unfortunately it's a while before we have broad therapies. It's been
more work but that's a tough. On Hepatitis B we have got the medicine,
on Hepatitis C it's right on the medical frontier.
Okay, round of applause and whoever wants to dance with Aamir can come and dance.