Wipro commits Rs 1k Cr more for COVID-19; Premji says promoting students to next class 'worst thing'

The additional grant will be directed primarily on universal vaccination, Premji said while speaking at the foundation day event of the Bombay Chartered Accountants' Society.
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IT major Wipro's philanthropic arm has committed an additional Rs 1,000 crore of grants over and above the Rs 1,125-crore support it had announced in the early days of the pandemic last year, its Founder Chairman Azim Premji said on Tuesday.

The additional grant will be directed primarily on universal vaccination, Premji said, while speaking at the foundation day event of the Bombay Chartered Accountants' Society.

In the early days of the pandemic last year, Wipro had announced a Rs 1,125-crore aid for the pandemic, which also included converting its facilities at Pune into hospitals.

"As our work as well as our situation evolved, we realised that focus on universal vaccination was just as important as other initiatives. So, we have added that as a key element of our COVID-19 relief strategy, and committed an additional Rs 1,000 crore for it," Premji said.

Terming the pandemic as a once-a-century event that led to a resolve to fight it with all the resources at disposal, Premji said a comprehensive set of plans was drawn up in the early days itself to tackle both the humanitarian and health aspects.

Grassroot teams were organised consisting of 1,600 full-time employees of the Azim Premji Foundation, 55,000 employees working for its partners, 10,000 teachers, and 2,500 alumni of the Azim Premji University.

Premji, who has committed almost his entire wealth of over $80 billion to philanthropic initiatives with a special focus on education, appeared to be strongly against the idea of promoting school students to the next class and stressed that adequate attention needs to be paid to the lost schooling days.

"The worst thing that we could do is to ignore the past one and a half years and just keep promoting children to the next class without helping them to learn what they should have learnt. We can create an enormous deficit which can never be filled up otherwise," he said.

Even as the education system grapples with how to go forward, Premji suggested a graded approach that involves having classes in open areas in neighbourhoods, vaccinating teachers, and re-engineering education programmes to ensure that the schooling time lost over the past one and half years is made up.

Premji said the foundation's efforts have helped 83 lakh people in rural communities and the most vulnerable pockets regain their livelihoods through field interventions like seed and fertiliser supply for farmers, and working capital for poultry farmers and handicraft industry.

He said collaborating with the government is important for extending aid deep into the country and added that if one has the required skillsets, the state will "meaningfully" collaborate.

The industry doyen, who now devotes full time to his social sector activities, said his mother, who ran a hospital for children, and Mahatma Gandhi, who advocated a trusteeship model for wealth, have been his greatest inspirations to take the plunge into philanthropy.

Premji exhorted everyone to start giving earlier in their lives, terming the late start to philanthropic activities in his life as a "regret".

"It is only when we come together in this way we realise the dream of a just, equitable, humane and sustainable society as envisioned in the Indian Constitution," he said.

He asked everybody to go into the real world, get their hands dirty and witness the inequities, injustice, and lack of basic dignity in the society first hand to get moved by the contrasts and do some good for the society.

"It is not possible to be emotionally detached. Being empathetic and emotional makes much good happen in this world. Please be moved by it," Premji said.

Edited by Megha Reddy

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