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India software czar gives 2 bln dlrs of shares to charity

by Staff Writers
Mumbai (AFP) Dec 1, 2010
Indian software tycoon Azim Premji said Wednesday he would donate two billion dollars in shares to a new charitable trust for education.

Premji, known as India's Bill Gates for his pledge to give away most of his 17-billion-dollar fortune, said he is transferring to the trust 213 million shares -- worth two billion dollars -- in his company, Wipro.

The trust will fund non-profit programmes involving rural education, teacher training and research across the country.

"Good education is crucial to building a just, equitable, humane and sustainable society," said Premji, whose company Wipro -- of which he is chairman -- is India's third largest software exporter.

"We want to contribute significantly towards improvement of education in India, and through that towards building a better society," he said in a statement.

Premji, 65, is India's second-richest man and the 28th richest in the world, according to Forbes magazine, after he transformed an inherited cooking oil company into a software giant.

He is to control the trust, and has previously said he plans to give away most of his wealth to charity.

"Even if I was to give my children a small part of my wealth, it would be more than they can digest in many lifetimes," he told Forbes in an interview in April.

Economists say illiteracy is a major impediment to India's economic growth. The country's 65 percent literacy rate lags many other emerging nations, including neighbouring China, where literacy stands at 91 percent.

In 2001, Premji set up a foundation that has worked largely in rural India to improve the quality of the country's over-stretched education system, helping 2.5 million children. It will now become an arm of the trust.

In 2006, Premji was reported by India's media to have given the foundation over 100 million dollars, but he was quoted by Forbes as saying, "It was much more than that."

One of the trust's key plans is to establish a university in Bangalore whose aims will include raising the quality of teacher training in India, where standards are often low.

His donation follows a report by global consultancy Bain and Co that said while the number of rich Indians has risen thanks to a fast-growing economy, they have been slow to part with their money for charitable causes.

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