India's new rich prove reluctant philanthropists

An Indian billionaire, Azim Premji, who transformed a family-owned cooking oil firm into the software giant Wipro, announced earlier this month that he was giving two billion dollars to fund rural education.

The 100 wealthiest Indians have a net worth equal to 25 percent of India's GDP and Premji's donation -- by far the largest ever made by an individual -- was seen as a challenge to others in the ultra-rich club.

While charitable giving by the wealthy is widespread in countries like the United States, it is far less established in developing nations such as India and China.

Arpan Sheth, author of an overview of philanthropy in India, says "Should individuals in India, particularly the well off, be giving more? And can they afford to make more and larger donations? The answer to both questions is, 'Absolutely yes'."

But philanthropic activity has failed to keep pace, partly, Sheth believes, because the rapid accumulation of individual wealth is a still a relatively new phenomenon.

There is also a suspicion that charitable networks in India are not professionally managed and so donors fear their contributions "won't be put to good use or are at risk of being misappropriated," Seth said.


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