India Insight

Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh slip in Forbes’ most powerful list

India’s top politicians Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh have fallen out of the top 20 in Forbes’ annual list of the world’s most powerful people.

Gandhi, leader of India’s Congress party, was No. 21 on the 2013 list, down from 12 last year. Prime Minister Singh took the 28th spot in the list, also losing nine spots since 2012.

Gandhi was ranked third among nine women in the annual list of the world’s 72 most-powerful people — one for every 100 million people on Earth — which Forbes said is based on factors ranging from wealth to global influence.

The Forbes ranking found four heads of state occupying the top five spots among the world’s most powerful people. Russian President Vladimir Putin bumped American counterpart Barack Obama from the No. 1 spot. China’s president Xi Jinping, Pope Francis and German Chancellor Angela Merkel rounded out the top five.

The list’s highest-ranked businessman was Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates at No. 6. Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man and chairman of Reliance Industries, slipped a spot to 38 this year while Indian-born steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal was at No. 51, sandwiched between the presidents of the World Bank and South Korea.

India’s rich too green for grand giving?

INDIA-GATES/With the Gates-Buffett give-it-away tour just in India, many have been questioning if the country’s rich are up to such philanthropy. Gross exaggerations of wealth and poverty are on display every day in India – the BMW next to the bullock cart or the coiffured Jimmy Choo-wearing woman waiting for her driver as the shoeless human mule shuffles past with two oil drums on his back. With millions malnourished and uneducated, with ancient monuments crumbling, with indigenous art, theatre and music unsupported and fading, why can’t the uber rich give to the country that helped them so?

India is a country with a long tradition of charity, whether Samadhi (the last stage of life when, after having sought prosperity, one gives away all possessions as a step to enlightenment) or giving alms and tithe (giving ten percent of your income away to the poor). There is also a strong culture of giving to one’s immediate family and supporting the families of domestic help. It would be unfair to say that many of the rich in India don’t donate to countless charities and religious institutions. They do and without the generous tax incentives offered in many other countries.

But in a place with six industrialists on Forbes.com’s list of the world’s top 50 billionaires, where are the grand Gates-and-Buffet-esque acts of beneficence, aside from Azim Premji’s $2 bln donation, which was so exceptional it proved the rule? Where are even the generous offerings that India’s own 19th century tycoons made? Cowasjee Jehangir Readymoney built hospitals, colleges, Mumbai University’s Convocation Hall and artful public drinking fountains. Banker and cotton trader Premchand “Cotton King” Roychand built Mumbai University’s iconic library and clock tower. David Sassoon built one of the city’s largest libraries. And the ubiquitous Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy built hospitals, schools, art institutes, and even a causeway when the government wouldn’t. And before that there were many benevolent Rajas and Nawabs that have left the land peppered with architectural gems.

Time to donate India’s “corrupt” funds to charity?

If charity is a good thing, what do you do if the funds come from murky, or corrupt, dealings?

Billionaire Warren Buffett speaks during a news conference in New Delhi March 24, 2011. REUTERS/B MathurThe visit of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett has sparked debate in India over whether the country’s new billionaires are giving enough to charity.

If that wasn’t a delicate enough issue, Buffett was asked at a press conference whether foundations should accept money from dubious sources.

Will Buffett, Gates’ giving pledge convince rich Indians?

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates are on a week-long trip to India, primarily to encourage the rich to give away a portion of their wealth to charity.

The visit follows a similar one made by the duo to China, the country with the most number of billionaires after the United States, where they urged the wealthy to sign up for their Giving Pledge campaign.

India’s rich are not really known for sharing their wealth. Big, family-run businesses are often inherited and set up with the help of ancestral wealth, and few have shown any willingness to part with it.

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