Sabah Hamid who worked with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in India resigned from her position after the organisation honoured Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, with a Global Goal award for his flagship sanitation programme.
In an op-ed published in the New York Times, Hamid stated ‘I had joined the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation because I truly believed in its mission — that every life has equal value and all people deserve healthy lives. I resigned from it for the exact same reason. By presenting Mr. Modi with this award, the Gates Foundation is going against its own core belief. It has the prerogative to interpret its own ideology as it sees fit — in this case in a very narrow manner — but I will continue to believe in the spirit of the words.’
‘Mr. Modi does not deserve to be embraced. The United States, where Mr. Modi received the Gates award, refused him a visa in 2005 for ‘severe violations of religious freedom,’ after a brutal pogrom against Muslims in the state of Gujarat — where Mr. Modi was chief minister — left over a thousand dead. (The ban wasn’t lifted until Mr. Modi’s election as prime minister, in 2014.)’ Hamid continued.
Hamid claimed ‘Several staff members at the Seattle and New Delhi offices of the foundation expressed their concerns about the decision to reward Mr. Modi, but the foundation publicly chose to normalize him.’
The former program officer also questioned the wider impact of the Modi’s sanitation programme. ‘The initiative is a commendable one, but its impact since its inception is open to question. More than 300 million Indians were still defecating in the open in 2017, according to the World Bank. The Clean India campaign claimed that from 2014 to 2018, the states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar were fully or almost fully free from open defecation. Data from independent sources tempers these claims significantly.’