India’s Warren Buffett partners with Shankara Eye Foundation to benefit the blind

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Updated: October 9, 2017 5:18:37 PM

Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, whose portfolio value touched a staggering Rs 10,000 crore in March this year, is keen to give back to the society by constructing a free eye-care hospital, in partnership with Sankara Eye Foundation.

Rakesh Jhunjhunwala told CNBC TV18, “My father will be more happy with me if this hospital comes up and does a lot of operations, than any amount of wealth I earn.” (Image: Reuters)

Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, who is commonly referred to as India’s Warren Buffett, is keen to give back to the society by constructing a free eye-care hospital, in partnership with Sankara Eye Foundation. The 225 bed hospital will be set up in Panvel, and will operate 15,000 patients free of charge, Rakesh Jhunjhunwala told in an interview to CNBC TV18. The investing maestro whose portfolio value touched a staggering Rs 10,000 crore in March this year said, “One-third of the world’s blind live in India. There are many cases of undiscovered eye-diseases in the country. If affects young children as well as elderly, and the older people usually get cataract. Cataract is an easily solvable problem. If you can get eyesight back, I don’t think there’s anything greater to a human being. Eye-sight is greater than all the wealth!”

For the investing icon, it’s a way of paying homage to his father. “My father was very particular to get these cataract operations done. When he was alive hoe would get 500-1,000 operations done in a year! Now that he’s no more, the biggest homage I can pay him is by making a hospital that does a lot of free operations. My father will be more happy with me if this hospital comes up and does a lot of operations, than any amount of wealth I earn,” he told the channel.

Rakesh Jhunjhunwala elaborated on the achievements of Dr Ramani from Sankara Eye Foundation. “In 1977, he set up on a mission of working for the poor. I’m happy to say he has nine hospitals in the country, run absolutely for charity, and they have done uptil now 1.6 million (16 lakh) free surgeries. They do 1.6 lakh free surgeries a year. The aim is to take the number forward to half a million. They have hospitals in Coimbatore, Bangalore, Shimoga, Vijaywada, Ludhiana, Jaipur, Indoare and Panvel!”

But how did he get the idea of eye-care? Rakesh Jhunjhunwala explains “I have a friend called Ashish Kacholia. His father, who does a lot of charitable work, gave me this idea of building an eye hospital. He told me they are also associated with Titan. I checked up with Bhaskar Bhat of Titan, and he said that they are the best people around.”

Dr Ramani elaborated on the major problem of blindness in the country. “As Rakesh Jhunjhunwala rightly said, one-third of the world’s blind live in our country. 40 million are visually handicapped. 12 million are totally blind,” he pointed out, adding, “The irony is 80% of them, are either preventable or curable. They are needlessly blind, this is where we come into the picture.”

According to Dr Ramani, the situation would be much better if every major corporate in our country could come forward and contribute. Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, reposing confidence in the new partnership, said, “In my dealing with them, Sankara-eye foundation, I found them to be professional, honest and accommodative. I think i found the right partner.” Is he also looking to give his time? “If I start giving my time, where will i get the money from,” he quipped. He is also looking forward to build more hospitals going forward. “I hope that our hospital runs well, I intend to build more hospitals like this,” he told the channel.

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