The U.S. Ambassador to India Richard Verma today launched the ‘Mumbai Dialogue: Towards a TB-Free India’ along with legendary Bollywood actor Mr. Amitabh Bachchan and Mr. Ratan Tata, Chairman, Sir Ratan Tata Trusts. The goal is to engage the corporate sector to further strengthen the Government of India’s Call to Action for a TB-Free India, launched nationwide on April 23, 2015.
A group of influential corporate leaders joined the U.S. Ambassador, Bachchan, and Tata in Mumbai on Thursday for a dialogue to engage the corporate sector directly in the effort to eradicate one of the most deadly diseases in India. According to the World Health Organization Global TB Report 2014, 240,000 Indians die of TB each year and 61,000 suffer from multidrug-resistant TB.
Focusing on the need for private sector involvement, Ambassador Verma said, “Over the last 18 years, the United States has invested in India close to $100 million to prevent and control TB, and has helped to treat over 15 million people. However, there is still much more that needs to be done to end TB in India, and government cannot do it alone. We need a multi-sectoral approach in which partners, public and private, collaborate to achieve this ambitious yet attainable goal.”
Tata added, “Most Indian families, it seems, at some point have encountered tuberculosis, which is such a big impediment to our basic wellbeing and overall socio-economic development. This disease, which is treatable and curable, is a significant economic drain especially on our poor and results in discrimination at schools, workplaces and within societies. It is about time that corporates and communities collectively respond to end this epidemic in our country. The Tata Trusts wholeheartedly support this national movement against TB and will do everything in their capacity to contribute towards making it a success.”
Dr. Jagdish Prasad, Director General of Health Services, Government of India, said: “TB control is not only a medical problem but a social problem and in this context what is required at this stage of TB control is that each section of society should come forward and join this fight against TB. I am sure that the private sector and corporates would adopt slums and different districts of India for comprehensive TB control as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility and supplement the effort.”
Speaking about his role and why he decided to support the effort, Bachchan added: “As someone who has suffered from TB, I can tell you of the devastation this disease can cause to a person’s life. It can often take months to be diagnosed. Even when the diagnosis is accurate, getting the right treatment is not always easy. Patients need intensive care and support from their family, communities, and healthcare providers. However, as a TB survivor, I can also tell you that this is a disease that can be fought against and won over. I believe we all have a role to play – as corporate leaders, community leaders, philanthropists, and individuals – in making India TB-Free.”
TB is a treatable and curable disease that largely strikes adults in their prime working years, making it difficult for them to support themselves and their families. For the business sector, TB causes absenteeism, lowers productivity, and raises direct and indirect costs such as medical, recruitment, and training. Globally, experts project that TB causes a decline in worker productivity estimated at $12 billion every year. For India, there is a loss of 100 million work days per year.
The launch was hosted by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) through the International Union against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (The Union).