With Rahul, Bill Gates visits Amethi and Rae Bareli (Roundup, Changing dateline)

May 11th, 2010 - 9:48 pm ICT by IANS  

Rahul Gandhi By Sharat Pradhan
Amethi (Uttar Pradesh), May 11 (IANS) Accompanied by Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, Microsoft chief Bill Gates, one of the world’s richest men, Tuesday toured Rae Bareli and Amethi for a close look at social development in the two mainly rural ‘Gandhi’ constituencies.

Gates and Gandhi spent about two hours in Rae Bareli, which Congress president Sonia Gandhi represents in the Lok Sabha, and another six hours in adjoining Amethi, which has elected her son Rahul Gandhi.

The study tour over, Gates and Gandhi decided to spend the night in Amethi before returning to New Delhi Wednesday.

Both dressed in white, Gates and Rahul Gandhi flew in a chartered aircraft from New Delhi and landed at Rae Bareli’s Indira Gandhi Flying Academy, located in Fursatganj town.

They drove down to Jais, named after the Sufi poet Malik Mohammad Jaisi, where Gates and Gandhi visited the Rajiv Gandhi Women’s Training Centre to interact with about 300 women from self-help groups.

The Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust runs the training centre. The self-help groups have been formed here with Gandhi’s personal initiative.

Women involved with different NGOs funded by the charitable trust gathered at the training centre well before the arrival of the VVIPs.

More than 100 police personnel were detailed to provide security cover while Gandhi and Gates also had their own personal guards to maintain the inner ring around them.

Gandhi, who chose to keep the Gates visit a closely guarded secret, shunned the media as well as party workers. Even state Congress chief Rita Bahuguna Joshi learnt about the visit through the media.

After spending more than an hour at the women’s training centre, they crossed over to Amethi, Gates and Rahul made a dramatic entry into a State Bank of India branch.

“Why do I not see women either among the staff or customers?” a perplexed Gandhi asked the bank manager, who took pains to underline that many women did have their accounts with the bank.

Thereafter, the two visited the Indira Gandhi Eye Hospital and Research Centre, also run by the Rajiv Gandhi Charitable Trust, in Munshiganj area in Amethi.

Gates was taken around the only modern eye hospital in the area. It caters to more than 15,000 patients a year.

The Microsoft chief reportedly took keen interest in improving services at the hospital.

This was followed by an hour-long lunch at Gandhi’s private guest house in the neighbourhood, after which the two headed for an eye relief camp in Shahgarh village, about 10 km away.

Rahul Gandhi, seen widely as India’s prime minister-in-waiting, has been taking global personalities on unannounced visits to his constituency to see the kind of development work taking place in a rapidly changing rural landscape.

He had last year taken British Foreign Secretary David Miliband to his constituency, made him sit and eat on the mud floor of a village hut and even sleep it out roughly in the open.

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