EMRI looking for corporates, donors to replace Raju family

January 18th, 2009 - 11:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Ramalinga RajuHyderabad, Jan 18 (IANS) The Emergency Medical and Research Institute (EMRI), a brainchild of disgraced Satyam Computer Services founder B. Ramalinga Raju, has decided to continue its operations in all 11 states and is looking for donors and corporates to replace Raju and his family.With doubts being raised over EMRI’s future after Raju admitted on Jan 7 to Rs.70 billion (Rs.7,000 crore or $1.43 billion) fraud in Satyam, for the first time EMRI CEO Venkat Changavalli came before the media to dispel the doubts and declare that it was ready to operate without the backing of Raju and his family.

“Please don’t kill this project with your stories,” Venkat Changavalli appealed to the media while seeking support for the project, which is benefiting poor and covering nearly half of the country’s population.

The non-profit organisation, launched by Raju and his family members in 2005, is currently operating 108 free ambulance service in Andhra Pradesh and 10 other states.

The organisation, which has 12,000 employees in 11 states, is operating 1,650 ambulances and plans to increase the numbers to 4,000 by December 2009.

Raju’s disclosures and the resignation of several board members of EMRI, including its chairman emeritus and former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, have raised questions about the future of EMRI but Changavalli said he and his leadership team were determined to continue the project.

He said some corporates and high networking individuals had come forward to contribute five percent of operational costs and salaries of leadership team, hitherto borne by Raju and his family members. The state governments are bearing 95 percent of the operational costs.

EMRI was also looking for a guarantor to replace Raju, who had given personal guarantee for a team loan of Rs.430 million (Rs.43 crore) taken by EMRI from Axis Bank in 2007. The CEO denied that EMRI building or land in Medchal was hypotheticated for the loan.

The organisation has fixed assets of Rs.510 million (Rs.51 crore) in the form of 120,000 square feet of built-up area, emergency response centre, ambulances, hardware, equipments and other infrastructure at Medchal here. It has no assets outside Andhra Pradesh.

Venkat clarified that Satyam was only a technology partner in EMRI and the latter has not paid even a single rupee to the IT services company during the past four years.

“Satyam’s relationship with EMRI is completely non-financial and non-operational. It is only a support in terms of software development. Satyam is only providing software solutions free of cost. No other employee of Satyam other than those who develop software were connected to EMRI,” he said.

“Independent of who holds Satyam, the technology agreement signed with Satyam continues,” he added.

Venkat said EMRI, started in April 2005 as an independent organisation, was not connected to Byrraju Foundation, Satyam Foundation or Health Management and Research Institute (HMRI), the bodies promoted by Raju’s family as corporate social responsibility.

Raju and his family members contributed Rs.340 million (Rs.34 crore) in 2005. “With interest, it became Rs.37 crore. It was the seed capital given by them.”

“EMRI is a concept of Raju, his brainchild. He wanted to provide free emergency response services to every citizen of this country in public private partnership framework. EMRI vision is to save one million lives by 2010. Every year it plans to save one million lives by attending 30 million emergencies which includes medical, police and fire emergencies using one single number 108.”

EMRI started with 30 ambulances and added 40 more in 2006. For the first two years, all the expenses of Rs.220 million (Rs.22 crore) were borne by Raju and his family members. The third year it spent Rs.300 million (Rs.30 crore) while Andhra Pradesh government, which became 50 percent partner, spent an equal amount.

Last year, the state government signed an agreement with EMRI promising to bear 95 percent of all operational expenses. Raju committed to pay all managerial salaries of above Rs.600,000 and five percent of operational costs, totalling about Rs.100 million (Rs.10 crore).

EMRI is presently running 800 ambulances in Andhra Pradesh with a total annual budget of Rs.1.20 billion (Rs.120 crore). It is operating a total of 850 ambulances in other states.

EMRI estimates that it would need Rs.1 billion (Rs.100 crore) for the entire country towards its five percent contribution of operational costs and managerial salaries.

“I will try in next three months to get donors, philanthropists, corporates who could give this money and run it as we were doing yesterday. Instead of Raju and his family, there could be many corporates, many high networking people coming forward. Six to eight people have already come forward,” Venkat said.

Some state governments, including Andhra Pradesh, have come forward to bear 100 percent cost but the CEO denied that the states were keen to take over the project.

Six board members have resigned since Raju quit as EMRI chairman on Jan 7, leaving the board with only five members, including Venkat. He said the board would meet on Jan 20 and may induct new members. He hoped that Abdul Kalam would agree to return to the board.

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