Ambassador Richard R. Verma’s Presentation at the Global Sankalp Summit

Good morning.  Ministers, Hosts, Distinguished Guests.

On the walls of my home at the embassy are a number of inspiring photographs that represent India and the United States.  One of my favorites is the one of President Kennedy meeting Prime Minister Nehru in 1961.

Three days before that historic meeting, President Kennedy had created the United States Agency for International Development.  He envisioned USAID as an organization that would tackle some of the world’s greatest development challenges.  But he also recognized that addressing poverty could be even more difficult than putting a man on the moon.

We are fortunate to have a short video that includes some of President Kennedy’s remarks about the challenges we faced in his time.  I think you’ll see many of these challenges are still with us today.

In the last several months, a new Indian Prime Minister has met another American President.  Twice.  Their meetings underscored the global benefits our growing partnership can bring about.  It is a partnership that has evolved through the years from one rooted in shared strategic priorities, to one that is driven by the innovation, knowledge, creativity, and drive of our peoples.

Just as the U.S. – India relationship has evolved, so has the way we address development challenges together.

In the 1960s we worked together to achieve food security during the Green Revolution.  Today, our approach is defined by partnerships.  Partnerships not only between our governments, but partnerships between governments and innovators, social entrepreneurs, and impact investors.  Partnerships with people like you.  These partnerships are focused on solutions in areas like health, energy, and food security.  They are focused on solutions that can be tested locally, scaled to larger objectives, and exported.

Our development partnerships include triangular assistance. India, the United States, and our partners work together to assist developing countries in Asia and Africa as they address their own development challenges.  Triangular efforts showcase Indian leadership and know-how while contributing to stability and prosperity.

For example, USAID is partnering with SRISTI, The Society for Research and Initiatives for Sustainable Technologies and Institutions, and TATA Agrico to promote food security in Kenya through the transfer of affordable, innovative Indian farm and food processing machinery.  One example of their work is a motorbike-based tractor/tiller that SRISTI developed and then adapted to local needs.  This tractor/tiller helped increase agricultural productivity and improved the resilience of vulnerable communities and households.  Innovations like these hold great promise for African development.

We are also working with many partners on improving water and sanitation conditions.  Globally, two and a half billion people lack access to improved sanitation.  780 million people still do not have access to safe drinking water.  Lack of access to clean water and sanitation services in urban areas is a direct contributor to hundreds of thousands of child deaths annually, as well as many other preventable sicknesses.

According to India’s 2011 census, there are 65 million Indians living in urban informal or slum settlements with inadequate access to safe water and sanitation services.  The U.S. Government is partnering with India’s Ministry of Urban Development, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and leading Indian and multinational corporates to support Prime Minister Modi’s Swachh Bharat Clean India Campaign which aims to provide clean water and sanitation services to all.

In Bangalore, for example, we are working with the city administration and WaterHealth India to provide over 32,000 households with clean drinking water.  Prior to this effort, slum residents often became ill from contaminated water or paid high prices for commercial water.  With support from USAID and the local Municipal Corporation, WaterHealth built purification centers in the community that produce water that meets the World Health Organization standards.  Local residents now have access to clean and safe drinking water at a sustainable low cost.

India has made impressive progress in the health sector over the past two decades.  Notably, it has reduced maternal and child mortality rates by more than half.  USAID is helping to build on this progress by working with DASRA, Piramal Foundation, and Kaiwah Trust to bring together philanthropists and social entrepreneurs in an effort to save the lives of one million more adolescent girls, mothers, and children.  Programs like these put the goal of ending preventable child and maternal deaths within reach.

We are also working together in novel ways to balance growing energy needs with the realities of climate change.  Introducing renewable energy solutions into peoples’ lives in ways that also build incomes and empower people is one key to finding this balance.

For instance, a program called the Partnership on Women’s Entrepreneurship in Clean Energy, wPOWER, is a good example of how India and the United States are partnering with innovators like you to change lives.  wPower teaches women entrepreneurs about small renewable energy products that can be used in the home.  These women then go out and sell the products to their peers, increasing their incomes, building skills, and introducing renewable energy into their communities.

One such entrepreneur is Shanta Gawali.  Ms. Gawali lives with her husband in a village in Maharashtra.  They have a small farm and for years she supplemented their modest farming income with a home-based business producing and packaging snacks.  wPOWER helped Ms. Gawali expand her product line – and her income – by introducing renewable energy devices like clean cookstoves and solar lamps into her product line.

Ms. Gawali’s story has been replicated hundreds of times in Maharashtra and Bihar.  Using road shows, weekly market stalls, and on-the-spot demonstrations, these entrepreneurs reached 350,000 people and sold 80,000 products.  This astounding success has helped these women increase their incomes by 33 percent while also accelerating India’s clean energy transition at the grassroots level.

Last week I saw another example of how renewable energy solutions can change lives.  I was in Mysore and visited a migrant slum community where many of the adults make cricket bats.  As I’m sure you can imagine, this nomadic community is far off the energy grid.  But because of a partnership between USAID and SELCO, many families now own portable, battery-operated solar energy units that produce enough electricity to power a light and charge a mobile phone.

The introduction of these mini-power plants into this community is changing lives.  The lights allow the workers to increase the number of bats they can make, thereby increasing their incomes by up to 30 percent.  The use of kerosene is decreasing in favor of clean solar power.  But these are just the tangible benefits.  As one of the workers told me, the solar lights were also reducing his family’s exposure to snakes, rodents, and insects, making his wife and children feel safer.  My friends, when thinking of the impact of our development efforts, we cannot discount secondary benefits like these.  The resiliency and social fabric of this community is being strengthened because these families feel safer and more economically empowered.

I started with President Kennedy, and now I’ll end with President Obama.  At Siri Fort in January, President Obama emphasized the importance of recognizing that everyone’s dreams – whether a cleaner, a rickshaw driver, or a little girl carrying water – everyone’s dreams are important and beautiful.  It is up to us – the people who are fortunate enough to live in countries where the grandson of a cook can become President, and the son of a tea-seller can become Prime Minister – to find ways to help people turn those dreams into realities.  We can do so by continuing to develop, to innovate, and to partner together.

I applaud you all for your continuing hard work and efforts toward fostering innovation for impact, and I look forward to meeting and working with many of you in the future.    Thank You.