Missionaries of Charity

Sisters, brothers & a good Samaritan

Print edition : January 28, 2022

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. Photo: BISWARANJAN ROUT

The future of several homes run by the Missionaries of Charity in Odisha was suddenly in question after the organisation’s Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) registration lapsed on December 25, 2021. Since a valid FCRA registration is mandatory for any non-governmental organisation (NGO) to receive foreign funds or donations, those in charge of these homes—most of which are located in interior areas of the State—were clueless about the course of action to take when they would run short of funds.

Fortunately, an official announcement from Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on December 30 brought cheer to the inmates of 19 homes being run by the Missionaries of Charity and affiliated institutions in 11 districts.

The Chief Minister directed the District Collectors concerned to be in regular touch with these homes and ensure that none of their inmates suffered, especially from food security or health-related distress. Naveen Patnaik said: “Wherever needed, funds from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund (CMRF) can be utilised for this purpose.”

Also read: Naveen Patnaik asks his District Collectors to ensure that organisations run by Missionaries of Charity do not suffer

The District Collectors asked the homes to furnish their requirements following the Chief Minister’s directive, and on January 4, Naveen Patnaik sanctioned a sum of Rs.78.76 lakh from the CMRF for 13 homes run by the sisters of the Missionaries of Charity across eight districts. An official release said that more than “900 inmates in various leprosiums and orphanages” would benefit from this decision. A senior government official told Frontline that the State government will review the situation in mid-March to assess the need for providing further financial assistance to these homes.

Missionaries of Charity work

The Missionaries of Charity Brothers, co-founded by Mother Teresa in 1963, runs six homes at different places in the State.

Some 89 sisters trained in different capacities take care of more than 900 inmates while the brothers look after nearly 250 inmates in homes spread across Mayurbhanj, Sundargarh, Sambalpur, Balasore, Jajpur, Kalahandi, Kandhamal, Koraput, Ganjam, Puri and Khordha districts.

The biggest home run by the sisters, for leprosy-affected, mentally ill and physically challenged women, is located at Janla on the outskirts of the capital, Bhubaneswar. It has 320 inmates, of whom 130 are mentally challenged.

The brothers run three leprosy homes in Rourkela in Sundargarh district, Berhampur in Ganjam district and Baripada in Mayurbhanj district. The number of inmates in all the homes combined keeps fluctuating from time to time. While some who recover return to their families, those who do not recover live there until their end.

Also read: Weaponising FCRA

There are three homes for destitute and neglected children at Koraput, Balasore and Rourkela. All the other homes serve elderly destitute and physically and mentally challenged persons, according to a sister in Bhubaneswar.

The home run by the sisters at Janla provides free stitching training to girls from poor families. A similar exercise is being undertaken by them in Kandhamal district.

They visit poor families in the neighbouring villages and help them with dry rations. They also take sick people to the hospital for treatment and bear the cost of treatment of those who belong to the poorest of poor families, the sister in Bhubaneswar said. Free tuition is also provided to poor children before school hours at a home located in Satya Nagar locality of Bhubaneswar.

A sister at the home in Kesramal near Rajgangpur town in Sundargarh district said: “We are happy that the Odisha government has come to our rescue. But we are not sure what is going to happen in the future.”

The home at Kesramal, with 47 mentally and physically challenged women, had Rs.70,000 in its bank account, which it had to stop operating after the FCRA registration lapsed.

Also read: Remembering Mother Teresa

A brother at a leprosy rehabilitation centre at Rourkela said that the brothers were not worried about discontinuation of foreign funds and that they would even resort to begging to feed and take care of the inmates.

A sister with the Missionaries of Charity said: “We are grateful to our Chief Minister for his immediate response to the needs of the poor. We appreciate his kindness and generosity.” She added that the organisation also planned to seek help from the State government for the homes run by the brothers.

The homes get donations from local individuals from time to time, which cover some of their needs. But the sisters and brothers largely depend on foreign donations to maintain the homes and meet the needs of the inmates.

The Biju Janata Dal (BJD) led by Naveen Patnaik, which has been enjoying popular support of minority communities all these years, currently has two Rajya Sabha Members from the two minority communities. Naveen Patnaik had severed ties with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prior to the 2009 general election, which took place less than a year after the anti-Christian riots in Kandhamal district.

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