The CM's Relief Fund's website states only individuals can receive financial help from the relief fund, and Odisha CM's Relief Fund 'About Us' specifies only those affected by natural disasters, accidents, fires or other diseases can benefit from the Odisha Chief Minister's Relief Fund.
Recently on December 31, 2021, Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik directed all district collectors of the state to ensure that no shelter or orphanage under Missionaries of Charity suffers and added that money from the CM's relief fund could be used for aid if needed.
In a letter, the CM asked all Collectors to be in regular touch with organisations run by the Missionaries of Charity, an organisation founded by Mother Teresa, to make sure no inmate of such outfits suffer, especially from food and health-related issues. "Wherever needed, funds from the Chief Minister's Relief Fund (CMRF) can be utilised for this purpose," Patnaik said.
Before that, Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee had claimed that all bank accounts of the Mother Teresa-founded Missionaries of Charity had been frozen by the Centre, leading to distress among 22000 inmates of the organisation across the country. However, it was later revealed that the NGO had sent a request to the State Bank of India to freeze the accounts, given MHA's denial of its request to renew its FCRA license. On December 25, the Ministry of Home Affairs had said that Missionaries of Charity's request for renewal of their certification under FCRA was refused for "not meeting the eligibility conditions under the FCRA, 2010 and Foreign Contribution Regulation Rules (FCRR) 2011".
The registration was originally set to expire on October 31. However, its license was extended till December 31 to give them time to complete the renewal process due to Covid-19 disruptions. The FCRA renewal of Missionaries of Charity was not done due to audit
irregularities. So in this context, what messages are the chief ministers sending? Do they mean to say that their government would stand for whatever Missionaries of Charity does irrespective of its legalities and proprieties? When the Centre takes certain steps in a federal government, the states should respect it.
If we look into the decision of the Odisha's CM giving the relief funds to Missionaries of Charity then in the "About Us" section of the Odisha CM's Relief Fund, it has been mentioned that "The Odisha Chief Minister's Relief Fund provides required treatments to the distressed people affected by the major natural calamities like flood, drought, fire accident etc., and it also provides the financial assistance to the needy individuals for their treatment of major diseases. This fund depends upon budgetary allocation provided by the Government of Odisha and Voluntary donations received from the general people and several organisations related to social responsibility."
This means that only those affected by natural disasters, accidents, fires or other diseases can benefit from the Odisha Chief Minister's Relief Fund. Only individuals can benefit from this. The relief fund's guidelines do not say that any institution can benefit from this relief fund. It is even more controversial to fund a religious institution.
It is written on the website of the Missionaries of Charity that "The Missionaries of Charity is a religious community in the Catholic Church, founded by Mother Teresa ….." This means that the Missionaries of Charity is a completely Catholic religious institution.
The Chief Minister's Relief Fund's website states only individuals can receive financial assistance from the relief fund. To date, no religious, social or educational institution in Odisha has been benefited from the relief fund of the Odisha Chief Minister. But the sudden release of financial aids from CM Relief Fund to a controversial institution will surely create a dilemma. Every penny in the relief fund is the money of the common man. The government is its trustee. The government can use it only as per the rules and regulations.
Missionary of Charity is not a bankrupt financial institution. They make a lot of money from abroad. At the time of its founder, Mother Teresa's death, a bank account in the US having $15 million funds was found, which was the subject of much speculation as to why a charity organisation operating in India has funds in foreign banks.
Mamata's tweet on the Missionaries of Charity and the immediate announcement of support by the Odisha Chief Minister also proves that the power of these foreign-controlled forces is influential to the political powers in India.
Last December, the Makarpura police in Vadodara, Gujarat, has registered an FIR against Missionaries of Charity on the charges of allegedly hurting Hindu religious sentiments and luring young girls to convert to Christianity. The organisation runs a shelter home in Vadodara city. The case has been registered based on the complaint filed by Mayank Trivedi, District Social Defence officer.
In the last Loksabha session, BJP MP from Jharkhand Nishikant Dubey had accused the Missionaries of Charity of indulging in religious conversions and illegally sending children for adoption abroad. He also demanded that the CBI probe the matter. Raising the issue during the Zero Hour in Lok Sabha, Dubey had claimed like Missionaries of Charity, and there are other organisations active in his state of Jharkhand that is also indulging in conversion. They also receive foreign funding, he further claims.
The book "Mother Teresa: The Untold Story" written by Aroup Chatterjee mentioned that what was propagated about Mother Teresa was only partially true, and much of it was fiction. She accepted donations from drug peddlers and swindlers knowingly. What is worse, she even wrote to the prosecuting government officers and judges in the US to not punish them. In response to Mother Teresa's letter to let a swindler go, an American prosecutor once wrote to her to return the monies to the cheated–monies she accepted from the swindler–in the true Christian spirit.
Mother Teresa lied by exaggerating the figures of persons she was feeding daily in her acceptance speech while receiving the Nobel Prize in 1979. The ambulances donated by a Calcutta businessman were, in fact, used by her nuns as taxis to ferry around in Calcutta. Her nuns refused to pick up dying persons within even 200 meters of the compassion house. (Chatterjee has recorded his telephone conversations with the nuns and reproduced them verbatim in the book). But Mother Teresa continued to tell her Western audiences that her mission routinely picked up abandoned babies and the dying and dead bodies from Calcutta's pavements.
Aroup was born and brought up in Calcutta, married an Irish Catholic lady and was close to the charity work of Teresa in Calcutta. He claimed that he had studied her activities for over twenty-five years.
Mother Teresa's falsehoods and exaggeration about her acts of charity have been exposed in the media before. Journalist and author Christopher Hitchens had made a documentary in 1994, Hell's Angel, which was highly critical of Teresa's charity work. It was broadcast on a British television channel, Channel 4.
The Guardian also had carried an article in 1996, alleging Teresa's complicity in and knowledge of the unacceptable practices that were taking place in her charity homes. In January 1997, various European television channels broadcast Mother Teresa: Time For Change? which was critical of Teresa's methods and accused her of neglect. The German magazine Stern had published a devastating critique of Mother Teresa on the first anniversary of her death on September 10 1998.
(The writer is a Senior Journalist based in Odisha)