Countering West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s claim that the Centre froze the bank accounts of Missionaries of Charity (MoC), a Catholic religious congregation set up by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mother Teresa, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) clarified that the organisation had itself requested the State Bank of India (SBI) to freeze them. In a statement to the press, the MHA stated, “MHA did not freeze any accounts of MoC. State Bank of India has informed that MoC itself sent a request to SBI to freeze its accounts.”
Stating that Missionaries of Charity’s application to get its license to continue receiving foreign funds renewed was refused on December 25 “for not meeting the eligibility conditions”, the Home Ministry said, “No request / revision application has been received from Missionaries of Charity (MoC) for review of this refusal of renewal.” The Ministry added that the license of the Christian charity was valid till October 31 and was later extended till December 31. “However, while considering the MoC’s renewal application, some adverse inputs were noticed. In consideration of these inputs on record, the renewal application of MoC was not approved,” read the ministry’s statement. It did not mention the rules flouted by the NGO.
MoC too has confirmed that the renewal of its FCRA application has not been approved and it has directed its centres to not operate in foreign contribution accounts till the matter is resolved. In a statement, Superior General of the Missionaries of Charity, Sister M. Prema said, “We have been informed that our FCRA renewal application has not been approved. Therefore, as a measure to ensure there is no lapse, we have asked our centres not to operate any of the FC (foreign contribution) accounts until matter is resolved.”
“FCRA registration of Missionaries of Charity has neither been suspended nor cancelled. Further there is no freeze ordered by the Ministry of Home Affairs on any of our bank accounts,” Sister Prema attested.
The MHA’s clarification came following West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee’s tweet expressing shock over the freezing of the bank accounts. “Shocked to hear that on Christmas, Union Ministry FROZE ALL BANK ACCOUNTS of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity in India! Their 22,000 patients & employees have been left without food & medicines. While the law is paramount, humanitarian efforts must not be compromised,” wrote the Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo.
Following Mamata Banerjee’s tweet other leaders like the Communist Party of India (Marxist) State Secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra, Congress Rajya Sabha MP Pradip Bhattacharya, TMC’s Derek O’Brien, Congress’ Shashi Tharoor and others escalated the issue and criticised the central government. Dubbing the matter as “disgraceful” and “shocking”, Congress Member of Parliament (MP) Shashi Tharoor said, “When Mother Teresa wins a Nobel Prize, India rejoices. When her organisation serves the poor and destitute, the government cuts off their funding.”
“Yesterday, Christmas Day the Union Ministry froze all bank accounts of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. The government has frozen all the accounts in India, including cash in hand. Their 22,000 patients, including employees, are left without food and medicines,” said CPI(M) State Secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra.
TMC’s Derek O’Brien shared on Twitter, “First the Government of India INTIMIDATES. For weeks, right through to December 25. And then they pile on the pressure to extract this. Shame on the MHA and its shameless damage control tactics.” Demanding an immediate reversal of the decision, Congress’ Anand Sharma tweeted, “Shocked at the Government’s action of freezing the accounts of Missionaries of Charity. Condemning the cruel, insensitive and inhuman decision which will hurt the ailing and suffering poor the most.”
Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Calcutta Father Dominic Gomes also lashed out at the Centre, describing the situation as a “dastardly attack on the Christian community” in the country. “In freezing the bank accounts of Missionaries of Charity… government agencies have given a cruel Christmas gift to the poorest of the poor… Missionaries of Charity Sisters and Brothers are often the only friends of lepers and social outcasts no one will even venture near… this latest attack on the Christian community and their social outreach is even more a dastardly attack on the poorest of India’s poor. We condemn the government action,” said Father Dominic Gomes in a statement.
The rejection of the MoC’s license to receive foreign funding comes days after right wing activists accused the Missionaries of Charity of carrying out forced conversion of Hindus in a girls’ home in Vadodara of Gujarat. A report filed with the police read, “The institution has been involved in activities to hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus intentionally and with bitterness.” However, MoC denied the allegations, which claimed, “The girls inside the Home for Girls are being lured to adopt Christianity by making them wear the cross around their neck and also placing the Bible on the table of the storeroom used by the girls, in order to compel them to read the Bible … It is an attempted crime to force religious conversion upon the girls.”