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Naveen Patnaik's Support for Missionaries of Charity Sets a Shining Example of Compassionate Leadership

By Satya Narayana Sahu | PUBLISHED: 31, Dec 2021, 17:34 pm IST | UPDATED: 05, Mar 2022, 19:23 pm IST

Naveen Patnaik's Support for Missionaries of Charity Sets a Shining Example of Compassionate Leadership
The Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in his tweet of 30th December informed that he instructed  the District Collectors of the State to be in regular touch with organisations run by the Missionaries of Charity,(MOC)  founded by Nobel laureate Mother Teresa,  and  ensure that no inmate suffers especially from food security and health related distress  and that funds from Chief Minister’s Relief Fund  can be used for the purpose. 
 
The exemplary stand of Odisha CM in  providing  funds from the CM relief fund is  in sharp contrast to the decision taken by the  Union Home Ministry on Christmas itself, 25th December 2021, not to renew Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) registration in favour of the MOC  even though  it was extended upto 31st December by the same Ministry. While   Naveen Patnaik took concrete stand in favour of MOS the   West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee only expressed   shock that on Christmas itself the Home Ministry froze all bank accounts of Missionaries of Charity and such a move “had left “22,000 patients and employees” of the organisation “without food and medicines”; She maintained that while the law is paramount, humanitarian efforts must not be compromised.” Later the MOS itself clarified that its bank accounts have not been frozen by Government of India and that it advised its units not to operate bank accounts till the FRC issue got sorted out. 
 
The decision of Odisha CM to reach out to the Missionaries of Charity without taking a view on the action of the Union Home Ministry brings out his quiet approach in offering  humanitarian and monetary services to the MOC units located in Odisha when it faces funds crunch because of  non-renewal of FCRA  by Union Home Ministry  on the ground that it received some  “adverse inputs” against it. 
 
Utkal Sammilani founded by a Converted Christian 
 
It is worthwhile to mention that the Utkal Sammilani which spearheaded the struggle to establish the separate province of Odisha was founded in 1903 by Utkal Gaurab Madhusudan Das, a legendary and well regarded figure of Odiahs who was a converted Christian and went on to become the President of All India Christian Conference. He was firmly secular and never allowed issues of religion to be raised in the Sammilani, for he believed that any attempt to bring in religion to a secular platform like Utkal Sammilani would divert it from its main goal of establishing the separate province  of Odisha. That historical backdrop is essential to understand the secular ethos of Odisha.   
 
Christians Constitute the Largest Minority in Odisha 
 
As per 2011 census Christians of the State are  only 11.6 lakhs in  the four crore population of the State. They, thus,  constitute  around 2.7 per cent of the population and have got the status of  the largest minority followed by Muslims who  constitute  2.17 per cent. 
 
Riots in kandhmal 
 
In the  riots that took place in Kandhmal district of the State in 2008 Christians became the worst victims of targeted violence  by Hindutva groups after the killing of Swami Lakshmananda Saraswati by maoists. Many of them lost their lives and several churches were burnt and vandalised. A nun was raped and many  women were victims of molestation and violation of their bodies. That tragic riot claimed the lives of many Hindus and tribes of the district as well. It was a blot in the history of the State which is known for its religious pluralism and secular ethos. That time there was a coalition Government of Biju Janata Dal and BJP headed by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. On that occasion he made the famous declaration that every drop of his blood remained secular. In 2009 he snapped alliance  ties with BJP and contested elections on the strength of BJD alone and swept the Assembly polls by securing 103 out of 147 seats. BJP was reduced to the margins by securing only 6 seats. While in the elections held in 2014 BJD scored a huge victory defying Modi led BJP’s big  win at the national level, in 2019 elections BJD scored a massive victory and BJP was consigned to a distant second position. 
 
Hollow Claims of “Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas and Sabka Viswas.” 
 
Now in 2021 when the BJP led NDA Government at the Centre headed by Prime Minister Modi has not renewed the FCRA of MOC Naveen Patnaik has stood by it by allowing the utlisation of the  Chief Minister’s Relief Fund for the the benefits of those who are serviced  by the units of the Missionaries of Charity. It unmistakably brings out the compassionate approach of Naveen Patnaik in dealing with the Christian minorities who are less than three per cent of the population. 
 
The BJP in its election manifesto for 2019 declared that it remained “committed to the empowerment and ‘development with dignity’ of all minorities (Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Parsis etc )”. It also blows its trumpet by repeating the oft repeated words of Prime Minister Modi, “Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas and Sabka Viswas.” It is paradoxical that with such declaratory claims for empowerment and development of minorities and a slogan aiming to include every one  in its all embracing fold,  it has targeted the MOS by not renewing its FCRA on the basis of “adverse inputs”. 
 
Majoritarianism 
 
The recent attacks on Christians and Churches in Karnataka and other States including the ones ruled by BJP exposes its hollow claim for the cause of minorities. There was not a single word of condemnation from the Union Government on such attacks. In view of such assaults in contravention of the Constitution and the Indian Penal Code, the non renewal of the FCRA of MOC clearly affirms  the continuing and strident  march of majoritarianism as the  soul and guiding force for the Modi regime. 
 
Naveen’s Inclusive Approach 
 
In contrast to this, the BJD Government headed by Naveen Patnaik in spite of winning 113 seats in the State Assembly in 2019 elections is guided by an inclusive approach for framing public policies. Of course BJD has supported the  passage of some Bills of the Modi regime both in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. However, it has followed an inclusive approach at the State level and set an example for the whole nation. For instance Chief Minister Patnaik apart from sanctioning  a special package for  transforming Puri Jagannath Temple complex to a global heritage project, sanctioned, on 28th February 2020, Rs 23 crore for development of many other shrines across the state. Rs 1 crore each has been earmarked for development of ten temples, five churches, six mosques, one gurudwara and one Punjabi mutt in the State. 
 
Therefore, Naveen’s  decision  that Missionaries of Charity,(MOC)  would have access to CM relief fund so that  no inmate suffers especially from food security and health related distress  affirm his commitment to religious pluralism and secularism which are basic structure of the Constitution. In doing so he set a fine example of leadership at  a time when the Prime Minister and other leaders of the BJP  at the national level are  silent on gruesome majoritarianism demonstrated by Hindutva leaders calling for arms, waging war against Muslims and inciting genocide against them.

#The author served as Officer on Special Duty and Press Secretary to President of India late Shri K R Narayanan and had a tenure in Prime Minister’s Office and Joint Secretary in Rajya Sabha Secretariat. Views expressed in the article are in his personal capacity.
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