It is sad to know that the Odisha government is snatching away the piece of land that was once donated by Maharaja R.C. Bhanjadeo for the 'Leprosy afflicted people'. Its further heartening to come across the fact that the grabbing drive is being initiated on insistence of the district collector who is rather more allured by the real estate boom in the city of Baripada than the service to people ailing with leprosy. And, to take the drive to his desired end, it is believed that the office of the district collector has possibly kept his higher authorities like the RDC and the CMs secretariat misinformed. State government pains Staines for own gains.
The piece of land that the district administration is attempting to grab has been given to Late Graham Stuart Staines to serve the Leprosy patients of Mayurbhanj district. The king of Mayurbhanj donated the land to Staines who who came to India, lived and served the ailing people for 34 long years till he was brutally killed by a frenzied mob in the year 1999.
People of the state mustnt have forgotten the horrific and gruesome act of killing of a saintly Father Graham Staines and his two little sons - Philip and Timothy. The cause was his generousity in sharing the love of god and treating the Leprosy affected people in and around Mayurbhanj. A work of philanthropy was misjudged and misunderstood by some fanatics.
However, in spite of losing her husband and two sons, the widow of Graham Staines Gladys Staines preferred to continue the works of her late husband. Gladys has been honoured as Padmasree for her contributions to the mission of late Graham Staines.
The recent move by the district administration to grab the piece of land has shocked Gladys who still strives for realization of her husbands dreams. She only expresses grief and sorrow to see the government taking a role against the works in service of the Leprosy patients - a 118 years old mission that is only of its kind in India.
The Collector Rajesh Prabhakar patil said, the piece of land belongs to Government So the Organization is using the part of the land for their work.We have taken a land to make a water treatment project for the benefit of the public . No complain has been received form the EMSM (Evangelical Missionary Society In Mayurbhanj).
The Land belongs to EMSM(Evangelical Missionary Society In Mayurbhanj) given by Maharaja in 1902. It is now under the holding trustee ETANI since 1974 on the verdict of an OLR case 57 in 1974 as per the judicial decree the title holder is ETANI on which the organization Leprosy Home is functioning .Presently the status is sub judice after the RP case was rejected by the RDC.The land is fully utilized for developing food product for the leprosy patients, agriculture plantation and a sal forest develop by the inmates of the Ashram and Graham Staines. So the Collector statement is not correct, said by EMSM official.
A local said, From the Maharaja time the land was given by Maharaja for treatment and leprosy care as well as rehabilitation of the patients .The Land was gifted by the Maharaja by 1902 and since 118 years it is functioning to eradicate , treatment , and rehabilitation in association with the Australian Mission (Home Council ) and The Leprosy Mission Trust
The mission to treat the leprosy patients started in the year 1896 with the clarion call of the then Maharaja R. C. Bhanjdeo to which a missionary lady Kate Allanby from Australia responded. Came in 1897 and joined later by her sister Grace Allanby, she looked after the poor outcast leprosy affected people of Mayurbhanj. Rate of Leprosy was incidentally very high then. Looking at the ailment as the biggest health issue, the Maharaja gifted 36.0 acres of land in Murgabadi on the outskirts of the city for treatment and rehabilitation of the ailing population. In 1926, Kate Allanby handed it to a registered charitable body called Evangelical Missionary Society in Mayurbhanj.
The Maharaja gifted another 4.5 acres of land opposite Baipada court, adjacent to the Municipal Office, in 1902 for office and residential establishment of the missionaries. Having a church in it, this is known as the Mission Compound.
Missionaries came and took over treatment and rehabilitation of the leprosy patients. In 1965, 24 years old Graham Stuart Staines came to the place. The link was built through his first Indian pen friend Engineer Santanu Satpathy of Baripada.
As a young man dedicated to the cause of eradication of leprosy from Mayurbhanj Graham Staines spent days and nights washing the ulcer wounds of the patients in the leprosy home and teaching the cured patients the dignity of work. While wards and houses were built over a part of the land given by the maharaja to accommodate more than 100 patients at a time, rest of the land was used for cultivation of paddy and cereals and to grow fruits and vegetables.
Staines, through his various initiatives, involved local people in his missionary works. He developed a dairy farm where jersey cows were reared and the daily milk production was 70 litres. But, as stigma and fear of leprosy ruled over the mind of people, getting a buyer was a challenge. Dr. Binod Das and his son Adv. Bibhu Prasad Das were the first to buy the milk. The idea was to remove the fear and stigma of leprosy from the society and bring people together to work for complete eradication of the ailment.
During his 34 years of service to the Mayurbhanj Leprosy Home (MLH), which became a charitable registered body in 1982 managed by the EMSM, Graham went from pillar to post to get the ROR for 36.0 acres of the gifted land. The whole 36 acres was in peaceful possession of MLH. Till the time he was killed, part of the land was not cleared by the Settlement Office. Using resources generated through donations and gifts, Graham had developed a Sal forest, fishing pond, buildings and wards on the land.
After the brutal murder of Graham Stains, his widow Gladys Staines took over to carry the mission forward. In her effort to fulfill the dream of her late husband, Gladys started the Hospital in memory of her husband Graham. The Graham Staines Memorial Hospital stands as an epitome of love and forgiveness and Gladys has been awarded Padmashree since 2005 for her contribution for upliftment of the poor.
Now, when she thought of expanding her works, she found that the land was not yet recorded in the name of MLH. The application was rejected by the present Revenue Divisional Commissioner. To the biggest surprise, such a decision by the RDC has not only deterred the expansion but also made way for land mafias to get into the scene to grab the land.
The local journalist Janaki Sashtree said, The 118years old Mission which started with the attitude of serving the Leprosy affected people in Mayurbhanj has been looked down and the govt. After the declaration that leprosy incidence is now zero it does not absolve the people and the govt at large to escape from this reality that new cases are reported and admitted in Mayurbhanj Leprosy Home almost every week as it has now affected the younger generation. We are at ease that we do not find a leprosy person begging in the town to a large extent as it was during last 30 years back. It was the sacrifice of folks in Australia when the call was given by missionaries like Miss Allanby, Cameron, Graham and Gladys to them for generous contribution towards running and sustaining the work in Mayurbhanj.
Those who contribute their mite and gifts from their pension are sustaining the work in India but why are they doing it? They have realised that God loves and cares human beings as He has created them in His image . They have a right to live and stay healthy. It is out of sacrifice and selfless living they thought it good to share their little money out of their pension for the cause of humanity..This is how the work is still going ahead, it is really sad that the people and the state govt has not yet realised how poor they are by amassing wealth for themselves without sharing.they do not hesitate even to the extent of snatching away what was given by the Maharaja in those days.. land for their use. Are we not becoming poorer than they in all aspect,? Mr Sashtree added.
The irony is, the administration has attempted to grab the land in the name of a water treatment plant by involving the Chief Minister who was scheduled to lay the foundation stone of it. But, unfortunately, nobody bothered about the hundreds of leprosy patients who are under treatment in the hospital. At least 100 families of leprosy patients, who are unable to go back to their villages, live in the campus involving themselves in various activities. After public reaction over such government supported land grab, the CM did not lay the foundation stone. As it seems, the District administration has kept its senior authorities and even, possibly, the office of the Chief Minister in dark about the realities.
Now question arises why the government is behind the land donated by the King of Mayurbhanj for a noble cause like leprosy eradication? How the RDC and Chief Ministers Office could extend approval to such a plan against years of missionary service and charity for the welfare of leprosy patients? Is it the real estate boom that allures the government and its senior bureaucrats to snatch away the land and hand it over to land mafias? And, how the government shows its commitment to the cause of leprosy eradication in the state by initiating such a cunning step against a work of philanthropy?