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Center vows to fight to protect its patients
Church-run leprosy center faces closure by statePatients at the Sumanahalli Society face an anxious wait
- Philip Mathew, Bangalore
- October 3, 2012
The state government has announced a decision to take back all but twoÂ hectares of the Sumanahalli Society in Bangalare, the capital of Karnataka, where around 400 lepers receive education and health care.
The society responded by filing a petition in the Karnataka High Court in July. The first hearing will be in November.
Last week, Archbishop Bernard Moras spoke out against the state governmentâ€™s proposal, saying the archdiocese would take all legal and democratic measures possible to make sure the land is retained.
â€śThe decision to take away most of our land shows the apathy of the government to the most neglected groups in society. This is a betrayal of the community by the government,â€ť he said.
The Karnataka High Court took exception to the archbishopâ€™s comments.
"Has he become a legal expert? The archbishop has no business to speak on the issue,â€ť said Chief Justice Vikramjit Sen.
Father George Kannanthanam, the societyâ€™s director, said that if they lose the case, they will appeal to the Supreme Court.
In 1977, the government leased the 25.5 hectare plot to theÂ diocese for the treatment and rehabilitation of leprosy patients, but the lease expired in 2008.
â€śWe have been running from pillar to post to get it renewed,â€ť said Fr. Kannanthanam. "We want the lease period to be extended for another 30 years, as it would be impossible to contain the activities of the campus in the twoÂ hectares the government is now offering."
The governmentâ€™s decision to take away the land would force many of the patients back to the streets, said Suresh Kumar, president of the Karnataka Leprosy Affected Peopleâ€™s Association.
â€śI was chased out of my village and used to beg in trains before I was rescued by the center,â€ť said Ramesh Babu, a 50-year-old patient whoÂ said he would have to go back to begging if the center closes.
Muralingappa, a 65-year-old leper who has been at the center since 1978, said, â€śPeople donâ€™t accept us as normal human beings. At the center, lepers live a dignified life and feel secure. What will I do outside it?"