New Delhi: After serving as the head of the Church’s social wing Caritas India for the last 10 years, Fr. Varghese Mattamana relinquished his post yesterday. Looking back Fr. Mattamana is a satisfied man as under his leadership Caritas India has achieved great heights.
It is now the principal recipient of global fund for malaria eradication in seven north-eastern states. The church's social wing has fourteen million beneficiaries, out of which almost 85 per cent are from poorest section of society, said Fr. Mattamanna. Over 8,000 people, mostly women, from the lowest strata of society hold positions in village panchayats and millions have been empowered through Self Help Groups and other schemes, he said. All these achievements have led him to rechristen the body as Caritas India: The Joy of Service.
Besides all this, the National Aids Control Organisation has recognised Caritas India as the lead organisation for HIV/AIDS intervention, Department for International Development of UK has selected it for their aid implementation program while national disaster management authority has made Caritas a task force member, he said. The former director of social services of Kerala Catholic Bishops Conference worked four years as assistant director before being promoted to the post of executive director of the Church’s social wing in 2006. An MBA from Xavier’s Institute, Fr. Mattamana has been made a senate member of Gandhi Gram Rural Development by India’s vice president. The federal government is also seeking Caritas' services to help reach out to remote Maoist-infested areas of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Odisha. “We have sometimes walked 14-20 km to reach remote inaccessible areas,” says the Syro-Malankara rite priest. One of the pioneers of Spear India initiative, Fr Mattamana said health interventions in HIV, tuberculosis, malaria were started during his tenure. The priest said that the most challenging task during his tenure was the organisational restructuring of Caritas India and tsunami relief work. “Restructuring wasn’t easy as some people had to be laid off in order to infuse fresh blood and competent hands,” the priest said. Incidentally, his tenure was the most happening too with Odisha super cyclone, Gujarat earthquake, tsunami, Jammu and Kashmir earthquake, Kandhamal violence, cyclones Ailia in West Bengal and Theni in Tamil Nadu besides a host of other natural calamities like floods taking place. On how many non-Catholics capitalise from the services of Caritas, the priest said approximately less than 20 per cent of the beneficiaries are Catholics. “We don’t go by religion, but by government list of needy people,” the priest said. Caritas’ basic exercise is to enhance NGOs working at the grassroots level in a bid to restore human dignity to each individual and alleviate poverty. Asked how he has steered clear of controversy, the priest said, “we have zero tolerance toward misappropriation of funds and manipulation of reports.” High-level professionals are deputed to inspect and monitor all relief work. Fr. Mattamana would next month take up his new assignment at his diocese of Bathery in Kerala’s Wayanad district.