India extends visa of British nun serving leprosy patients

July 25th, 2011 - 6:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Bangalore, July 25 (IANS) British-born Catholic nun Jacqueline Jean McEwan, known as Sister Jean, will continue to stay in this Indian tech hub as the Indian government Monday extended her visa for a month.

“We have received a letter from the union home ministry extending Sister Jean’s visa for a month. As there is a provision for applying for extending the residence permit, we will submit the papers soon,” director of Society for the Welfare and Rehabilitation of Leprosy Patients, George Kannan Thavan, told IANS.

Sister Jean, who is also popularly known as Mother Teresa of Sumanahalli, about 15 km from the city centre, has been running a mobile clinic for leprosy patients since 1982 and has been a resident of Bangalore since then by renewing her visa every year.

“I am so relieved that the government has allowed me to stay and serve the leprosy patients as I have been doing over the years. I am sure I will be permitted to continue the service to the poor,” Sister Jean told IANS.

Though the ministry did not give any reason for not extending Sister Jean’s visa with residence permit this time, the non-profit society appealed to the government through the Karnataka social welfare department to review the decision favourably and allow her to stay in the city.

“The procedure is to apply for renewal 90 days before the expiry of the visa on December 31 every year. As in the past, she applied for extension in September 2010 for visa in 2011, which should have been given by December 2010 but did not this time. We sent a couple of reminders too,” Thavan recalled.

Even as Sister Jean continued to stay along hoping for the visa renewal, home ministry Joint Secretary G.V. Sharma wrote to her July 10 that the visa cannot be extended without giving any reason and that she would have to leave the country within 15 days, with Monday being the last date.

“On renewed appeal from us, Sharma called and told us that Sister Jean’s residence permit has been extended for a month and she can apply for visa renewal afresh,” Thavan said.

The society has a residential accommodation for about 120 poor leprosy patients and runs a mobile clinic to look after about 1,000 leprosy patients in twin slums in the heart of the city under the supervision of Sister Jean with funds from donors, trusts and philanthropic organisations and individuals.

“I am happy that Sister Jean can continue to work for the poor patients in the spirit of Mother Teresa. Our yeoman work would have been seriously affected by her absence otherwise. We are confident that by God’s grace, the government will allow her to stay with us,” Thavan added.

The Sumanahalli Leprosy Rehabilitation and Training Centre, as its name implies, was born out of ‘goodwill’ (’sumana’ means goodwill in Kannada language, and ‘halli’ refers to village). A group of people from different walks of life, cultural backgrounds and nationalities, with very limited resources in terms of experience, finance and time, joined together in the 1980s to bring joy and physical relief to a group of severely handicapped leprous beggars in the various slums of Bangalore.

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