Affluent India Reluctant to Help Poor: Dominique Lapierre

Annie Samson/New Delhi
Affluent India Reluctant to Help Poor: Dominique Lapierre
French author Dominique Lapierre, whose book royalties fund projects for the underprivileged in India, says he continues to be frustrated with large scale pilfering of TB medicines meant for his charity and also the reluctance of affluent Indians to aid destitute.

Lapierre's non profit organisation - City of Joy Aid - runs a network of clinics, schools, rehabilitation centres and hospital boats that has been helping the poor since 1981.

"My foundation runs 14 projects in India, most in the Sunderbans area and a few in Bhopal. We have helped bring medical help to the 54 islands through floating dispensaries. The TB programme has been very successful and we will be soon be celebrating the 75,000th person cured of the disease in 24 Parganas," says Lapierre.

"Typically, the disease is a result of poverty and the medicines help the patient to recover within a week but in order to prevent relapses medication should go on for six months. We are entitled to receive the drugs free of charge but every year we manage to get only 10 per cent of the stock, the rest are stolen in the journey from Delhi to Kolkata and we have no option but to buy them at high prices from the market," Lapierre told PTI.

The author had stopped over in the national capital enroute his visit to villages in Sundarbans, the world's largest delta area. He is accompanied by a group of 50 well wishers and influential people from Europe and America.

"Three years ago I had set up in Delhi a trust which offers a tax-deductible certificate for all donations. The foundation still does not have any funds from affluent Indians. I want Indians to be concerned about the plight of the poor. After all isn't this their country too?," asks the writer.

The author says he requires one million dollars to close his 2010-2011 budget of USD 3 million. In 1998 he sold his house in France and in 2008 he auctioned off the iconic little black dress worn by Hollywood legend Audrey Hepburn for close to USD 1 million to help build schools and homes damaged by floods.

During the current visit, Lapierre is scheduled to launch a medical clinic on one of his boat in the island of Gabberia in Sundarbans and also launch a new campaign against leprosy in his Barrackpore refuge home Udayan which treats and educates children from leper colonies in Kolkata.

Along with the TB project, the author will also celebrate the 10,000th girl student to have enrolled in his charity's eduction project.

Lapierre's research in India for the past 40 years has produced bestsellers like Freedom at Midnight and City of Joy, among others will release his new book India my love in the country by October 2011.

Citing Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela as his sources of inspiration, the French author who visits India two to three times every year says he is not interested in meeting the heroes of humanity but the souls of humanity.

"One of the souls can be a humble rickshaw puller in Kolkatta's slums or even Nelson Mandela, a man who saved a continent from bloodshed to create a rainbow nation."

Lapierre will also release the India edition of his new book A Rainbow in the Night, a historical epic account of South Africa's tumultuous history published by Full Circle.
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