The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Helping hand recalled

Thiruvananthapuram, Oct. 10: A first-grade attender at a government medical college in Kerala has been called back, four months after his retirement, to continue the good work he began.

The beneficiaries of P.U. Thomas' work are the large numbers of poor patients and bystanders who can walk up and have a free meal in the evening at the counter he has set up on the Medical College Hospital premises at Kottayam.

'There has been an overwhelming demand from the public as well as people's representatives to extend the service of P.U. Thomas, the attender. His life and mission are worth emulating,' chief minister Oommen Chandy said after a cabinet meeting here.

Chandy said Thomas had been more than supplementing the government's efforts in caring for poor patients. While the system restricted the government's funds to the patients, Thomas had even taken care of the bystanders, Chandy said.

Thomas, whose salary adds up to Rs 5,000, used to mobilise resources from ordinary folks to provide cooked rice and side dishes to the 1,000-odd poor patients and their relatives every evening.

Says Thomas: 'I'm optimistic but at the same time scared about how long I can carry on. I have not indebted myself to any single institution.'

'My philosophy is to spread the network of small donors so that the meal scheme will thrive even if a few back out,' he adds.

Thomas had started off by making the rounds of eateries and houses, collecting spare food. Medical students and teachers chipped in, helping him set up the Navajeevan Charitable Trust 30 years ago.

Feeding the poor is but one facet of Thomas's public service. The state's largest home for the mentally challenged is his initiative.

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