The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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‘Constructive criticism’ with images of tethered children goes on air

London, Aug. 2: A documentary which alleges that disabled children are being ill-treated at a home in Calcutta run by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity was shown on British television last night, with the presenter warning that its contents were “shocking” and that viewers “might find some images distressing”.

The investigative journalist, Donal MacIntyre, says in a voiceover that the most disturbing footage he filmed secretly at night at Daya Dan, in Nimtala, was of a child in a cot tethered by its foot. The knots are visible.

The documentary, which was first shown on News Five and then repeated (more than once) on Sky News, shows six children who were apparently left unattended on their toilet seats for 20 minutes. Some children also had their hands tied while they were being fed.

The documentary covers the care of 59 children, aged between six months and 12 years.

MacIntyre briefly quotes a London-based doctor, Aroup Chatterjee, a well-known critic of Mother Teresa, as saying that the Indian government is “terrified” of her reputation but if similar practices were found in any other home, it would have been shut down.

In his book, Mother Teresa: The Final Verdict, Chatterjee argues that Calcutta’s reputation has suffered because of its links with her.

MacIntyre says the home, where he worked for four days pretending to be a volunteer, has poor standards of hygiene, suffered from a lack of soap and that the head of the unit dissolved medicine by using her finger.

The journalist showed his footage to Martin Gallagher, former operations director of Mencap UK, a charity for children with learning disabilities. “My overall impression of the pictures you’ve shown me from this centre is that the standard of care is shoddy and haphazard. I think abandoning someone on the toilet for that length of time is shoddy practice. This is a threat to their hygiene. It’s also a threat to their dignity,” Gallagher says.

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s a breach of their human rights,” Gallagher adds.

At the end of the documentary, the reaction of the Missionaries of Charity is given in full.

In an interview today with The Telegraph, MacIntyre said he found it satisfying that the charity had for the first time in 10 years acknowledged it would accept “constructive criticism” ' which his programmed offered.

He said he would be surprised if children continued to be restrained by having their feet tied by rope.

MacIntyre was asked whether he suspected “leakage of funds” since he had stressed that the charity received donations worth “millions and millions of pounds” and that some journalists had even estimated that since it was set up in 1952, over a billion pounds had flowed into its coffers.

The journalist said there was no accountability for the money.

“The buildings and food are looked after, the day to day costs are also looked after by direct donations. I am not saying there is leakage of money though some have said part of the funds go to the Vatican for supporting the Catholic Church. The Missionaries of Charity do need to say where the money is going.”

MacIntyre, who is himself a Mencap ambassador, said he was prepared to find experts in the UK who would be prepared to offer advice on the care of disabled children. In his opinion, there was no strategy which included tying their feet, nor was the “degrading and insensitive handling” of vulnerable children ever acceptable.

He pointed out that there had been rumblings about the standard of care in Mother Teresa’s homes for many years. “Everything I am saying was covered by a report in 1994 by Dr Robert Fox, editor, The Lancet,” he said.

He had no doubt that the carers, who were unprofessional in their handling of the children, also “showed them great love and affection”. But when it came to care, “they don’t have a clue”.

“I am not criticising Mother Teresa, one of the most remarkable women in the world, but isolated instances about the standard of care in one of her homes,” said MacIntyre. “I am only reporting what I have seen.”

He did not want people to accept a lower standard of care “‘because, oh, this is just India’.”

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