Agnes Kunze 1962

Friday, June 22, 2012

Brahmapuri : The Origins

1. A little history

   Till Independance, India was composed of a big chunk directly or indirectly administered by the British, and the remaining pieces of the puzzle-like territory was under Maharajas or Sultans.

   One of these kingdoms at the extreme North (the upper Ganges forming an
unbridgeable natural frontier to the South) and up to Tibet, was the kingdom of Tehri-Garhwal.

   Composed entirely of middle to high mountains, the area was thinly populated, but its importance was of being the undisputed place for Ganga and Yamuna rivers original sources, an immense appeal for hundreds of millions of hindous as pilgrimage centres.

   Apart for various neighbours (Kumaoni and Nepalese) conquest attempts in the last 5 centuries, the place was left alone by Moghuls and British alike.

   Leprosy was much prevalent , and the lepers were very badly considered and treated: after some time sent to isolated sheep pastures, they usually were forced to scamper away, lest they would be locked in one night and their hut put to fire.

   Going away meant begging in less ferocious conditions, mostly in Punjab with its softer view on their conditions, settled on the outskirts of prosperous cantonment towns, where they could make a living by begging.

   More unpleasant, but far more profitable was to get into the land given out specifically to them by Mahendra Shah Maharaj, on the bank of the Ganges in Rishikesh, last but not least, kingdom out post and starting point for the annual pilgrims to the Sources of Ganges.

   As pilgrims on the way, it was a religious duty to offer alms to all temples and dregs of humanity on the way…

   Winters were harsh, the best part of Rishikesh staying empty with no pilgrim showing, but they could all fall back on a couple of established ashrams for the minimum dry rations, on top of the savings they had from the previous pilgrim season.

2. The shift.

   I leave the description to Swami Chidanandaji, who dictated it to me, much later, in a half-circle development.

   Brief History of the Original Land- Lease Securing at Brahmapuri, Shivpuri Range, Tehri-Garhwal

(as per H.H. Shri Swami Chidanandaji Maharaj, co-founder recollections) :

“Above mentioned 10 acres of land { 10 kms away} was granted to the Kusht Nivarak Samiti (Tehri-Garhwal) in the mid-fifties upon the request of the, then, District Magistrate, Shri Somnath Varma, specifically in order to construct the present Leprosy Colony premises to house about 120 patients who were to be shifted.

Their shifting had become necessary due to the flash- flood waters of Chandrabhaga having washed away a considerable portion of the Muni-ki-Reti Leprosy Colony, taking away numerous hutments situated on the Chandrabhaga bank.

A considerable part of the Funds for the construction of this Colony buildings at Brahmapuri were donated by the, then, U.P.Governor, H.H. K.M. Munshiji; the, then, Chief Minister of U.P., Shri C.M.Guptaji; and the late Revered Shri Kailash Nath Katju Mahodaya, who was, then, in the Central Government.

These Donations were initially announced at a Public Meeting held at the Jhanda Chowk, Muni-ki-Reti, in the first week of April. 1953.
The main request for this new Colony at Brahmapuri came from the, then, Manager of the Baba Kamli Kshetr of Rishikesh, Shri L.N. Chaturvedi. IAS (Retd).” (End of Quotation.)

   In 1957 the Committee and resettlement area were secured. By 1959, lodging and dispensaryn along with “Cottage Industry” room and implement were ready for occupation for 80 people.

   So the first batch of Leprosy patients were shifted from Dhalvala to Brahmapuri, while more construction for the remaining 40 and Doctor’s bungalow were pursued.

   If the dry rations promised were available, no truck was available for reaching them to this new location, 10 Km away, through a dirt road; alternatively it could be said that nobody cared to arrange the transport of those food bags…

   People survived on their judicious use of decent kitchen gardens, and the food rations reached some time every other month, or though the Contractor’s building materials trucks (not many, as all building were built of stones, local sand and mud!)

   At district headquarters, the appointed clerk for receiving the State Annual promised grant, purchasing government controlled sugar, kerosene oil, subsidized cloth, was not quite motivated, and papers and forms were ruling the show, (people reimbursing their “expenses” from the meagre grant on the way), so that hardly anything reached the patients.

   The Medic (whether doctor or not) did not show up more than a couple of times, and it is no wonder to understand why, when the last 40 quarters were ready the following year, the remaining 40 patients of Dhalvala refused to “join” the promised eldorado!

3. The lean years 1960-72.

   For the 80 Leprosy patients shifted to Brahmapuri, the disease and life were a real misery:

   -Without real treatment yet to be found against Leprosy, the bacilli continued their ravages into the final stage of destroying the optical nerves, if the patients lived long enough…

    -Without real treatment yet to be found against Leprosy, the bacilli continued their ravages into the final stage of destroying the optical nerves, if the patients lived long enough…

   - They did not even have the dubious comfort to be seen by other humans which they could do as “alms-boxes”, and only the spiritual radiations of Swami Sivanandaji and his successor Swami Chidanandaji could alleviate their plea.

   - At times the food situation was so bad, that the inmates undertook a “famine-walk” through Rishikesh  city and ashrams, (a 30 Kms affair on badly ulcerated feet!)

   Each time they were given promises after promises, kept  for a couple or two months.

   Nobody, was ready to commit himself to a minimum of service to the patients. Only Swami Raghunathanandaji pursued the food supply struggle with regularity till his passing away in 1982.

   Also, from 1967 Swami Chidananda managed to convince a Leprosy Paramedical trained worker, Ravindra Kumar, to come and do medical and social work for Brahmapuri. He and his wife were offered a room in Sivananda Ashram, a bicycle and some medicines were provided for the job.

   Still these arrangements did not really solve any long-term problems, and when Major T. Ramachandra (my tutor in the field of social work) took Agnes Kunze, and Pierre Reyniers for a look at the Brahmapuri camp on the festive day of Dussehra, in October 1967, Agnes Kunze and I were aghast at the level of despondency and dejection offered by the patients amorphous and in sad looking condition. On the way back to Dehra-Dun, we met Swami Chidanandaji and Swami Ragunathanandaji, who took good notice of the 5 year-old serious start of a Rehabilitation project with a committed person like Agnes Kunze and Pierre Reyniers.

 Back to Nalapani, Dehra-Dun, Agnes and I felt very bad on the pitiful conditions of the patients in Brahmapuri, and even though of a half-baked project of shifting our joint forces in favour of this forlorn place…

   Still the work of Nalapani Leprosy colony was far from being a smooth ongoing affair, with the successive long term-volunteers, Gina Hald and David MacPhail (who needed training too!), and we realized that the long march was before us, and not behind, human potentialities on hand needing a lot of time and nurturing so that expertise in any technical field would become a second nature to all concerned, brought about by hurdles after hurdles to overcome.

   So the Brahmapuri project stayed in the drawer, the only help we could provide was when the new social worker, R. Kumar came a few times asking for a “food-loan” for the Brahmapuri people, loan we knew fully well he would never be in a position to pay back.

   The stalemate break came in 1971, when an ardent devotee of Swami Chidamandaji was appalled at the situation of the begging lepers from the original Colony of Dhalvala, joined by a very thriving alm-receiving settlement on the road to the famous Lakshman jhula foot-bridge.

   That person, Donna Simonetta Colonna di Cesaro, had left her Haute Couture business in Rome and Paris, and offered her fortune and business acumen under Swamiji’s Blessings.

   Along with lessening personally a few obvious needs in those colonies and Brahmapuri Leprosy Colony, which appealed to her sense of beauty and of earnestness since the inmates were making the most of their kitchen gardens and not begging, she appealed to her contacts.

   Still it was through Swami Chidananda that she heard that a relatively seasoned volunteer, Pierre Reyniers, was on a prolonged”sabbatical”.

   In the spring of 1972, Swamiji wrote me a letter to Paris and proposed I start Leprosy Rehabilitation work in Brahmapuri, on the lines of Agnes Kunze action in Dehra-Dun, and first of all to meet D. Simonetta at her Paris residence.

   Thus, it was without any hesitation, after meeting D. Simonetta, who promised all necessary logistical and financial support, that I embarked in a “white, second hand Mini-Austin” model (according to her specific wishes) to join the Brahmapuri boat, as a “starter”.

   It is thus, after reaching safely India, Dehra-Dun (with a Bavarian traditional Spinning wheel all the way from Munich, that Agnes Kunze, Swami Chidananda, and Pierre Reyniers, in that order, bringing half a dozen of Indian Gandhi’s spinning wheels and a foot-carding machine, textile-work started under a tree, on the Banks of Mother Gangaji on Indian Independance day 1972.

Pierre Reyniers


Friday, December 16, 2011


The following long history of the first decade highlighting the formation of KKM Handweaving Society may seem redundant to some; it is in fact the own written and printed version of Ms Agnes, putting her Motto in practice herself "learning by recollecting", which emphasize the unshakable basis of her vision, we still try to follow while adjusting to the new XXIth Century conditions.

                             FROM BEGGAR TO WORKER
                                    by Ms Agnes Kunze, 1972.

          In the beginning,
10 years ago, there was not more than the idea to found, as a Catholic Institution, a Home for the Lepers in the usual style. They should live as suffering community, well looked after, cared for body and soul alike, guided to lead a moral life and, to avoid idleness and mischief, they should work a little, according to their limited abilities.
   An experiment in living with them was to produce more ideas later on, but at this early stage there was no knowledge, neither of medical facts nor of the social context, no programme, no vision of the future – in brief, there was nothing, which is, according to Christian belief, the basis of Divine creation.
   Yet this is only one aspect and not the full view, because there were people, each of them burdened with his own history, unknown to others, especially to those, who had ideas for them.
   They were begging in the streets, at railway stations, in front of temples and  - more profitable – churches and priest house. The front of the Bishops House in Meerut was cleared by sending 30 steady customers (after taking a group picture of them – suitable perhaps for grand-style begging from Aid organizations and a compassionate public in foreign countries) up to Dehra Dun, to settle them there downside of town on a stony and waterless plot beyond the parish cemetery, as usual.
   There is nothing unusual in this start. Till today, “Leper Homes” are founded this way, and by the same motives, and many, perhaps most of them, you will find situated alike: beyond the cemetery or the burning place, beyond death. The non-infected wife of a leper, after he is sent away from the community, shaves her head and wears the white undercoated sari of a widow. He does not belong to the society of the living anymore. How could he dare and come back!
   Modern science is upsetting the traditional concept. The leper becomes a leprosy patient, gets cured from his disease, sometimes even his deformities may be repaired by surgery, and he is, what he is not supposed to be, alive again! The Hospitals where he got successfully treated, sends him “back home”-as to read from the official statistics, although the Doctors of the Mission Hospitals know pretty well that they can locate most of their former patients in one of the numerous beggar colonies.
   There is, of course, a better way of controlling the disease through ambulant treatment by Leprosy Centres, springing up now  all over the country, a way which will not anymore in the future uproot people affected by leprosy from their original soil. Yet this sort of treatment is not available for everyone. The patient in the Himalaya village will still have to wander down to the valley in search of treatment, often a journey of 2-4 weeks, and behind him break the bridges.
   “Sent back home” means for most of them begging, where one who has acquired a few deformities makes better business. Having managed to get admission to a Home makes little difference means only that one can rest there in peace without having to make an effort to earn a living. Even if he is now called leprosy patient, he is still looked at and despised as “leper”, banned from public meetings, like religious services, not anymore now for reasons of health alone! The people of Kripaon Ki Mata Colony were not spared this bitter experience at a time when their weaving products had already found a market.
   Since the start was “as usual”, we ask ourselves how it came that our way went very much off the usual track. Has it been because of the “climate” of the times, a global atmosphere filled with such enormous changes, that even a rather isolated place like a small Leprosy colony in the jungle cannot escape to be affected? An accidental combination of circumstances? Karma, Kismat, Providenve, destination or chance?
   Instead of asking futile questions, let’s try to recollect dates and facts:
Dates and facts:
  Purchase of a one and a half acres of land on the outskirts of Dehra Dun by the Parish
priest, for enlarging cemetery. Decisions of the Archbishop of Meerut to use this land
for his already planned Leper colony.
   30 "lepers" sent by the Bishop to Dehra Dun, staying under the trees, while the first quarter building for them is under construction.
   Supported with food rations by the parish priest, some of them  get themselves employed by the building contractor and earn a daily wage in addition. They were not asked to pay for their food, but to establish  with  the   money a community fund. There never was one. The cry for "equality" came years later—in a different context.
July, 2nd   
   Inauguration by the Bishop of Meerut (President), who appoints the Parish priest as     ex officio Director, Miss Agnes Kunze (Social worker from Germany) as superintendent, and Havildar Parman Singh, already leader  of   the group settled here now, as Headman 0f "KRIPAON KI MATA LEPER  COLONY".
   Approached through friends in Germanythe German Leprosy Relief Association (DAHW) agrees to  finance  the maintenance of the inmates, on  the condition that a Home
industry will be established, for which a start  capital is provided.
   DAHW also pays, in answer to the Bishops application,  the quarter building and the land, registered in the name of the Parish priest.
   Construction of Building No. 2, through local contractor, (financed by DAHW): Staff quarter and small workshop. (Now, since 1969, Spinning workshop and head office)
 Klaus Becker
   Arrival of Klaus Becker from Germany, trained Mechanic.         
   Beginning of "Klaus·era" (l964—December 1967
The first community project : Latrine building. Non-community project, through contractor :Dispensary, second and third quarter building,   leading  to further admissions through Bishop of Meerut.
   Employment of first worker on wage, to give one more man, in spite of restrictions, a chance for admission. He builds himself a hut under the trees. Construction of the First loom. Handweaving starts.
   Beginning of handspinning, weaving of own clothes and the first market product: Handspun Cotton rug.
   The first (ration supported) weaver leaves, because of too much work; he prefers  begging. The second weaver still weaving today, 1972), producing one Cotton rug per day, goes to the Bazar in the evening, to sell his product for the material price to any passerby, who is happy to get cheap piece.
   Experiments in manufacture and sale of candles.
   Employment of Salim, a stranger from the road, who turns a spooling  wheel, until he is, after several weeks detected as a skilled  weaver. (Today, 1972, workshop manager).
   Land purchase, from private donations of friends, by Klaus Becker, to settle there wage earning ex-patient workers.
   Change of purpose of a MISEREORgrant for poultry farm (Application  by Bishop of Meerut) in favour of a bigger workshop, the present one being already too crowded with 3 looms and a few spinning and spooling wheels. 4th (and last) Quarter building in the Colony, through Contractor, financed from MISEREOR grant, through Bishop of Meerut. New admissions.
   Construction of WEAVING HALL. Design and Supervision: Klaus Becker
Material costs: MISEREOR
Labour: Leprosy patients and ex-patients, i.e. Colony inmates and employed workers, their wages being paid by private donations.
   In their time off`, the employed workers are making their own bricks for their quarters which they also start to construct in 1967 on the Klaus Becker-land, the first 10 men Building being completed by beginning of 1968.

September l967
   Arrival of Pierre Reyniers (——April 1969), to replace Klaus Becker, and of Elisaba Lakra (—March 1969), who engages mostly in laborious agricultural community work, all through the whole year.
   Enter OXFAM with grants for 6 looms, carding machine, cow, labour for cowshed construction and irrigation. 75% Reduction of water charges for use of Municipality pipeline, by City Board, Dehra Dun Cultivation of all the available land and cow—experiment not very successful, but serving as education to regular work for the colony inmates, while the constructions of cowshed and irrigation system and

the weaving is mostly done by ex-patients on wages (former construction workers now trained in weaving) under supervision of Pierre Reyniers, with colony inmates now obliged to spin at least for their own clothes ( "no thread-no cloth !"). 
   Beginning of  the "age of production", resulting for the first time in  a net income of Rs. l000—for the year 68.
   Participation in an exhibition at the Convention of the Catholic Hospital Association in Delhi enables us to show for the first time our handloom products to a wider public, leading to a few orders from hospitals.
   Arrival of Gina Hald (—-December 1969), who changes her profession" from animal husbandry  to human nursing, taking over the medical work from Agnes Kunze.
   Founding  of Nursery-and Pre - school by ex- patient worker K. Bangaraiah, former construction coolie, then weaver, then medical assistant. Music in his spare time.

   "The revolutionary year”: Trying to make full time work for all colony inmates obligatory met with a strong opposition and lead to near disaster on the morning of 12.3.1969, then, in the evening of the same day, to the turning point: Resolution of the all-men council (wage earners excluded), lead by the Headman: Everyone, women included, shall voluntarily work daily 4 hours for food and cloth (amending para xy of Rules and Regulations of the North Indian Leper Beggar’s Union, in force till this very moment, saying that no member should work more than 2 hours daily), while full time work should be provided by the management for those who want to earn an extra half rupee daily in addition. Until the acceptance of those terms by the authorities, the Headman takes over "government" for one month.
   A few of the colony inmates leave for begging during this year; of the remaining more and more take to full time work, some becoming now independent wage earners too. Taking over of responsibilities by more advanced workers, colony inmates and wage earners alike:
1—Starting of Spinning workshop with handspinning machines (Ambar charkas) by colony inmate Andreas Bahadur.
2—Ex-patient Salim Yohan Weaving Supervisor and- Instructor.
3—Construction of second worker quarter on Klaus Becker’s land (left by testament to the workers), financed, by Oxfam, under supervision of ex-patient Divan Masih. 
4—K. Bangaraiah sent for half year paramedical training at Purulia, to take over independently the medical department in April 1970.
   Textile Orders from Convents, Hospitals, Schools, help us to reach an annual sales income of Rs. 25,000 for 1969, which means 25% self support.
   Second arrival of Pierre Reyniers (Apri1 1971) After the jump in 69, the industrial activities are expanding with speed, crying for more working space.
   Application to MISEREOR for Working-cum-storing Hall (turned down by beginning of 1971).
   The growing production has reached a level, where planned marketing becomes necessary: Agnes Kunze "changing her position" from Superintendent of Kripaon Ki Mata Colony, to Marketing manager of "Kripaon ki Mata Handloom".
   Pierre Reyniers as Production manager, and Weaving supervisor Salim Yohan training more weavers. Construction of 3 more looms.
   First Export order from Germany for handspun curtains, and Trial order from OXFAM-Activities for Cotton rug. Self support now one third.
01.01.71 Purchase of "Kurukshetr" (from private donations), land between the colony and the Worker village, and of another small plot in the  neighbourhood, for first individual Rehabilitation experiment: New headmason building there his own house and finding occasionally work outside.
   Former Driver (Colony inmate), having completed Auto mechanic training, finds employment as bus driver. Another Worker starts his own carpentry shop in a village.
   Arrival of David Mac Phail (—December 1971) from Australia.
Lead by him, beginning of  “the long march” of constructing the necessary Working-cum- Storing Hall on our own—then, from August-September got aided by OXFAM and DAHW for about half of the estimated costs.
   Grant for supply of electric line by City Board, Mussoorie. Grant for electrification of the industrial area by CAA Australia.
   Registration of "K.K.M. HANDWEAVING Society" with Ex-patients Salim Yohan and K. Bangaraiah on the Board of Management. Subscription as member of Handloom Export Promotion Council.
   First Export Bulk order from OXFAM Activities -Rs. 29,000- for 1200 handspun Cotton rugs. First Contact with OXFAM Trading Canada. (Trial order)
   In the Textile production, accent now more on quality instead of quantity, in spite of delivery dates. Experiments in attractive weaving designs and Tye-dyeing. Emerging of special styled typical  KKM market products, "not available otherwise". 2/3 of the K.K.M. population, now “independent" wage earners (though a number of them subsidised). Growing sense of individual independency, accent on material progress.  
   Second arrival of Gina Hald, taking over General Administration.
   More Exports in the first half of the year (by Airfreight to Germany and France)—meeting grave difficulties at the other end of the line: Import licences, etc.
   Beginning of Work in the new Hall. First Contact with S.O.S. Netherlands (Sample order).
   First machine running on electric power (carding).
   Third  arrival of Pierre Reyniers, to start Production unit in Brahmapuri Kusht Ashram, Tehri Garhwal, on 15.8.1972.

Directed by necessity, we may say, was our path, and certainly not by a blue-printed plan; the necessity to guide handicapped people to a more human, a more independent responsible life, by finding work for them and preparing them for accepting and actually doing it.

Although others have tried too, there was no pattern which could have been applied, no pre-made road with the assurance of a signboard marked "Rehabilitation X 000 miles”. We still are breaking our way with more or less primitive instruments through jungle of restrictions and limitations, customs, traditions, prejudices, trends, illusions, weakness and ignorance.
The vision of the future was and is often still blocked with the worries of everyday life. We had neither plenty of money nor the gadgets of a technical civilization, nor the “human material” fit to build up an industry.
Most of our workers, coming from a peasant background, had been illiterate when they arrived, and some still are; some had been beggars for generations. Only one had a secondary education and one a family-tradition in weaving.
But contradiction keeps the wheel going in a dynamic process, turning disadvantages into advantages. The lack of former (mis-) education relieved us from the labour of re-education, while experience in various fields showed us that knowing comes from doing. Everyone, the managing people included, started with a primitive job, like digging or spinning cotton. Some are still finding their satisfaction in simple work, while others felt the need to learn and more, like a twenty year old, already trained in weaving, who became a semi-skilled construction worker during the building of the work hall, and is learning carpentry now.
Learning by doing
Klaus Becker inventive spirit incited the first workers to make their own experiments and inventions; contacts with visitors and engaged volunteers from various countries helped to broaden the mind and to enlargen the horizon of many.
 "Do your own thinking" was our answer to many questions, for which no readymade answer was available. They heard this for the first time being used by tradition, and then in many cases through prolonged institution life, that the thinking is to be left to the elders and superiors, and the ruling to the officers.
The Transformation is not yet completed and still in the process. The Self management at which we aim is still a far way off, but not out of reach. Several more barriers will need to be broken, before the unity of knowing and doing can be achieved.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Contested Independent Society Registration

   With all those dynamically potential persons, the gap with the people of beggar mentality was a daily effort to bridge. After the initial effort to learn to work and toil over cotton and wool yarns spinning and weaving, they were missing the condescension gaze of the road passers-by…
   Sales were not bright; weather was cruel to us without basic amenities, and also discontent from higher quarters made themselves felt, when we really meant going off the beaten track: Leprosy patients charitable work being feeding and clothing and praise the Almighty, while being occupied, to prevent mischief mongering among the inmates.
   The time (70’s) were calling for more; and in spite of reluctance or downright opposition from the local authorities and society at large, we meant to try and make way for each and everyone’s latent talents suppressed by centuries of rejection, despise and fear.
  “ What good can come out of a Leprosy Colony?” 
   If Agnes’ Inner circle friends were trusting her to the hilt, it was not the case of other institutionalized funding agencies. So, when, torn in doubts, Oxfam (England) appeared out of the blue, first as a self-help granting Organization (6 more looms, minor irrigation system, cow-shed material costs) we felt at last understood and supported with simple cost effective help.
   The Trade-Branch of Oxfam: “Oxfam Activities”, went as far as promising to buy from our production a thousand of Durries (mats) per year, once we are formally independently Registered, and have obtained a Textile Export License,
  On such an assurance of course we flew on.
 But this semi autonomous self help gainful activities and plans were not to the taste of established Institutions, who tried to hinder our efforts seeking a normal place in society.

Particularly, in the matter of building a second necessary workshop, whose financing was first promised and then cancelled; thus, we were let down by yes-men organizations, and then, once more, Oxfam came to our rescue, stepping in to help and propose to finance the Workshop.
   Patronization of our Society to be founded was spurned, and the piece of land we meant to acquire - and thus have a Legal Independent address -, to be bought quite cheaply by Agnes’ Circle friends’ funds for KKM Handweaving Society got vetoed; a few influential friends tried to explain Agnes’ stand, but to no avail.

So the land purchase went on in the name of Ms Agnes Kunze (and later  transferred
 in our society’s name) after we roped in the few necessary Founder Members and expedited - thanks to Bangaraiahji - the actual Registration of “KKM Handweaving Society” on 31.5.1971
   A long-term volunteer, David Mc Phail, engaged in the construction of the second workshop saw to the Export license, and Roy Scott sent an annual order for 1200 Durries on behalf of Oxfam Activities.
   And then Pierre went away for a long sabbatical.

(Registered under the Indian Societies Registration Act XXI of 1860)

A non-registered charitable Institution, called "Kripaon ki Mata Leprosy Colony", has been in existence since the year 1962 under the direction of the Catholic Diocese of Meerut (U.P.) and supported by the German Leprosy Relief. Association (DAHW), which gave grants for the land and the buildings, for Medical treatment and maintenance of the inmates, with the Special intention to make them in due course, as far as possible, self-supporting.

Development Aid, ear-marked for setting up a Training Centre for Leprosy patients and ex-patients, was given directly to the Superintendent of the Colony, Miss Agnes Kunze, by OXFAM, England, and private groups and persons in India and abroad.

Volunteer-helpers to work for the relief and rehabilitation of the inmates of the Colony have come both from European countries and from India. From the beginning it has been a prime motive with these workers that the Leprosy patients and ex-patients should be made economically self supporting to the extent possible, by providing work and wages.

Developing and progressing during the course of the years, a successful Handweaving and Spinning Department has been set up with a dozen looms and fifty spinning wheels and other accessories, as a Training-cum-Production Centre, and the products are marketted both in India and abroad. This has enabled the Colony inmates, both men and women, to earn part of their livelihood, and thus to become earning and respected members of Society.

Since the Handweaving and related occupations need special development and funds, and have to be managed on sound financial basis and principles of business management, it has been proposed to register this department—with the DAHW (German Leprosy Relief Association) as a corporate institutional member—as a separate non-profit Association under the Indian Societies Registration Act XXI of 1860, as for the following Constitution, Memorandum and Rules of Association.

1. Name: The name of the Association shall be "K.K.M. HANDWEAVING", hereinafter also called "the Society", and it shall be a non-profit organisation, registered under the Indian Societies Registration Act XXI of I860.

2. Location: The registered office of the Society shall be situated at No. 11, Nalapani Road, Dehra Dun (U.P.). It shall be open to the Board of Management of the Society to shift the registered office to any other place.

3.  Aims and Objects:    The Aims and Objects of the Society shall be:

(a) To rehabilitate leprosy patients and ex-patients, and whenever possible the members of their families, by providing them with suitable opportunities for training and development and employ¬ment on need-based wages, in handweaving, spinning and other occupations, thus to enable them to become economically self-supporting and socially self-respecting, and for this purpose to under¬take the purchase of equipment and raw materials and the manufacture and sale of goods.

(b) To promote the interests and protect the rights and privileges of leprosy patients and ex-patients, who are members of the Society, and to bring about unity and mutual helpfulness among themselves and with members of similar societies as well as to make necessary presentations on their behalf to Governmental and Municipal Authorities and other interested agencies and individuals.

(c) To take such measures as are necessary and possible for providing medical aid, maintenance, and financial aid to any member in distress or adversity, as also to the members of his family on his death.

(d) To work in co-operation and collaboration with other societies, institutions and organisations, both national and international, having similar objects, and to participate in and also to organise conferences, seminars, research studies, etc. in the pursuit of the above aims and objects.

(e) To publish books, pamphlets and journals, and produce posters, slides and films dealing with the welfare, treatment and rehabilitation of leprosy patients and ex-patients.

(f) To acquire, receive and hold property of any kind, including securities and negotiable instruments, and also to possess and maintain lands, buildings and equipment for and on behalf of the Society, and to create a Trust or Trusts for the same.

(g) To establish branches and centres of activity of the Society at other places in India and abroad, to promote the objects of the Society and entrust these branches and centres with functions and constitutions as may be decided by the Board of management.

(h)    To do   all such things and   to perform all such acts as are incidental and conducive to the furtherance of any or all the objects of the Society.


We, the several persons whose names and addresses are given below, have associated ourselves for the objects and purposes described in this Memorandum of Association, and we do hereby subscribe our names to this Memorandum and set our hands hereunto and form ourselves into a Society under the Societies Registration Act XXI of 1860, on this day of 29th April, 1971 at Dehra Dun (U.P)

No.   Name, Address and Occupation                         Designation                       Signature
1.      Mr. Fred De Mello                                            Chairman
        74, Restcamp, Dehradun
        Rtd. Administrator of MacLaren
        Leprosy Hospital, Dehradun

2.    Major T. Ramchandra                                         Vice- Chairman
       9 A T.C. Bldg., Connaught Circus
       New Delhi-I
      Gen. Secretary B.S.S

3.   Shri. Pierre Reyniers                                              Second Vice- Chairman
      11, Nalapani Road,
      Dehradun. Social Worker

4.     Miss Agnes Kunze                                                  General Secretary-
        11, Nalapani Road,    Treasurer
        Dehradun. Social Worker

5.     Ustad Salim Yohan                                                   Joint Secretary
        11, Nalapani Road,
        Dehradun. Weaving Instructor

6.     Shri Kosuru Bangaraiah                                           Joint Secretary
       11, Nalapani Road,
       Dehradun. Paramedical  Worker

7.    Mr. David MacPhail                                                  Member
      11, Nalapani Road,
      Dehradun. Social Worker

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Leaders in gestation

We ended the year 1968 with Catholic Hospital Association’s exhibition of our products, with colour weaving demonstration on the spot- at Delhi still untouched -, with a few dozen of hospital bed-sheets ordered by Belgian Salesians Sisters  Administrators, mostly.

The Kripaon ki Mata colony admitted                .

two shock


both in their teens

 All these young, uneducated (except Bangaraiah), were put to the coming  challenge, willingly, under Agnes credo, she wrote as Preface to the later booklet “Experiment & Experience”, which is reproduced below.

 For us, her ward, it meant coming first to terms with our  obvious handicaps, nasty bacilli for most, inexperience for me.

The motto was : “do your daily concrete work properly” in a spirit of humility and service to each other.
  But Community work, like a cow maintainance scheme, offered  (housing and selected mother and calf)  was not very well accepted, since it is an old-age habit in begging colonies  to subsist with individual care of private hens and goats rearing, while Pierre was aflame after his kibbutz experience and the May 68 movement.
  When Agnes and he ordered more mobilization under the slogan “no thread, no cloth”, there was quite an opposition Agnes was ripe to deal with, but not me.
Thus, I left her with the problem, to take some rest and make a tour of South-India.

Delhi 1968
  So once more Agnes picked up the broken pieces and made the Community whole, using the art of compromise, with the help of the “new” workers, and a couple of  medium-term volunteers.
  By early 1970, a chastened Pierre was back into the fold, and resumed workshop direction with more cooperative workers, while some repairs and improvements were carried off, namely tne workshop west verandah and the replacement of the first Agnes-building roof from metal to asbestos.
 By January ’71, I felt like expressing in writing the past and present challenges,  after abandoning with Agnes a rough project to try and start reviving textile oriented work at Brahmapuri, after my Indian tutor took us there, and has us meet Swami Chidandaji, Head of Shivananda Ashram, Rishikesh, concerned with the plight of the leprosy patients he was instrumental to have them shifted from town to that beautiful location upstream of Mother Ganga, but hardly visited and fed the basic food.
  Our unconditional Agnes Friends Circle would have back us, but finally we felt the situation in Dehra-dun was not ripe enough to engage our tryst with an other similar challenge (not so similar as we experienced 2 years later).

 My text of early 71 is  quoted below; while the Agnes’ provisional summing up of 1972, after KKM Handweaving Society legal Registration on 31.5.71 birth pangs will be
the subject matter of the next episode.


Un bref apercu historique.

   Fondé en 1962, Kripaon Ki Mata devait être un “ Home” pour lépreux, récupérés, mendiants dans les rues de Meerut, Chef lieu du Diocese. Une assistante sociale Allemande, Miss Agnès Kunze, se trouvant disponible, I’évêque de Meerut lui confia le soin des 30 lépreux de sa ville sur ce qui devait  être une annexe au cimetière avoisinant: I ha de terrain érodé situé sur la pente, menant au lit d’une rivière usuellement à sec.
   Après avoir obtenu l’aide du D.A.H.W. (Fondation Allemande pour l’aide aux lépreux,) construit la première baraque, et s’être installée dans un contact permanent avec les lépreux et leurs problèmes, Agnès commence à prévoir une occupation moins déprimante et plus digne que d’attendre, au soleil (ou à l’ombre suivant la saison), les “chappatis” tomber toutes cuites dans la bouche, sans même avoir a faire l’effort de les mendier au bord de la route poussiéreuse et brûlante.
   Un technicien allemand, voulant passer quelques années de sa vie à aider concrètement les lépreux, arrive, fin 63, et trouve un petit bâtiment atelier, offert encore par la D.A.H.W. et se met au travail. Il cherche, étant donné l’insensibilité et les mutilations des extrémités des membres des lépreux, leurs capacités mentales et des considérations de bonne marche, la meilleure entreprise à déployer à grande échelle. Il expérimente successivement la fabrication de: Bougies, rubans tressés, articles tricotés à la machine: Filature à la Gandhi; Agriculture, Elevage de poulets. Finalement, ce sont les essais de filature et tissage qui s’avèrent les plus concluants. 3 métiers a tisser sont installés dans le petit atelier avec des fileuses: La machine est lancée……..
   Il dessine et construit lui-même un deuxième atelier plus grand, qui est juste terminé quand j’arrive en Sept. 67
   Les métiers à tisser et autres accessoires sont alors construits rapidement pour combler l’espace vide, et surtout pour pouvoir donner du travail aux lépreux blanchis, mais rejetés par la famille et la société qui cherchent désespérément du travail, mais qui se voient contraints de faire une carrière de mendiant.   
   Les anciens du début étant assez réticents pour travailler, la main d’oeuvre est surtout fournie par les nouveaux
La question centrale  :   Elle est humaine, bien sûr.
   C’est la réhabilitation des lépreux blanchis, Réhabilitation dans le sens de ré-intégration dans leurs vies propres, dans la cité ensuite.
   Notre initiative, étant très isolée, il ne peut pas être question de Réhabilitation dans la vie normale pour le moment, parce que cela suppose une éducation très longue des citoyens d’une part; et l’élimination chez les lépreux guéris de toute une foule de rancoeurs et complexes ; cela est notre terrain. Les psychoses individuelles – y compris les nôtres – demandent trop de temps (nous ne sommes que deux) pour être suivies et aidées efficacement.
   Les activités deviennent alors un moyen plus adéquat pour une Réhabilitation globale d’abord et individuelle ensuite grâce à la dignité du travail, le sens des responsabilités et la fierté de produire quelque chose de concret et d’utile.
   L’exemple des travailleurs “nouveaux” porta d’ailleurs des fruits puisque les “anciens mendiants” ne se sentent plus à l’aise sans travail et s’y mettent peu à peu.

Les problèmes actuels.

   “Produire, c’est bien; vendre c’est mieux”. Tel est notre souci actuel. Nous avons déjà préparé 2 expositions, mais le résultat a été de bien courte durée. Quelques 1000 tracts publicitaires ont été envoyés, n’appelant que quelques réponses.
   Grâce à nos amis Allemands et Anglais, l’année 1970 s’est bien terminée, mais des commandes sûres, espacées dans le temps seraient les bienvenues.
   Avec les 60 travailleurs d’à présent, les deux ateliers ne suffisent plus pour les héberger avec leurs machines et tout le stock des matériaux et des tissus.
   La charpente métallique et toît du nouvel atelier sont là et nous commençons juste à l’ériger, mais pour les murs etc… il nous faudra attendre une aide auxiliaire…
   Au programme immédiat est aussi l’aménagement intérieur pour l’électrification industrielle des ateliers et la mise en place d’un moteur faisant tourner une cardeuse à cotton et une machine à “twister” déjà en notre possession et, éventuellement, d’autres machines dans le futur.
   De tout cela, et de bien d’autres choses encore, dépend l’avenir des 80 lépreux blanchis d’à présent, qui doivent gagner leur pain, tout handicapés qu’ils sont.
   Sur le plan médical, la situation globale n’est pas aussi sérieuse. La plupart des lépreux sont blanchis et ne requièrent que des soins de routine et des pilules de dapsone prévenant tout récurrence de la maladie.
   Ceci n’est qu’un petit tour d’horizon incomplet. J’espère cependant qu’il suffira à éveiller l’intérêt et à créer des liens à renforcer par un dialogue à établir.
                                                                                                                   Janvier 71, Pierre Reyniers.

Ms Agnes Kunze,
General Secretary
KKM Handweaving
Booklet 1972
   After having been working during 10 years in a Leprosy Colony, known to not many people, we feel we have to inform a wider about our experiments in transforming a place, where work was a foreign word, into an industrial centre.

   We don’t intend to call this undertaking a “model”, as some people did, because we are aware that other situations call for different solutions of the problem. Still, a few of our experiences may be useful to other workers in the field of Rehabilitation, some seeds from our unexpected fruits may fall into ready soil, to bring fruit there too, in patience, for those who should not be deprived of them.

   Our present time, certainly, calls for a change of attitude: “The leper” should not be seen anymore as a mythical figure, nor should the Leprosy patient be treated as a mere object of medical science only. He is a man like you and I. Not this shadow is polluting the atmosphere, only our fear, which shall be dispelled when we go to meet him in a natural and practical human approach.

   There are several who have done so. Quite a few during these 10 years of our existence came here to give their service, their time, their work, their friendship, their heart. Some left disappointed that they could do so little, but all of them we can assure, that nothing of what they did was lost.

Divan Masih all round worker