CSI Bishop 'Gifts' Rs 60 Crore Church Property to Private Company

Bishop P.J. Lawrence
It is an absolute shocker of a deal, probably without precedent in CSI history. Bishop of Nandyal Diocese P.J. Lawrence has virtually gifted away the CSI-owned St. Werburghs Mission Hospital and 15 acres of land on which it sits in the heart of Nandyal Town in Andhra Pradesh to a private limited company. Nandyal is a bustling trading centre of Kurnool District and is famous for its links to both a former President of India Neelam Sanjeeva Reddy and a former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao. Locals estimate the market value of the gifted land alone at around Rs 60 crore (USD 14 million). We at the CCC use the word 'gifted' advisedly. And here's why:

1) The company 4B Healthcare Pvt Ltd has been given, under a registered "Deed of Agreement" dated 8th March 2011 and signed personally by the Bishop himself, the exclusive right to operate and manage the Maternity and General Hospital, Pharmacy, Eye Hospital and other residential property within the [hospital] compound for a period of 30 years. Not a single rupee has been paid by 4B to CSI for getting absolute control of this 70-year-old hospital and the vast property around it for this extraordinarily long period.

2) Under the agreement, 4B will get the absolute right to operate and administer the hospital and the 15-acre property on which it sits without any say or oversight whatsoever from the CSI. In return 4B is to give 15% of net surplus or a minimum of Rs 25,000 every year to the CSI. But no payments to the CSI are likely to materialize for two reasons. First the net surplus will be determined by 4B which has secured for itself sole control over accounting and can therefore creatively account both the expense and income to reflect very little surplus if any at all. Second, even the measly assured sum of Rs 25,000 a year is unlikely to materialize as 4B has again secured for itself the right to set this off against any outstanding liabilities (such as staff terminal benefits) of the hospital existing prior to the takeover that the CSI is unable to clear.

3) 4B has secured for itself the right to develop the entire property by modifying, demolishing or putting up new buildings, equipment and facilities. There is nothing in the agreement that specifically prohibits 4B from sub-leasing/contracting out hospital improvement and subsequent operations to any other third party commercial hospital operator. This always remains a strong possibility given the highly attractive 30-year lock in period. Even after the 30 years is over, should the CSI want to get back the property it will have to first pay 4B for all the developments done on it. As the agreement lays down: "The terms and conditions and settlement of respective dues between the parties hereof at the time of termination shall be governed by a separate deed of agreement to be draw up at such times between the parties." This is going to be a major obstacle for the CSI ever getting the property back. And in 30 years time, the 60 crore gift to 4B could well be worth (if current price trends hold) well over Rs 1000 crore for the private company!

There are a number of other very disturbing aspects of this deal that smack of it not being above board.

First, the primary purpose for which the St. Werburghs Hospital (SWH) was established in 1931 by the Society for Propogation of the Gospel has been abandoned. There is nothing in the agreement which commits 4B to maintaining the charitable nature of the hospital. The deed only says that "4B Healthcare aspires to provide for a certain number of its hospital beds at subsidized rates as per policy formulated by it from time to time. The CSI and/or SWH have reposed full trust upon the judgment and discretion of 4B Healthcare in this respect." So 4B expects CSI to trust its "aspirations" rather than make any firm commitment as to what subsidy it will offer the poor. There is in fact no safeguard built into the agreement that would prevent 4B from running the erstwhile mission hospital as a full commercial venture. After all 4B is itself not a charitable organization or society but a for profit private limited company.

Second, 4B Healthcare has no track record whatsoever in operating and managing mission hospitals. In fact the company itself was incorporated only in January 2010. How a Bishop could give a one-year old company a 70-year-old hospital to operate for the next 30 years is itself a disturbing question. Had operation and management of the hospital been really the problem, the Bishop could have advertised for competitive bids from other more established non-profit service providers and the CSI may actually have even got a better deal. The Emmanuel Hospital Association, which is a non-profit organization registered under the Societies Act, would have in fact been the ideal candidate to take over SWH. The EHA is the largest Christian non-government provider of healthcare in India with 21 hospitals, 30 community based projects and over four decades of experience serving the medical needs of millions of poor and needy across 14 states. Why was no formal approach made to the EHA?

Third, handing over a CSI property to a third party for 30 years would require the prior permission of the CSI Trust Association (CSITA) which effectively owns all church property. There is no indication that this has been done. The resolution of the Executive Committee of the Nandyal Diocese dated 13/11/2010 attached to the Deed of Agreement is silent on whether CSITA permission has been secured, It merely states: "St Werburghs CSI Hospital Nandyal will be part of 4B Healthcare unit which has taken the hospital on administrative basis for 30 years. It was not sold away and the documents were gone through by Rt Rev Dr P.J. Lawrence bishop to the Executive Committee." What is curious about the above wording is that it says 4B Healthcare "has taken" the hospital for 30 years when this actually became a legal fact only two weeks later on 1st December 2010 and the same was confirmed retrospectively by the Deed of Agreement that was signed only on 8th March 2011. Curious again is the fact that the bishop while signing the agreement has termed himself "Bishop, CSITA Diocese of Nandyal" (rather than CSI Diocese of Nandyal) and affixed another stamp which reads "Office of the CSITA Diocese of Nandyal." What the CSITA needs to be asked to confirm through a legal notice is whether it indeed had given any power of attorney to the Bishop to act on its behalf in this specific instance and whether the award of a 30-year management contract that virtually gifts ownership of the property to a private company is consistent with its existing policies.

Fourth, at the time the Deed of Agreement was signed on 8th March 2011, 4B Healthcare had a paid up capital of a mere Rs one lakh! Almost all of it was held by its chief promoter and Chairman Scott Norling, an American pastor who has lived in India for over 25 years and has wide ranging business interests in everything from motorcycle accessories to micro finance and the media. Interestingly the deed of agreement with the Nandyal bishop was not signed by Norling or even by 4B's "Managing Director" Dr Varghese Philip, but by a 4B employee Mr Challa Madhukar. If the board of 4B was committed to this venture how come none of its directors stepped forward to sign on the dotted line? Interestingly, 4B appears to have roped in some prominent doctors of the highly-regarded Christian Medical College Vellore by promising them big bucks. Dr Philip is not only a director of 4B but also its advisor for which, company records show, he is being paid Rs 1 lakh a month. At least two other existing doctors of CMC have been recently inducted on the 4B board - a development CMC authorities need to investigate and take a call on.

Fifth, on 11th March 2011, a mere three days after the deal between 4B and the Nandyal Diocese was inked, Opportunity International Australia (OIA) became the controlling owner of 4B Healthcare by investing Rs 2 crore in the company in return for ownership of over 99% of its expanded paid up capital. So in effect the ownership of 4B changed within hours of the company snapping up the CSI hospital for 30 years and this vividly demonstrates the ease with which a private company and the assets it manages can change owners. OIA's main operations in India are through micro-finance operator Dia Vikas Capital Pvt Ltd of which it owns over 92% of the equity. OIA makes a great virtue of it allegedly helping the poor through microfinance. This when the reality is that it is the relatively high rate of interest the poor in India pay for these loans compared to what such funds would earn in Australia that make investment in Dia Vikas and future repatriation of huge profits (something possible only for companies and not for non-profit societies) from it a hugely attractive proposition. Despite its very Indian name, Dia Vikas (meaning "lamp of development") has only one Indian among its eight directors and that too only because that one Indian is a legal requirement for any locally incorporated company.

CSI watchdog bodies like the newly-formed CSITA Beneficiaries Association need to seriously consider legally challenging the transfer of the Nandyal Hospital to a private company on terms that virtually ensure the hospital and its vast land bank are lost to CSI members for ever. This deal sets a very unhealthy precedent as it can be used to justify similar "virtual sales" of valuable CSI property elsewhere across the four southern states that includes some 2000 schools and several hundred hospitals, colleges, vocational training centers and other institutions. For the many corrupt bishops who dominate the CSI this novel model shown by 4B could just be the answer they are seeking to circumvent the challenges a vigilant laity is throwing at them. Currently many members of the CSI laity have been forced to move courts to stall moves by CSI bishops to misuse their power by undervaluing and selling church properties largely for their own personal gain.

If any CSI member were bold enough to individually raise concerns about such shady deals with their local bishop, the response they get has in many cases been similar to what Karu Ravi Kumar experienced at the hands of Bishop Lawrence of Nandyal. Frustrated by the bishop's illegal dealings and his lack of transparency on the transfer of the St. Werburghs Hospital to 4B this member of the Diocesan Council and CSI Synod member representing Nandyal sent a legal notice to the bishop. In response Mr Kumar was served a memo sacking him from all offices he holds in the diocese and even canceling his membership of the church. What is strange about the memo itself is not just the summary nature of the "justice" it metes out but that it states no reason for the action being taken (both of which are grounds enough for a successful challenge of the order in a court of law). That a bishop who claims to hold a Ph. D can use fancy latin phrases like ipso facto (meaning: by that very fact) without communicating the fact that puts the phrase in context only underscores the sub-standard quality of the bishops in the CSI and the imperious manner of their functioning.

Bishop Lawrence is of course a good friend of the CSI Moderator and Bishop of the Karnataka Central Diocese, S. Vasanthakumar who is likely to have given him the informal nod for the 4B deal. Both of them were not only batchmates at the United Theological College in Bangalore four decades ago but Lawrence continues to be a frequent visitor to and resident of the guest house attached to the Bishop's Palace in Bangalore. In fact he spends as little time as possible in Nandyal where he is considered something of an outsider with little support even among office bearers of the Diocese.

Courtesy Christ Centered Campaign (CCC)

8 comments:

sibin chacko said...

It is not a shocking news sirs.The agitation of teachers and students of the csi american college,madurai,tamil nadu against the similar fraudulent deals teach us a good lesson.
The wings of real estate mafia are very strong in csi.
I am very sure that the aluva UC college and Malabar Christian college at kozhikodu will be under these wings very soon.
Anybody has doubts?

jabaraj said...

call Hasare and save csi.No alternative.

one beliver of christ said...

where is the old chatta ??????? That is the only solution......

sharlet said...

This evil process will continue unless and otherwise people come out and handle these underworld kings.
They have no humanitarian consideration and human feelings.I suggest the government should treat these corrupted bishops and priests like terrorists and keep them inside the jail for ever.
In the recent age corruption has become the inevitable part of our society.Here in CSI no bishop can survive unless he becomes the part of corrupted group.But we have look after our children and ladies.Street fight against these bishops will be the only one way as Jesus taught us through his Jerusalem action.

ebby,marad said...

Sirs,Please do not go for a compromise with kpk.people hate him.I do not know when he is going to touch the UC college and aluva settlement properties.

Anonymous said...

it is not right. it is verry verry bad thing.
to exictivu mumbers do somthing to save the lands of DON.

sudheer said...

Rumors which is bleeding the church
Story which happened in real time among the God fearing communities which made a dent. This is regarding the Diocese of Nandyal which worked hard to get the healing ministry and be a witness to Christ.
History.
St Werburghs hospital is 80 years old hospital with nearly one-forth of the period fully closed and one-forth being maintained in bad shape. There was no news when the hospital was not doing well or when doing well. No one in the world had any interest when people tried to grab the valuable hospital and mission land. The hospital is running with limited staff ie., 15 nurses , 1 pharmacist, 3 doctors,
Coming of 4B Healthcare,
It was after long years of hard work from Bishop Rt.Rev P J Lawrence and Dr.Y. Bhaskar the medical committee convener and many un-named elders of the Christian society. M.O.U was signed between the Diocese of Nandyal and 4B Healthcare on May 2010 which was discussed and approved by the executive committee. 4B Healthcare took physical control from Nov 2010.
Glittering answers from above.
Persisting prayers of the devoted Christians and the un-evaluable selfless sacrifices from few un- known Christian workers who are thriving to keep the healing ministry on the knees had the joy during the Christmas season. On 26th Nov 2010 people of nandyal witnessed the promises made by Christian leaders on revival of healing ministry as a beginning of new era in church revival. It went all on well till the pays of the existing staff and their arrears are paid for more than a year. This gesture from 4B Healthcare of paying the arrears and increasing the salaries had given new lease of life among the staff and seeds of greed among the office bearers. Hunger and angry wounds of many started healing and the healing ministry started wondrous works by the grace of our lord Jesus.
Well wishers of the Healing Ministry
Diocese of Nandyal

sudheer said...

Rumors which took life
Greedy few and law manipulators took the opportunity to start calming money assuming 4B Healthcare will give in for their demands. When not met the rumors of bribes transfer was born in a planned and manipulative way taking the system defects and the good peoples inability to verify the facts. Non of the rumors of money transfer in any form is proved till date, if any we challenge the creators of bribe (CCC-Christ Centered Campaign) transfer to peruse it and get the persons behind bars for bettering our church. False, fabricated and fictious news was extensively published in the internet internationally and pamphlets locally.
Non ending greed
About 80 families who are occupying the mission property illegally are against the church head (Bishop) and trying to get the land legalize on their names. As on day there are about 8 cases pending in court of law and many waiting to be filed. Any institution of international repute will make this difficult if not impossible. All of these unauthorized occupants have there own houses and if all the land put together will exceed more than 10 acres. Some of them have leased out the property to rowdy elements and non-Christians. Because of this monitory benefit few Dalit minorities(Backward castes) are getting elected as office bearers and committee members.
Non sensitive big-bosses (leaders) of church
Senior leaders when approached never probed into the issue of allegation of bribe in the diocese which had breeded many more doubts in the minds of netigens and well wishers of the Christian communities, it needs to be reminded that hear say evidence should not be admissible. Senior leader of the church issues unanimous letter opposing the work of the new healing ministry in the Nandyal diocese which was a great blow to workers and prayers of healing ministry. When healing ministry revival is adamantly opposed in diocese of Nandyal but no action is taken to revive the dying or dead hospital in the synod jurisdiction.
Who are responsible? .
When land grabbers take over the property worth crores of rupees.
When hard working dedicated Christians lose their healing work.
When healing stops in the mission property.
When unauthorized occupants claim the land as their own.
When being a witness to Christ is lost.
When service fails in front of the commercial healthcare.
When staff and their dependents are defenseless on the streets.
When Christian community is looked down at for its inabilities.
When land is managed proxy by the politicians and land mafias.
Truths the world should know.
Thrive for more unity prayerfully.
No shady deal has taken place between the diocese of Nandyal and 4B Healthcare till date, if any such is proved persons involved should be brought to justice.
Few disgruntled individuals who lost the elections are trying to make money and fame by shortcuts.
4B Healthcare leaders are top professional who are of unquestionable integrity.
Diocese of Nandyal is loosing a great opportunity in pioneering the healing ministry.
Poor and marginalized personal of Nandyal are loosing quality health care by dedicated professionals.
Short term gains for false and illegal persons to defame the church.
Fading end yet a new beginig.
Winning is not final, losing is not fatal, going is what needs courage.
Courage in Christ,
faith in prayer and
waiting on God ]
Pray that healing Ministry work in Diocese of Nandyal as on example for the rest of CSI.
Every God fearing Christian should influence and get the elected members to support the healing ministry.
Our Executive of DON negotiate with 4B Healthcare are any other Christ Centered organization to work and revive the healing ministry for the Glory of God.
Well wishers of the Healing Ministry
Diocese of Nandyal

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