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A Spanish messiah passes away in Anantpur

June 19, 2009 19:42 IST
Lakhs of mourners turned out in Anantapur city of Andhra Pradesh to pay their respect to a Spanish man who worked for almost half a century to help the poor and the needy in this backward and drought prone district.

89 year old Vicente Ferrer, originally from Barcelona in Spain, breathed his last in the wee hours of Friday, after three months of illness, at his home in Anantapur where he was running Rural Development Trust, a non governmental organisation involved in social welfare activities.

Munchu Ferrer, son of Father Vicente said that his father had suffered a stroke three months ago and died on Friday  morning. His body has been kept at the campus of RDT where thousands of men and women were paying their respect to the departed activist.

RDT, which did monumental work in education, health and livelihood sectors for half a century, was one of the three biggest NGOs in the country.

A soft-spoken Vicente Ferrer, who had learnt Telugu language after he adopted Anantpaur as his home was known to keep a low profile and never figured in any controversy even in a place notorious for faction feuds and political violence.

"For my father religion and politics in work was a taboo. He kept both of them out," said Munchu recalling that only  in the initial years he had faced some problems because of allegations that his purpose was to convert the people. "But later people realized that his only aim was to help the needy."

RDT had set up four hospitals, several schools and other centers to help the people by introducing modern technology and tools in agriculture. The activity ranged from extending financial assistance starting from Rs 100 to providing permanent sources of livelihood.

Vicente who had come to India in 1952 as a tourist and decided to settle down here, will be laid to rest at Battalapally village, 25 kms away from Anantpaur city.

"The work done by RDT has touched lakhs of people," said T Chiranjeevulu, Anantapur district collector paying his respect to the Father. "He was a saint and his death is a huge loss for all of us."  About 2,000 people work in various projects of RDT in the district

"He decided to make Anantapur his home because the place was the most under-developed," said Munchu.

The district superintendent of police N K Singh said that his biggest contribution was to provide education and livelihood especially to the Dalits and other downtrodden sections. "He touched every aspect of life in Anantapur".

While one of his hospitals is dedicated to the HIV positive patients, the other is meant for family planning operations where one lakh tubectomy operations have been conducted.

Vicente had married a British Anne in Anantapur in 1971 and they have three children. After Vicente's death, RDT will be run by Anne with the help of his son and a daughter. The other daughter is in Australia.

Mohammed Siddique in Hyderabad