By: C. M. Paul
Kolkata : A philanthropist, industrialist and a much-respected member of the Malayalee community in Calcutta passed away on Monday, 23 January. He was 89.
P.M. John, born in Kerala, had come to Calcutta in 1949 when the city was faced with the huge influx of migrants from the then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). Living through the seventies, a period of turbulence in the history of Calcutta city with the 1971 war between India and Pakistan, the Bangladesh freedom struggle, the influx of refugees from the erstwhile East Pakistan, the tension created by political movements, all these together made life quite a tormenting experience for many people. A number of people lost their balance of mind and many could be found roaming on the streets.
It was in response to this alarming situation that Mother Teresa, Dr. Satrujit Das Gupta, Mr. P.M. John, Missionaries of Charity Brothers General Servant Br. Andrew, Dr. R.B. Davis and a few others got together and founded Antara Society. It had the primary objective of providing care, treatment and rehabilitation to the destitute and very poor persons suffering from mental disorders including drug addiction and alcoholism.
As the first step towards achieving the objectives of Antara, psychiatric Outpatient Clinic was started at the Janata Medical Service at Mar Thoma Church Centre, Kolkata as a Joint venture. This Psychiatric Clinic still functions on Tuesdays & Fridays catering to the needs of the poor psychiatric patients in the city.
Soon there was the need to accommodate and treat some of the patients particularly the destitute ones. A building was rented at Picnic Garden and residential treatment and care was started by the Missionaries of Charity (Brothers) who took loving care of the inmates and operated an Outpatient Psychiatric Unit in 1971.
Next year, the group provided residential facilities to mentally ill patients. Ten years later from 1982 onward, a need arose to cater to a much larger patient population and land was purchased in the outskirts of Kolkata to establish the larger Mental Health Hospital. The site was called Antaragram. The foundation stone was laid by Mother Teresa in 1980 .Today, Antara is a 200-bed hospital.
John was also the chairman of Meteor Private Ltd, an international trading house headquartered in Calcutta that has branches in Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore.