In 2001 the state of Kerala was looking for ways and means to develop its economy, it decided to build an industrial park in the North. But when Jiji Thomson, who was appointed managing director of the Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC), visited the land alloted to the project, he felt it would be cruel to destroy such a beautiful place. He decided to propose a project that he had been nurturing for years :
"There is so much tension, depression and violence happening in our country and the world. Yet, we don't have a centre that will heal both physical and spiritual diseases under one roof"So he started looking partners to build a Health Holistic Village (HHV) in Kinalur and picked the Mata Amritanandamayi Math (MAM) for that purpose :
"I believe the Mata Amritanandamayi Mutt is best-suited to set up and run the Holistic Health Village. Amma (as she is known to millions of her ardent followers) has the necessary expertise and experience, since she is running several medical, social and spiritual centres across the country"MAM was to take 88% of the Rs 2.5 billion limited company, meant to complete the HHV by 2004. The promoters were hoping to attract international tourists thanks to 25 systems of medicine, thus projecting revenue turnover of nearly Rs 1.7 billion. That is a lot of money but the promoters were not targetting some poor hitch-hiking tourists :
"they are also including a helicopter service from Kozhikode airport to Kinalur, which lies some 100 kilometers north"Back then Rs 2.5 billion was roughly a 55 million dollars investment. So at that time 1 dollar was worth 45 rupees. Let's note this ironic remark from the ashram's spokeperson :
"Swami Amritaswaroop, an Amritanandamayi associate, called the village their "biggest social-service project""So according to him, getting $37 million a year is "social service". It is even their "biggest social-service project". Does it means that all other projects of MAM are also profitable?
Anyway another article gives an interesting financial detail :
"we have asked 'Amma' to set up a separate company or we have even thought in terms of floating a joint venture company to see that it takes off soon. It is proposed that 88 percent share would be held by 'Amma' in the company for which she would bring in Rs.1.1 billion"So Amma was on her way to officially create a purely capitalistic venture. MAM was powerful enought to invest $24 million in this project! This is more or less the same amount that she proudly claimed to initially give for the tsunami relief effort. But we are talking about the year 2001, long before the tsunami and its financial windfall. The world applauses each time that she gives a million to help natural disaster victims, yet investing 24 million was so easy for her in 2001. How come? Donations? Savings? Are both much bigger than we think? Bigger than she pretends?
The best part is still to come :
"A large number of 'Amma's' followers who are specialists in different fields of medicine belonging to various countries come to spend a lot of time every year at her religious retreat. So we thought we should put their stay in India to productive purpose with the support of 'Amma'"That would be so greedy. Were the visitors supposed to work for free? Did Amma expect to turn this into a seva? Earning $37 million a year thanks to free qualified experienced labor? In addition to that, visitors pay to stay and work at the ashram. Would she had required the practitioners to also pay, to stay and work at HHV?
That would be so cynical. Visitors usually come to Amritapuri to have a break in relation to their daily life and to look for spiritual unfoldment. Was she really planning to make them work in a profitable company? Was she expecting to make them go back to their usual routine in the name of God? What about spirituality? Is it legal?
That would be so unethical. Healthcare is not a toy. The visitors come and go in her ahsram. Would have the practioners come and go in HHV too? What about the follow up required by these kind of practices? Customer would have started a process with a practitioner. Then another healer would have taken over to try to complete the cure?
We may never get any answer to all these questions because a year later, in 2002, the project was not on the way of a successful achievement. MAM had walked out of the project. A Holistic village was to be built in Balussery instead of Kinalur. Was it the same project? The Housing and Urban Development Corporation (Hudco) was in charge of it.
"The holistic health village is planned to be set up at Kinalur near Kozhikode on a 270-acre plot and it will offer at least 25 popular systems of treatment such as ayurveda; homoeopathy; juice therapy; nutritional therapy; unani; yoga; Chinese medicines; acupuncture; and Tibetan medicines"Same place, same description, no doubt, it's the same project. But another article talks about Balussery again :
"Amir of Qatar may soon pick up equity in the $50-million holistic health village project at Balusseri (in Kozhikode) where the Kerala government owns land with ready-made building infrastructure. The previous promotor, Rs 1000-crore Mata Amritanandamayi Mutt, had walked out of the project three years ago"It is so confusing because Balussery and Kinalur are really 2 different places.
"The Government had held preliminary discussions with various large industrial groups for establishing a holistic health village or a medical city in the growth centre, but to no avail"Does it mean that the Mata Amritanandamayi Math is assimilated to a large industrial group? Isn't it supposed to be a charitable NGO?
Nevermind. What about the idealist who had the original HHV idea? A man called Jiji Thomson has been appointed Chief Secretary of Kerala earlier this year. If it is the same man then he is not focused on beauty and wellness anymore. The way he speaks is not as it used to be :
"The Christian community in the country should imbibe more from Indian traditions and culture, Chief Secretary Jiji Thomson said on Friday ... Why shouldn’t we recite the Gayatri mantra in churches?"Good question. We guess that of course Pater Noster and Salaat should never ever be recited in any Hindu temple located outside of India.