Jack Preger (born 25 July 1930 in Manchester, England) is a British doctor who has been offering medical treatment as well as vocational training to the poor in the Indian city of Kolkata and in other parts of West Bengal since 1972. He established the relief agency Calcutta Rescue.
He developed a sense of justice early on when, as a young boy, he lost a French aunt to Hitler's forces, and he understood the plight of refugees.
Preger graduated from St Edmund Hall, Oxford with a post-graduate degree in economics and political science. He worked for a few years as a farmer in Wales before selling his farm and deciding to become a doctor instead. In 1965, he was admitted into the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin at the age of 35.
Work in Bangladesh
In 1972, when he had just finished his internship, although his plans had been to dedicate his life to the poor in South or Central America, and he had prepared himself by learning Spanish, he answered a call over the radio for doctors to help the people of then newly independent Bangladesh. He was soon in Dhaka, where he worked, under squalid conditions, in refugee camps filled with Urdu-speaking people who intended to return to Pakistan. He learnt Urdu and later Bengali. In 1975, he set up a 90-bed clinic in Dhaka and two farms on the outskirts of the city.
However, his work in Dhaka came to an abrupt end when he discovered that Dutch non-government organisation Terre des Hommes was operating a child-smuggling racket, and exposed it despite the Bangladesh government warning him not to. He was deported to Bangkok in 1979.
Work in Kolkata
I have seen the work of Dr Jack Preger in Bangladesh and what I saw was very good for the people and the children. I do hope he will be able to give that same service to the needy here in Calcutta also.[this quote needs a citation]
However, Preger thought that he would be able to do more if he operated independently, and started a clinic for the poor below the flyover connecting the Howrah Bridge. He also requested a work permit, which ultimately was not given.
Today, Calcutta Rescue operates three clinics, two schools and two vocational centres. It employs 150 locally hired staff. Preger has also been acknowledged for his work in treating AIDS patients in the city. Support Groups for the work of Dr. Jack have been formed in several other countries, mostly spurred on by tourists returning home, who had witnessed his selfless work : England, Switzerland, France, Germany, Norway, The Netherlands, Canada, the US
Intervention by the government
In 1980, the Foreigners' Registration Office (FRO) of the West Bengal government noted that Preger had accepted a donation from a missionary organisation based in the United States, and demanded that he declare himself as a missionary worker, in addition to being a doctor. He resolved this only after explaining to New Delhi officials that he was not a missionary worker. (Calcutta Rescue is entirely secular), and was permitted to stay in Kolkata without a visa. In 1981, the FRO charged him with entering India without a missionary visa, but he was released on bail. The FRO dropped the charge in 1989 after intervention by the then high commissioner of New Zealand to India, Sir Edmund Hillary.
After Preger registered Calcutta Rescue as a charity in 1991, he started two more clinics in Kolkata and donations came in from eight European countries. He also obtained a resident's permit. However, the government refused to grant him the clearance needed to accept foreign donations. Preger then sued the government in Kolkata's courts. Eventually the courts struck down the government's rejection, and Preger was allowed to accept 1.5 million rupees per month in donations.
As of 1999, Preger has to apply for a re-entry visa from the FRO before he leaves India for any reason. Most of these applications have required legal intervention to succeed. On 23 February that year, the FRO suddenly asked Preger to leave India within seven days. The Calcutta High Court intervened by ordering the government to speedily grant him a return visa.
- "What did Dr Preger do in Bangladesh?". Rediff. 15 March 1999. Retrieved 1 November 2006.
- "Preger, Dr Jack". Retrieved 1 November 2006.
- "Dr Jack Preger, MBE". Retrieved 1 November 2006.
- Pritish Nandy (12 May 1999). "The Story of Jack Preger". Rediff. Retrieved 1 November 2006.
- "TB Alert: Our work—Calcutta Rescue". Retrieved 1 November 2006.
- IANS (12 September 2006). "A British doctor is god to AIDS sufferers in Kolkata". Yahoo! News India. Retrieved 1 November 2006.[dead link]
- Luto, Irena (4 August 2005). "Debating Teresa's legacy to Calcutta". BBC. Retrieved 1 November 2006. – includes an interview with Preger
- Mahadevan, Ashok (2000). "He Never Stops Caring". Reader's Digest (Indian ed.).