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Gerhard Fischer passes away

R.K.Radhakrishnan

He helped to set up IIT-Madras

— File Photo: Shaju John



Gerhard Fischer.

CHENNAI: Gerhard Fischer, former German Ambassdor and Gandhi Peace Prize winner for his relentless anti-leprosy campaigns in India, died in Norway on Monday evening, according to information reaching here.

Mr. Fischer said in November 2005, when he last came to India, that the final project he would support was a Leprosy Centre in Srinagar.

He had identified a non-governmental organisation for the purpose and wanted to come for its inauguration.

Mr. Fischer has a special relationship with Chennai. As Consul-General in the city in the Sixties, he helped set up the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, and has a basketball trophy named after him. Mr. Fischer timed his Chennai visits each year towards the end of January also to give away the trophy to the winning team. He had a long-standing relationship with the Children's Garden School, The Banyan, a home for the mentally-ill destitute women, and a host of other institutions.

After he quit foreign service, Mr.Fischer raised funds and supported a host of causes — eradication of polio and leprosy, caring for the mentally ill, and spread of education and vocational training.

N.S. Rao, Economic Officer with the German Consulate during 1961-73, said that Mr.Fischer applied a missionary zeal to anything he put his mind to.

``He and his wife were a perfect two-people team and worked all over the country with tremendous energy and indefatigable enthusiasm.

After his wife's death, he had been carrying on his social work relentlessly," Mr. Rao said and added that Mr.Fischer had chalked out fabulous ways of financing his anti-leprosy campaign in India.

M.A.Vellodi, former Under Secretary-General, United Nations, said: ``Mr.Fischer was an "extremely understanding person with a positive outlook towards life. I was privileged to know him for more than 10 years. His contribution to various causes and non-governmental organisations in the country has been immense."

Vandana Gopikumar and Vaishnavi Jayakumar, founder trustees of The Banyan, said that Mr. Fischer was more than a donor. He was a great friend, a complete human being that everyone in The Banyan looked up to.

Ms. Vandana said that Mr.Fischer's sense of equality and justice helped him interact with consummate ease with people from any background.

He was a tireless worker and kept a punishing schedule even at 84.

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