Dedicated groups which are working for eradication of leprosy and the forum of those affected with the disease feel the stigma against those affected with leprosy should end and laws discriminating against them be amended. In the 12th Five year plan, the Government has allocated Rs.700 crore for leprosy elimination as against Rs 200 crore in the previous plan. According to one spokesperson, the efforts to eradicate leprosy is not very strong and the fact is lack of utilisation of funds by the states earmarked for leprosy eradication.
At least 17 national and 40 State laws contain discriminatory provisions against people affected by leprosy including prohibiting people affected by leprosy from contesting elections, obtaining a driving license and travelling in trains. There are around 850 colonies in India where more than 50,000 people live and not all of them are leprosy affected. Another spokesperson adds, not all of those living in these colonies are leprosy affected. Only around 25% of the people staying here are leprosy affected and the rest are basically children of the patients. However, they suffer immensely on account of stigma and discrimination towards the leprosy affected.
According to Mr. P.K.Gopal, former President, National Forum of Leprosy Affected People, in the last about 25 years around 13 million people have been cured with Multi Drug Therapy and many of those cured live in the isolated colonies. He adds, “People should know that leprosy is a curable disease and not contagious. It is 100 per cent curable and not hereditary. The government must act to mainstream them and remove myths around the disease”.
India happens to be one among the 122 signatory countries which passed the United Nations Resolution on Elimination of Discrimination against Persons Affected by Leprosy and Their Family Members. However, the ground reality is discrimination continues and this could be one of the main reasons (bottleneck) coming in the way of completely eradicating leprosy from the Indian scenario.
Some thoughts on solving the issue
- There is no doubt that whoever is engaged in getting rid of leprosy from the country is indeed doing a very noble job. To strengthen their hands and to guide them to get more productive resuts, Government must encourage such people to enter into tie ups with foreign entities who would simply love to offer as much assistance as possible. By foreign entity, I mean collaborating with organisations who have got the necessary expertise in dealing with leprosy patients (right fro A to Z).
- Some charity minded people do make attempts to take this cause once a while but in the course of time they lose focus and therefore the problem remains without any proper solution. Some leading social organisations imparting studies on humanities and social sciences Like Tata Institute of Social Sciences have put an embargo on campus recruitment, and instead are encouraging the graduates to take up an issue of social cause which could make a nice difference to the society. Perhaps, someone who had done humanities and social socience could come forward with a nice project report to address this issue and get sarted in a professional way with the sole aim of getting rid of leprosy from the Indian scenario completely.
- Foundations like Bill Gates Melinda Foundation, if approached with a nice doable project report for completely wiping out leprosy disease from the India’s map incuding proper rehabilitation of all the kith and kin of those affected, I am sure, generous help would be forthcoming.
- Government must take the issue very seriously and place lot of thrust on this issue including doing away with many discriminatory laws.
- It will be a good idea if a journal publishes regularly and exclusively for the leprosy-affected people to ensure that they join the mainstream population after getting cured completely.
- The present colonies where leprosy people are made to reside should be regularly visited by all those who are concerned about them, including chief administrators for ensuring that the facilities and amenities provided are in better shape and proper working conditions.
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