Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu urged people and civil society organizations to join the campaign to eradicate leprosy and called for intensified efforts for early detection of leprosy cases, equitable access to appropriate treatment and integrated leprosy services.
Mr Naidu made the remarks at the ceremony for presenting the International Gandhi Award for Leprosy, 2021 to Dr Bhushan Kumar from Chandigarh and Sahyog Kushtha Yagna Trust, Gujarat at Upa-Rashtrapati Nivas in New Delhi.
The annual award was instituted by Gandhi Memorial Leprosy Foundation.
Lauding the efforts of the recipients, Mr Naidu said that both Dr Bhushan Kumar and Sahyog Kushtha Yagna Trust have been working diligently to raise awareness about leprosy and in providing care to those afflicted with it.
They have also been striving to remove the stigma associated with it, Naidu said, adding that their efforts are truly praiseworthy.
He said that there should be social mobilization in support of this noble cause. He also wanted Gram Sabha to include leprosy eradication in their programmes
Acknowledging India’s steady fight against leprosy, Shri Naidu said that India successfully accomplished levels of leprosy eradication defined as less than one case per ten thousand populations.
Expressing his concern over the fact that India is reporting the highest number of leprosy cases in the world, Naidu stated that India accounts for (51 per cent) of the new cases detected globally (2020-2021).
“The National Leprosy Eradication Programme (NLEP) has been at the forefront of the battle against leprosy and has been trying to ensure total eradication,” said Naidu.
Recalling the contribution of Mahatma Gandhi towards eliminating social ostracism suffered by people afflicted by leprosy, the Vice President said, “Mahatma Gandhiji’s compassion for patients of leprosy stands out as a towering example of exemplary kindness towards fellow human beings. Gandhiji led by example–often tending to leprosy patients personally–in an era in which ignorance about the disease held sway.”
Quoting Gandhi, Naidu said, “Leprosy work is not merely medical relief; it is transforming the frustration in life into the joy of dedication, personal ambition into selfless service. If you can change the life of a patient or change his values of life, you can change the village and the country.”
Dhirubhai Mehta, Chairman, Gandhi Memorial Leprosy Foundation, Dr Anil Kumar, DDG (Leprosy), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Dr B S Garg, Convener, International Gandhi Awards for Leprosy and other dignitaries participated in the event.
Leprosy is also known as Hansen’s disease and is a chronic granulomatous disease caused by the bacteria Mycobacterium Leprae. It mainly affects the skin, nerves, eyes, and respiratory system.
The disease is completely curable if diagnosed early, late presentations are associated with complications. If left untreated, leprosy can cause progressive and permanent damage to the skin, nerves, limbs, and eyes.