Pune: After declaring the country free of leprosy in 2005, the Central government is now grappling with fresh cases of the stigmatised disease that have surfaced in the country, accounting for a staggering 55.5 per cent of the new global infections.
Of the 2,28,474 new leprosy cases detected in the world in 2010, the figure for India stood at 1,26,800, which accounts for an alarming 55.5 percent, according to S D Gokhale, President, International Leprosy Union (ILU) (India).
"If the Union and state governments do not take serious note of this fact (the figures quoted were confirmed by union health ministry in a reply given in the Rajya Sabha on March 13, 2012) and initiate effective steps to eradicate leprosy, the problem would become more acute," he said.
To address the problems being faced by Leprosy Affected Patients (LAP), the ILU has decided to constitute "LAP`s Human Rights Cell" to take their collective and individual grievances to the Human Rights Commission, Gokhale who is also associated with the movement for the protection of rights of the aged in India, said.
The ILU which held a three day conference in the city this week, attended by activists working for LAPs in various states, has prepared a memorandum enlisting 14 demands to redress their grievances, Gokhale said.
The demands pending with the Union and State governments include formulation of a comprehensive socio-economic rehabilitation policy for empowerment of LAPs, uniform pension and its enhancement to Rs 2000 per month per LAP, and provision of civic amenities to self-settled colonies of LAPs. One of the demands made by ILU is removal of VAT imposed on products produced by LAPs.
It has also called for suitable revision of the land records of self-settled LAP colonies and provision of higher educational facilities and scholarships for children of LAPs.
Gokhale said the WHO has already alerted the Indian government on the situation concerning LAPs in the country and there was a pressing need for conducting a fresh all India survey to assess increase of leprosy and its eradication.