New Delhi: Launched with the aim of eradicating and preventing eye-related diseases, the National Programme for Control of Blindness is on way to achieving the target of bringing down the number of visually impaired cases to less than one percent of the population by 2020, said a top official.
"The national programme for prevention of blindness has been able to tackle much of eye related diseases in the country, even though many such cases are still reported. The programme is doing very well," Sujaya Krishnan, joint secretary in the health and family welfare ministry, said Friday.
In 1989, 1.5 percent of the population was visually impaired. The goal is to bring the figure down to 0.3 percent by 2020. Currently, one percent of the population is afflicted with eye diseases, which includes 12 million blind, she said.
"While the world calls us a trachoma (infective eye disease) ridden nation, we have been able to eliminate the disease," Krishnan said at a seminar "Eliminating Preventable Blindness" at the India International Centre Friday evening.
She said that the ministry has put major emphasis on a comprehensive eye-care service with quality delivery across the country.
"We have as many as 14,000 ophthalmologists and 9,000 ophthalmetrists (for vision testing) totally aided in the country," Krishnan said.
According to her, the target to reduce prevalence of blindness has been mostly achieved, but more is required to be done to reduce the backlog of blindness as the numbers are still large.
Monica Chaudhry, professor and Head at Department of Optometry in Amity University said: "A blind person in India often becomes a social outcast and there is also a social stigma attached to that person. It is very difficult for the blind to work or fend for themselves or look after their family. Life is simply awful."
The doctor said 80 percent of blindness and eye related diseases in the country are preventable or curable with minor treatment and awareness.
The government needs to engage more and spread awareness about eye care, especially in rural areas, she said and added that regulation is needed to check fake medical practitioners and eye-care centres.
"They (government) for now is just spreading awareness of eye diseases primarily through school screening. A more comprehensive measure has to be taken," Chaudhry asserted.
She said more emphasis is needed on improving the infrastructure of eye-care facilities and on the development of human resource in the country.
Each year, around three million people in India develop eye cataracts and there are as many as two million blind children of whom only 5 percent receive any education.
The central government-funded National Programme for Control of Blindness was launched in 1976 with the aim to reduce prevalence of blindness, reduce the backlog of blindness, develop eye-care facilities in every district, develop human resources for Eye Care Services and to secure participation of voluntary organisations.