National Blindness Control Program in Blind Alley- Dr. Harsh Vardhan
New Delhi, October 17: Union Health Minister, Dr. Harsh Vardhan has promised that lax National Program for Control of Blindness (NPCB) will soon look up. After review of the program, he will see to it that funds earmarked for this in 12th plan period are optimally used. This 100 percent centrally funded scheme launched 28 years ago with a goal to reduce prevalence of blindness has not shown much appreciable difference.
Speaking in a program related to World sight day in Bangalore, the minster has said, ‘He will speak to state governments to tone up blindness control scheme.’
NPCB was launched in 1976. However, the rate has not shown much appreciable difference even after 28 years, the Minister noted. The Rapid Survey on Avoidable Blindness conducted during 2006-07 showed a reduction in the prevalence of avoidable blindness from 1.1 percent in 2000 to 1 percent in 2006. NPCB has now targeted to bring down the prevalence of blindness to 0.3 percent by 2020 from the present level of 1 percent.
The Minister, who has himself pledged his entire body, said the government will be working with NGOs in promoting the concept of eye donation.
“There are many lapses on the part of both the donors’ families and the eye banks in implementing the wishes of a donor. Often the bereaved family members forget to call the eye banks so that the cornea is taken away swiftly. At other times, the collectors fail to turn up on time,” he noted.
Dr Harsh Vardhan welcomed the launch of the “Vision Ambassador” scheme of The Project Vision, Bangalore. “This is a significant step towards greater coordination between the donor and the recipient. It is also a form of building up a social movement over eye pledging,” he remarked.
The program will be based on the work of volunteers who will be called “Vision Ambassadors”. They would act as the link between donors and eye banks which is missing at present. More than 10,000 people have already pledged their eyes with The Project Vision and 1,000 people have been declared “Vision Ambassadors.”
The Health Minister appreciated the work done by the alliance of ophthalmologists, social workers, faith-based organizations and ordinary citizens in fighting the scourge of blindness. In Karnataka the prevalence of blindness is 13 percent, markedly above the national average of 8 percent.
India has the largest burden of global blindness –about 3.5 million with 30,000 new cases being added each year. Only about 35,000 corneas are collected in the country each year whereas 150,000 are needed to combat corneal blindness.
Father George Kananthanam, Director, The Project Vision, urged the government to actively promote the cornea donation culture in educational institutions.
Dr Chandrasekhar Shetty, a noted ophthalmologist who has been associated with NPCB for two decades, Dr M. Mahabaleshwar of the Karnataka Ophthalmic Association, Dr N. Solanki of the Bangalore OphthalmicSociety and Mr V.S. Basavaraju of Dharitri NGO Alliance also spoke on the occasion.
The Health Minister received a book, “Lights Out”, from a visually challenged journalist, Mr L.Subramani, which tells the story of the life of his own life. Dr Harsh Vardhan also honoured the leading “Vision Ambassadors” of the year –Soniamma, Subramanian Jayaram and Gurudev of Dordulapur.