Scrap norms unfair to leprosy-affected

Scrap norms unfair to leprosy-affected

As in the case of a number of other diseases like malaria, tuberculosis and a host of children’s ailments, India leads the world in the incidence of leprosy. It affects about a quarter of a million people all over the world and more than 50 per cent of them are in India. It is estimated that about 1,35,000 people were diagnosed with the disease last year. Statistics in the case of leprosy is not always reliable and so the available figures are likely to be an underestimation. But there is no doubt that impressive gains have been made in the fight against leprosy in the last many decades. The National Leprosy Eradication Programme was mainly responsible for it but a number of social and voluntary organisations, including Gandhian bodies, played a role in it. It is claimed that leprosy has been eliminated but has not been eradicated.

Leprosy is a curable disease, especially with multi-drug therapy. It is important to diagnose the disease early and start treatment. Since people from the lower socio-economic strata are affected by the disease more than others, strategies of treatment have to be formulated accordingly. In 2005, India felt the disease had been conquered, and this is thought to have caused some slackness in the fight and campaign against the disease. In the case of leprosy, the treatment and cure of the disease do not mean the end of the trauma for patients. The disease has traditionally carried a stigma and those who have been affected have been excluded from society and ill-treated. It is a legacy from past perceptions, when the disease was considered incurable, but it has persisted, unfortunately even among the educated classes.

A report prepared by the Law Commission of India, on a request from the law ministry, to review the discriminatory laws against leprosy-afflicted people, deserves consideration in this context. The commission has recommended amendment or repeal of several laws which are unfair to those with leprosy. The disease is a ground for divorce in several personal laws, those who have the disease have to pay higher insurance premiums and are not allowed to contest elections. Not all persons who are afflicted with the disease are considered disabled under the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995. The forced segregation into separate colonies is also unfair. The Commission has made a good case against legal, social and other forms of discrimination and has called for efforts to integrate those affected by the disease into the society. Both government and society should respond to it.
DH Newsletter Privacy Policy Get top news in your inbox daily
GET IT
Comments (+)