RSS played active role in polio eradication: Vardhan

"Very few people know that starting with the top leadership of the RSS to the grass-root workers, the entire organisation played a crucial role in the polio eradication programme," said Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan. Photo/PTI

Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Thursday credited the RSS and the Sewa Bharti for playing an active role in the polio eradication programme, saying their cadres worked behind the scenes but did not publicise their efforts.

Presiding over the silver jubilee celebrations of the Pulse Polio Programme, he recalled the contribution and support of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in the eradication of polio from the country. BJP working president J P Nadda was the chief guest at the programme.

Vardhan also lauded the role of the then Congress MLAs for the making the anti-polio campaign successful in the national capital between 1994 and 1998.

He said there was a spurt in cases of polio in 2002 in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and a senior WHO official sent letters to nearly 200 RSS leaders on the subject seeking their active involvement.

Vardhan had then made a 45-minute presentation to top RSS leaders and pracharaks at Karnavati in Ahmedabad.

RSS chief K Sudarshan subsequently toured the states and asked the cadres to help the programme after which awareness efforts began at the level of RSS shakhas, he recalled.

"Very few people know that starting with the top leadership of the RSS to the grass-root workers, the entire organisation played a crucial role in the polio eradication programme. The RSS and Sewa Bharti did not publicise.

"Their cadres worked behind the scenes and formed a kind of the backbone of the programme," Vardhan said as he launched the Intensified Mission Indradhanush 2.0', with a special focus on improving coverage in areas with "low" immunisation, on the occasion.

He also fondly remembered L K Advani saying he made it a high-profile agenda within the party and even spoke to BJP chief ministers and health ministers to extend support to the campaign.

Recalling how Atal Bihari Vajpayee had referred to him as 'Swasthya Vardhan' (health giver), Vardhan said the former prime minister took a personal interest and held many meetings including some with top campaigners of the world, from the WHO, UNICEF or Rotary, inspiring the workers.

Vardhan started the pulse polio campaign in Delhi 1994 and by the next year, it turned into a nationwide movement.

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared India a polio-free country on March 27, 2014.

Nadda congratulated Vardhan for spearheading a campaign of such a magnitude for polio eradication and said the surveillance mechanism is so robust that despite around 50,000 people from Pakistan and Afghanistan (which are not polio-free) travelling to India every year, the government has ensured that there is not a single case of polio.

He also mentioned the success stories of how Nipah, Zika and Ebola virus infections were contained because of the strong robust surveillance and detection mechanism.

Through 'IMI 2.0' launched on Thursday, the health ministry aims to reach each and every child below the age of two years and all pregnant women still uncovered or partially covered in 271 districts of the country and 652 blocks of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

The current national full immunisation coverage rate stands at 87 per cent.

According to government data, 260 lakh children are born every year and an estimated 31 lakh out of them would not receive complete rounds of vaccination in the first year of their life due to various reasons.

These 271 districts and 652 blocks in UP and Bihar which have been identified as low immunisation coverage pockets. We aim to target every child below the age of two years and pregnant women left uncovered under the existing immunisation programme in these areas, a senior official said.

IMI 2.0 will include four rounds of vaccination, with each round involving a seven-day immunisation drive to be conducted each month from December 2 onwards. 

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