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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Recalling My Visit to Leprosy Asylum

A visit to Tarun Ram Phukan Leprosy Asylum (Boko, Assam) in 2009 left me aggrieved seeing the condition in which the inmates are living today. 8 of them living in a dilapidated cluster far from city amusements, letting their ages slip off for want of salvation. Though they are all cured patients yet, our society has not accepted them back. Except for reporters and some good Samaritans they don’t have any other visitors with whom they could share their plight.
There is an ANM Nurse residing in a nearby accommodation who visits them when required. The inmates said that sufficient dressing materials are also not provided to them and hence it is difficult for them to maintain the desired amount of hygiene. The NGOs also never visits them.
Stigma, taboo & prejudice are what they have known and learnt over the years. By now they seem to be detached from worldly forms of living. They are learning to be satisfied with what they have, but we as a society cannot ignore them. This is a condition where a few are living because they are breathing. The surveillance depicts the lives of those people who are cured but victims of leprosy. They were earlier suffering from this disease but now are being attacked by the bug named stigma.
At a glance:

  1. They cannot go back to the society as they are not accepted back.
  2. They cannot earn a livelihood because of the high percentage of deformities in them.
  3. They have but no choice and now want to stay there itself for the rest of their lives.
  4. It is called an asylum, which means shelter, place of protection provided by the government, yet something is amiss.
  5. They are provided diet but incomplete and in-sufficient. Utensils are also not provided to them, it is only mercy they depend upon.
  6. Records say that funds has been transferred according to what is being sanctioned, then why is it not sufficient, is it the system, where a middleman / contractor is appointed for the supply of their requirements.
  7. A cook’s quarter is located in the campus, occupied by the cook’s family but the inmates have to cook themselves despite of their deformities because after the Cook’s death a new cook was never appointed and this is happening since last 5 years. Here it is to be noted that for those affected with leprosy, it is not advisable to go near fire or other hazardous objects as they lack skin sensitivity which might turn crucial.
  8. Some of the inmates can maintain self hygiene but a few needs a helping hand and this is one of the neglected areas.
  9. The asylum shouldn’t be treated as dumping ground of unwanted people of the society.
  10. The only content is that once in a while someone from the society visits them to serve food which they have not seen for ages and also little more requirements are provided to them.

They need revival, and someone needs to take the initiative for their socio - economic rehabilitation.
What I strongly feel is that they shouldn’t be left to the mercy of donations and contractors. They can well earn their basic needs through their hard work. Alterations should begin at the grassroots level as:

Ø      Stop donations, if required give them loans.  These loans should be repaid by their earnings. Yes, it is possible.
Ø      Since there are already street shows being done, instead of the regular artists these affected lot can be trained and they themselves can engage in delivering such shows. This together with awareness will serve as a source of income for them.
Ø      Where ASHAS are trained for creating awareness and detection of new cases, those leprosy victims residing in various asylums throughout the region could be also trained and they can accompany ASHAS. Incentives should be given to them too. This way IEC and Interpersonal Communications can be brought to best of its use.
Ø      A huge plot of land is lying idle in the Boko asylum. This could be used to plant vegetation initially starting with small amount to suffice their needs and later it can happen in larger scale by which they can earn their livelihood and support their families. Each member can be allotted their task in accordance with their physical capabilities.
Ø      The media can play a bigger role too by publishing the efforts of these victims and thus encouraging them. Publicity should be made in such a manner that a positive attitude is developed within the society.
 Involvement of the leprosy victims can bring in a wider scope of awareness in the society than just mere suggestions. ‘Touch and heal’ should be the straight motive.