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Updated: April 11, 2014 12:55 IST

The day when they aren’t ‘outcasts’

Staff Reporter
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VOICE FROM THE FRINGES: Thankam, an inmate of Government Leprosy Hospital, Chevayur, waiting for her turn to vote at a special booth on the hospital premises. Photo: S. Ramesh Kurup
The Hindu VOICE FROM THE FRINGES: Thankam, an inmate of Government Leprosy Hospital, Chevayur, waiting for her turn to vote at a special booth on the hospital premises. Photo: S. Ramesh Kurup

But for the social stigma surrounding leprosy, the booth at Government Leprosy Hospital, Chevayur, would not have been necessary.

For the voters who exercised their right to franchise at the Government Leprosy Hospital at Chevayur, the day was a reminder that they are not the ‘outcasts’ that they are otherwise made to feel.

The booth is one of the few in the State with less than 100 voters.

The voters at the hospital booth are either inmates of the hospital or residents of the hospital quarters nearby.

But for the social stigma surrounding leprosy, this booth would not have been necessary.

98 voters

As per records, there were 98 voters here. But with some recent deaths, and some having left the hospital, the numbers were even lesser.

Thankam was one of the voters, who had her eyes moist when she explained why she had to cast an open vote.

Bound to a wheelchair, with her body paralysed, she had to depend upon her helper to cast her vote.

Diagnosed with leprosy at a very young age, she was cured fast as the disease had not worsened. But she couldn’t go back home, as her family would not take her back. She stayed back at the hospital.

No place to go

There were many inmates in the hospital who were actually cured, but had no other place to go. Their families would not accept them. They usually stick around the hospital doing odd jobs.

Some like Thankam went a bit ahead. She got trained in weaving Khadi and even taught the inmates weaving techniques.

Thankam got married later and had slowly pulled herself up to live until recently when she a brain haemorrhage paralysed her.

Hers was one of the 15 open votes cast at the booth on Thursday.

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