There are many ways in which you can commemorate the anniversary of a woman who fought for freedom, the women and the poor of this country. So many options present themselves, as they did to the Central Committee of All India Democratic Women’s Association, early this month.
But, the committee voted on one: a theme they thought the person being so remembered, Captain Lakshmi Sahgal, would whole heartedly endorse. They voted to commemorate a year of Captain Lakshmi’s passing on July 23 as “Eye and organ donation day.”
Captain Lakshmi’s body was donated to Kanpur Medical College to be used for research, just as she had wanted. “This was widely publicised at the time of her death and her example inspired many to follow suit,” Suhasini Ali, her daughter and president of AIDWA, told The Hindu.
“India has the largest number of visually-impaired people in the world. This is largely the result of poverty and malnutrition. It has been calculated that if a significant number of those who die every year were to donate their cornea, sightlessness would cease to be a scourge,” she says.
However, that is easier said than done. “In our country, superstitious beliefs have a very strong hold on peoples’ minds. Educated people and students of science are no exception. Blind acceptance of all kinds of irrational ideas is responsible for many practices that are actually anti-social and inhuman. Obsessions with various rituals after death are part of this mindset,” Ms. Ali says.
Thus, the need for the donation of organs is even greater and much more difficult to meet. Capt. Lakshmi spent much of her life working as a doctor of the poor in Kanpur, where even the idea of using an electric crematorium has found few takers. “After her death, the fact that she had donated her eyes and body was greeted with horror, amazement and disbelief. Thousands accompanied her funeral procession. When it ended at the medical college rather than the ghat, a grudging respect for her decision could be seen on many faces,” Ms. Ali explains.
Since then, more than 2,000 people in the city have signed up for cadaver donation, according to her.
AIDWA would organise eye/organ donor camps across the country.