Official data shows that 1,34,752 new cases were reported in 2012-13

The increasing cases of leprosy being reported across the country despite the Union Government’s claims that the crippling disease is under control have caught the attention of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), which has taken suo motu cognisance of the matter.

Official data shows that 1,26,800 new cases of leprosy were reported in 2010-11, 1,27,295 in 2011-12 and 1,34,752 in 2012-13. With new cases being reported from several States, immediate steps are needed to maintain the level of elimination, which is less than one case per 10,000 population at the national level.

The NHRC has issued a notice to the Union Health Secretary calling for a report on the issue within four weeks.

The content of the report, if true, has raised a serious issue of violation of human rights, the National Human Rights Commission observed.

According to the reports, the situation started worsening following integration of leprosy services with general healthcare system. The National Leprosy Elimination Programme was earlier a vertical programme run by specially trained staff under district leprosy officers till 2002-03.

Only 25 per cent of the erstwhile vertical staff, including paramedics, physiotherapists and health educators were retained with the National Leprosy Elimination Programme and the rest were surrendered to the general healthcare system to function as multi-purpose workers and supervisors.

Besides, a large number of officials retired during the last six years and the posts have since remained vacant, leading to shortage of manpower at the block level in most of the States.