Telangana InFocus - ‘Phase-2 ‘Kanti Velugu’ evokes more enthusiastic response from public’

Telangana Chief Secretary Santhi Kumari throws light on phase-2 of ‘Kanti Velugu’, a programme aimed at achieving ‘Avoidable blindness-free Telangana’, in a conversation with The Hindu.

Updated - March 11, 2023 07:51 am IST

Published - March 11, 2023 07:46 am IST - HYDERABAD

As part of phase-2 of ‘Kanti Velugu’, a total of 65,85,739 people have been screened till March 6.

As part of phase-2 of ‘Kanti Velugu’, a total of 65,85,739 people have been screened till March 6.

To achieve ‘Avoidable blindness-free Telangana’, the State government has taken up a universal screening programme called ‘Kanti Velugu’ wherein the entire population of the State would be screened for eye-related issues.

As part of phase-2 of ‘Kanti Velugu’, a total of 65,85,739 people have been screened including 34,91,144 females, 30,89,152 males and 1,882 transgenders till March 6. The screening was completed in 1,473 wards and 4,089 grama panchayats.

A total of 11,70,370 reading glasses have been handed over to people and 8,32,806 others are prescribed power glasses. During the screening, it was found that 45,82,405 people had no eye-related issues.

Telangana Chief Secretary Santhi Kumari throws light on the programme in a conversation with The Hindu.

Q. The ‘Kanti Velugu’ program started on January 18, 2023. What has been the progress till now?

A. We have a total of 1,500 teams operating simultaneously in all the districts of the State. Apart from that, we also have 70 teams as a buffer. The phase-2 of the program opened up more enthusiastically compared to phase-1 as people are now aware of what they can expect from the camp. I was closely supervising phase-1 of the program and can say that at that time we would screen 1.5 lakh people per day whereas now it is 2 lakh people per day. The number of reading glasses being distributed in phase-1 was about 35,000 per day and this time it is more than 50,000 per day. The major similarity between phases 1 and 2 is that about 60 percent of the people getting screened are women and elderly. 

How are women from rural areas responding to the program?

A. The goal of the program is to create ‘Avoidable blindness-free Telangana’. Generally, it is the perception of people that issues related to dental and eye health are not life-threatening; only the privileged members of the family get access to services. If a woman’s eyesight is deteriorating, she would rather find other ways to deal with it rather than visit an eye specialist. As part of ‘Kanti Velugu’, we have a mobilisation system wherein ASHA workers do a door-to-door visit and inform the women about the screening. As it is coming to their doorstep, the women can choose a convenient time for the screening. The location and the timings are also being arranged favourably to them.

How is the coordination between the District Collectors and other officials for this programme?

A. The coordination has been seamless. The actual delivery of services is happening from the health team, but a whole lot of arrangements that are required to support the good functioning of the team are all being made by the officials from various departments including the Police, Revenue and Panchayat Raj.

The program is also reaching out to transgenders in the State. How is the inclusion initiative going on?

A. As of March 6, a total of 1,883 transgenders have been screened. We have an outreach program, mostly in the urban areas where we work closely with the Municipal bodies. The Municipal workers identify the localities where transgenders reside and screening is conducted accordingly. The beauty of the program is that the camp goes to their localities and will continue to stay there until everyone there is screened.

How many prescription glasses have been distributed?

A. As of March 4, a total of 2,50,877 prescription glasses have been handed over to people. During the screening, the required parameters are captured by our team which is then shared with the vendor. After that, the prescription glasses are made on a timely basis and delivered. During phase-1, the delivery time was about 4 to 6 weeks, this time we shortened it to 2 to 3 weeks.

What is the quality of the spectacles being distributed?

In phase-1, we had an international vendor who managed a global supply chain. The glasses for phase-1 were made in countries including France, China and Singapore. In this phase, we have ‘Made in Telangana’ glasses. I found the box and glasses to be much better. The bottom line of the discussion with the vendor was that the quality has to be on par or better than that of the phase-1 glasses. We have also taken precautions and created a quality control team who are in contact with the manufacturer to avoid all possible defects.

What steps will the government take if any serious cases are found during the screening?

The program design is similar to that of phase-1, where there were no surgeries performed. In the larger context, however, there have been dangerous outcomes whenever there has been a campaign approach for surgeries. Surgeries must be done in routine hospital conditions, and the mainstreaming is done with the help of the National Blindness Control Programme (NBCP). If a person requires surgery, they will be included in the NBCP, a routine government program.

What is the role of Sarojini Devi Eye Hospital and other such centres in the programme?

A. Sarojini and other private eye hospitals have been associated with the programme in every way. They are partners in the process of manufacturing, quality control, and training of teams. They oversee the camp process and whether the evaluation is being performed according to the provided parameters. 

Any similar programs being taken up for children in the State?

Taking up a drive to screen blindness in children is a much more elaborate process than this. One can see no eye dilation process in the ‘Kanti Velugu’ camp. Without dilation, visual defects in children cannot be assessed. That is being handled under the Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram (RBSK) programme. Every Telangana Vaidya Vidhana Parishad (TVVP) hospital has a designated space for various ailments in children, and these eye and dental check-ups are arranged systematically.

The State will have overall data on all the people suffering from eye issues once the programme is completed. What will be the next step?

A. The nature of some ailments is that they cannot be eliminated; we can only educate people on how to minimize the probable onset of early visual defects. Also, with ageing, a natural deterioration happens. Continuous screening is the first step, followed by awareness creation. The education part has limitations, but we will keep doing it from our end. Apart from the ‘Kanti Velugu’, all our TVVP hospitals have eye specialists available. That is one standing facility available to everybody. 

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