Reddipalli Satyavati has entered her sixties. She and her husband eke out a very humble existence vending Indian fast-foods like idli, dosa and vada from a cart.
Ms. Satyavati is severely disabled and can only offer marginal assistance to her husband. Her disability prevents her from taking the public transport. She cannot even board an autorickshaw, let alone afford to pay for one.
Despite her disability she does not get disability pension. She is not even recognised as a disabled person. To rub salt into the wound, her counterparts in Telangana are recognised as disabled and are even given pension by the KCR government.
Second class citizens
Ms. Satyavati suffers from a classic case of lymphatic filariasis (LF), also known as Elephantiasis. The disease causes severe disability and disfigurement. Both her legs are affected by the disease.
LEPRA Society volunteer M Radhika said that there were several LF patients in the State who have been reduced to second class citizens. If the family members disowned them, they were forced to seek alms for sustenance. The Telangana government had already recognised the LF-affected as disabled and was paying them pension, she said.
While those infected by the filarial nematode (a microscopic worm) afresh are covered under the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP), it is the likes of Ms. Satyavati who are suffering from the aftermath of the disease that have been left in the lurch.
Radio and electrical gadget repairman Ch. Ramamohan Rao is a grade-4 LF patient. His disability is extreme, but he has to work even though he is in his late sixties. He attended one of the Morbidity Management and Disability Prevention camps organised by the LEPRA society.
“The LF-affected will be forced to beg if the government does not give them disability pension,” said Mr. Rao.
Ms. Satyavati and Mr. Rao submitted representations at several Janmabhoomi Gram Sabhas to no avail, Ms. Radhika said. According to a study conducted by the LEPRA Society, 67% of the LF-affected were women. There was no focus on morbidity management and disability prevention in government programmes. The number of Filariasis Control Units were very few in the districts. For example, Krishna district which had several second or third grade cases had only one centre in Nuzvid that too on the second floor of a building, the study showed.
The society also listed several challenges the LF-affected were currently facing, but were forced to fend for themselves in tackling them. Self-care, mobility, social stigma, lack of proper systems, services and policies were all challenges to the LF-affected.
The society listed 2,390 chronic LF cases in Krishna, Guntur, Prakasam and Vizianagaram districts. There were 317 cases in Jaggaiahpet, 201 in Pedana, 147 in Nuzvid and 265 in Vijayawada, Gannavaram and Kankipadu, but there was only one centre to help them, Ms. Radhika said.