From Puducherry having one per cent of the population affected by leprosy, the Union Territory has reached a stage where there are no fresh patients. Over the course of three decades, CERTH-India has been working towards the eradication of leprosy here and now the Director N. Balassoupramanian has diversified from concentrating efforts on solely leprosy, and moved on to a variety of other diseases with social stigma.
Despite this, the children of the people who were previously affected with leprosy have not been forgotten. Every year, on the occasion of World Leprosy Day, these children are given education assistance, thereby helping promote education among them.
“In the 1990s, CERTH-India was assigned 1 lakh population in Bahour, Kariyamputhur, Kirumambakkam, Thavalakuppam and Kalapet by the Government of Puducherry. The organisation worked towards not only identifying leprosy patients, but also creating awareness among people that leprosy was just a parasitic disease and one that could be treated. It took over three decades of work, but the sense of satisfaction was immense,” Dr. Balassoupramanian said.
Now there are 40 families left who still come to the hospital for treatment. These families all live in Sanyasithope, which was the leper colony created when the disease was at its peak. Apart from its usual efforts. CERTH-India also takes care of 420 patients who have been cured of leprosy but are now disabled because of the disease, Dr. Balassoupramanian added. These patients receive callipers, crutches, special shows, bandages and medicines. Whenever they require surgeries, they come in to the clinic. But, being an ageing population, staff from the organisation visit them every three months, he said.
For his efforts, Dr. Balassoupramanian received the Chevalier de legion d'honneur, the highest order given by the Government of France, last year.
When the work in the area of leprosy decreased, Dr. Balassoupramanian turned his attention towards polio. He has a manufacturing unit for callipers that are provided free of cost to patients.
Now, with the number of patients with polio also reducing, CERTH-India has decided to start a school for the mentally-challenged.
“My dream is to start a geriatric care facility as well as schools for children with mental retardation in the rural areas. However, age is not on my side, so I am not sure if I can complete these projects. I have been trying to find a successor, but it is difficult. Still, I will do my best to continue,” he said.
On Saturday, Lieutenant Governor Virendra Kataria distributed educational assistance to the children of leprosy patients.
On the day, Rs. 4 lakh was distributed amongst 150 students to help them with their education. The educational assistance was given courtesy to JAL Spain, an NGO that has been working with leprosy around the world. President of JAL Montserrat Perez Lopez and Indian representative of JAL R. Anand were also present on the occasion.