The Vice President of India M. Venkaiah Naidu today said organ donation was one of the noblest causes and appealed to everyone to participate in eye donation and inspire others.
Addressing the valedictory function of ‘National Eye Donation Fortnight’ organised by SAKSHAM (Samadrishti, Kshamata Vikas Evam Anusandhan Mandal), a charitable organization that works for the empowerment of the persons with disabilities, the Vice President described Netra Daan (eye donation) as Sreshth Daan (best donation).
Terming visual impairment as one of the major health challenges, the Vice President highlighted the fact that around 46 lakhs people suffer from blindness in India and most of them are in the 50+ age group.
Calling corneal blindness as the second leading cause of blindness after cataract with about 20,000 cases every year, M. Venkaiah Naidu expressed concern as most of the people affected in this category were young adults and children. He called for adopting preventive measures, early treatment and corneal transplantation surgery to address the challenge of visual impairment.
As corneal transplantation surgery requires cornea donors, M. Venkaiah Naidu emphasised the need to increase the number of eye donations to enable eventual eradication of corneal blindness in the country.
Drawing attention to the low numbers of organ donors in the country, he called for changing this mindset by spreading awareness as well as building adequate medical infrastructure for organ harvesting and transplantation at the district level.
He cited the examples of king Shibi and sage Dadhichi who had donated their bodies for the welfare of others and called for redefining the values and narratives in the modern context to inspire people and promote organ donation. By donating an organ, one sets an example for others to work towards the larger good of the society, he said and called upon every citizen, especially the youth to overcome apprehensions and pledge to donate their organs.
Noting that time is a critical factor in harvesting the organ from a donor’s body and transplanting it, the Vice President emphasised the need to create storage infrastructure and expertise to conduct transplant surgeries at the local level so that people from smaller towns are not forced to travel to metros for an organ transplant.
“These measures along with increased availability of donated organs would also help in curbing the unethical medical practices”, he opined.
He also suggested that doctors working in government hospitals should devote some time and go to remote areas to provide eye care to rural people. “Let us eliminate the blindness form the country”, he exhorted them.
Quoting the National Blindness survey (2015-19), M. Venkaiah Naidu hailed the fact that the prevalence of blindness has been reduced to 0.36% as compared to 1% in the 2006-07 National survey. Also, India has successfully met the goals of ‘WHO Global Action Plan for Universal Eye Health 2014-2019’ which targeted a reduction in the prevalence of visual impairment by 25% by 2019 from the baseline level of 2010.
Referring to the ‘National Program for Control of Blindness and Visual Impairment’ (NPCB&VI), the Vice President praised all stakeholders for the reduction in the prevalence of visual impairment.
Data shows that over 64 lakh cataract operations were performed under NPCB&VI in the year 2019-20, a total of 65,000 donated eyes were collected for corneal transplantation and 8.57 lakh free spectacles were given to school children.
Noting that NPCB&VI strives to enhance community awareness on eye care by encouraging the participation of Voluntary Organizations and the Private Practitioners, the Vice President appealed to NGOs and individuals to consider this as a mission. There are many private hospitals that are doing good work in the area of eye care across the country, he added.
The Vice President also expressed happiness that eye banking activities have resumed in non-COVID hospitals after being adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
He appreciated SAKSHAM for working towards bringing persons with disabilities into the mainstream of society through various projects such as CAMBA, Pranada, Pranav and SAKSHAM Seva Sankul.
Dr. Dayal Singh Panwar, President, SAKSHAM, Dr. Pawan Sthapak, Vice President of SAKSHAM, Dr. Sukumar, Organising Secretary, SAKSHAM and Dr. Santosh Kumar Kraleti, General Secretary, SAKSHAM were among the dignitaries who attended the program virtually.