Like the BJP’s Swacch Bharat campaign, the Congress government in Karnataka has launched its own good hygiene programme — but this one focuses exclusively on personal oral health.
As part of the proposed new oral health policy, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah on Saturday launched a scheme called Dantha Bhagya to distribute free dentures to those below poverty line who are more than 60 years old and have lost their teeth.
The scheme, with a Rs 2 crore outlay, was first announced in the state budget in July this year. Siddaramaiah said the government was looking at distributing 37,000 dentures to senior citizens by the end of this current financial year.
The free dentures scheme is the latest in a slew of populist measures undertaken by the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government in Karnataka since it came to power in May 2013.
In the last 18 months, the Karnataka government has rolled out several big ticket doles, adding up to about Rs 4409 crore — including 30 kilograms of rice for Re 1 under a scheme called Anna Bhagya, free milk for schoolchildren under Ksheera Bhagya, and waiver of farm loans. “Many people, especially in the rural areas, don’t know how to look after their teeth.
Even if they use toothbrushes, they don’t know the correct usage. Healthy mouths and teeth are the key to overall good health,’’ said Siddaramaiah, explaining the rationale behind the state government’s move to introduce the first ever oral health policy in the country.
“Chewing food well is important for good digestion. We are providing dentures to the elderly poor to enable them to stay healthy by eating well. When you don’t have teeth you also don’t look good. With these dentures the elderly can start looking good again,’’ he said. The Chief Minister also announced a scheme to provide Rs 100 each to health workers, for every free denture given to an elderly person.
State health minister U T Khader said a comprehensive oral health policy would be put in place soon, with dentists being recruited and equipment being bought for all government hospitals as part of a major push for improving oral hygiene. Dr Ganesh Pai, head of the committee that is formulating the oral health policy, said a campaign would be carried out for frequent dental check-ups, for children in schools to wash their mouths after meals, for pregnant women to understand that oral health is important, and to highlight links between hygiene and oral cancer.
The government on Saturday also announced the launch of free dialysis centres in 30 taluk hospitals in the state as part of an assurance made by Siddaramaiah in his budget this year.