“She is a little over 91 years old, but still keeps calling people to motivate them to organise blood donation camps and arrange funds for a blood bank so that it can later be issued to the poor free of cost,” says Niti Sarin while referring to her mother Kanta Saroop Krishen.
In her early thirties, Kanta had initiated a campaign for voluntary blood donation in the country so that sale and purchase of blood can be stopped. A recipient of the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award, in 1971, she can’t move out of home due to her age, but still remains busy on her phone to inspire the activists.
Kanta admits that the blood donation campaign has slowed down because of Covid-19, adding that it is crucial that it continues during this time. “Now my role is peripheral but I am still very much interested in the campaign,” she told The Indian Express, adding that as many as 27 persons donated blood in a blood bank situated in Sector 37 of Chandigarh on Tuesday. With the help of Rotary Club — she had set up the Rotary and Blood Bank Society Resource Centre in 2004 — aimed to provide blood and blood components to patients at rates fixed by the National Aids Control Organisation.
Niti, who now looks after the blood bank as its secretary in place of her mother, says, “There are four licensed blood banks in Chandigarh and blood donation camps will be organised in all of them on Thursday when the country will observe National Voluntary Blood Donation Day.”
World Blood Donor Day is observed every year on June 14 but various blood donation camps are organised in India on October 1 too.
“The blood donation is equally important during the pandemic as the blood and blood components are regularly needed by patients, especially those suffering from disorders like thalassemia and cancer,” says Niti Sarin. “Despite this tough phase, Kanwaljeet Singh of Ropar’s Life Line Blood Donor Society inspires at least 20 to 60 persons every week to donate blood.”
A former IAS officer, Yudhbir Singh Khyalia has been organising blood donation camps in Haryana for the past several years. “Not only for me, Kanta Krishen is a source of inspiration for many in the country. We salute her contribution,” says Khyalia.
Kanta Krishen joined campaign in 1964
Kanta had moved to Chandigarh from Ambala with her husband, an ICS officer, and three children in 1956. Recalling her association with the blood donation campaign, she says, “One day, Dr JG Jolly, who was in-charge of the PGI blood bank at the time, had come to my home in 1964. He told me blood is sold and purchased, asking me to campaign for voluntary blood donation. I told him that this is a new initiative for me but I would like to give a try.”
“That time, the poor — be it a rickshaw puller or peon — used to give blood in lieu of money. The poor used to sit outside blood banks to wait for a call from the staffers there for the same. Once, I saw a person fall down soon after he left a blood bank in Mumbai after giving blood. During those days, blood was taken even from unhealthy persons. Normally, nobody used to care about hygiene during the process. We thought, the sale and purchase of blood should be stopped and blood donation should be 100 per cent voluntary,” says Kanta.
She recalls that they then decided to form the Indian Society of Blood Transfusion and Immunohaematology (ISBTI) in 1972, adding that the blood banks of the country were then made voluntary.
Dr JG Jolly, founder head of the Department of Transfusion Medicine, PGI, became founder president of the ISBTI while Kanta took over as society’s secretary general, a voluntary post held by her for 24 years.
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