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Leprosy banished,stigma lingers in city

Pune may have eliminated leprosy but the stigma persists so strongly that most cured patients at Dr Bandorawalla Leprosy Hospital at Yeolewadi,near Kondhwa,refuse to go back to their homes.

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune |
January 29, 2009 2:02:47 am

Pune may have eliminated leprosy but the stigma persists so strongly that most cured patients at Dr Bandorawalla Leprosy Hospital at Yeolewadi,near Kondhwa,refuse to go back to their homes.

Nearly 50 of 150 patients have made the hospital their home,says Dr Madhukar Pardeshi,medical officer at the hospital that is now run by the state government. Most are in their 50s and,though cured,they suffer from deformities and non-healing ulcers.

Ashok Shinde (name changed) says: “I went home to Satara but my grandchildren did not want me. My appearance has changed after the disease and people still feel it is contagious.”

Dr Abhijit Joshi,orthopaedic consultant,stressed the prevention of deformities among such patients. Suresh Nikalje,physiotherapist,says they have taken up 10 cases for correction of deformities in the past two months.

The state took over the hospital in 2001,but it was only last year that new facilities were provided. These include an operation theatre and equipment. Reconstructive surgery is the focus of this year’s anti-leprosy week from January 30 to February 7 and at least 11 surgeries are planned,says Dr Hanuman Chavan,Pune district health officer.

A special awareness drive has been planned during the anti-leprosy week. However,it is the social stigma that does not seem to go with the cured patients often returning to the hospital as their families do not want them,says Pardeshi.

Law that blocks patients from polls challenged
An Orissa law that bars a leprosy patient from contesting a civil poll has anti-leprosy activists up in arms in Pune with the founder of International Leprosy Union,Dr S D Gokhale,now planning to file a public interest litigation. He points out the case of Dhirendra Pandua of Orissa who had also appealed against the law and moved the Supreme Court. Dhirendra Pandua had challenged the decision disqualifying him from the post of councillor and chairperson in Balasore municipality because he was a leprosy patient.

The court had,in September last year,upheld the provisions of the Orissa Municipal Act which disqualifies a leprosy patient from holding the post of a local councillor or chairperson of a municipality.

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