A Triumph of Hope to the Neglected Diseased: Leprosy Rehabilitation Program at Mangalchandi Colony, Bankura.
The Gouripur Leprosy Hospital is situated at Gouripur village in Anchuri Gram Panchayat of Bankura-I Block in Bankura District. It is the largest Leprosy hospital in this area. The people all over the country who get affected by Leprosy come here for treatment and remain admitted until recovery.
It is seen that after being cured and free from Leprosy their families refused to take the person back because still people take the disease as untouchable and infectious. These people used to stay in the open fields making temporary tents. Even these people were not allowed by society for taking drinking water from the same source. They used to earn their livelihood through begging only. Due to the disease, many of them lost their fingers, eyes and other physical organs. Even they had not the necessary equipment that could support their movements, though they have been residing here for years. Due to lack of Identity documents such as Voter, AADHAAR card government was unable to link them with any social entitlements. No health benefits were given to them except few OPD treatments. These people were discriminated against and stigmatized not only by society but even by their own families.
After a baseline survey on this vulnerable area of Bankura, it was found that there was required of some assistance and handholding support for the survival of the disease recovered. Therefore, under the guidance of the District Magistrate, Bankura, organized and designed a program the “Mangalchandi Colony Leprosy Rehabilitation Project” in order to assist the recovered Leprosy patients.
To assess their needs and problems a Special Door Step Camp was organised at their colony with the help of health personnel and Gram Panchayat. After that, several meetings were conducted at the Grass root level to prioritize their problems and it was decided that the following fundamental needs be given to them immediately -
- The facility of permanent housing
- Food Safety
- Drinking water
- Mobility Support
- Livelihood Generation
- Health treatment benefits
- Pensioner benefits to the eligible
At this juncture, a Detailed Project Report (DPR) was prepared by the BDO of the Bankura-I block under the guidance of DM Bankura to take some major initiatives around the above-mentioned needs of Gouripur Leprosy Patients and to set up a Rehabilitation Centre for them. On being received the report the DM, Bankura paid a visit to the area and sanctioned the fund on a priority basis for implementing the project and the following steps was initiated-
I. First Rs. 38.71 Lakh was sanctioned by the DM Bankura from a special fund for the construction of the colony types of houses where they can live for their lifetime. The first 12 numbers of pucca houses with kitchen room facilities were constructed within three months of the project launch and all the devastated houses were renovated. A Boundary Wall around the colony was also constructed for their safety.
II. Electricity connections with LED lamps and ceiling fans were provided inside their houses as electricity is an essential requirement for all facets of our life. It has been recognized as a basic human need. Also, it is a critical infrastructure on which the socio-economic development of any society depends.
III. For their easy movement inside the colony, a complete Concrete Road was constructed to attain Sustainable Development Goal 11, which calls for “safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems for all, including improving road safety, with special attention to the needs of those in vulnerable situations, women, and children, persons with disabilities and older persons”.
IV. With the support of DM, Bankura they were provided tricycles and prosthetic legs, crutches hearing aids, spectacles and sticks as per their need to enhance their mobility support and to lead a better life which enabled them to contribute building the nation.
V. Drainage facility was also provided to the colony to collect and remove waste matter systematically to maintain healthy conditions in the community. Drainage systems are designed to dispose of wastewater as quickly as possible and should prevent gases from sewers and septic tanks from entering residential areas.
VI. Safe Drinking water connection was provided through the piped water supply and water tank installation in the colony. Barrier-free community toilets were constructed in the colony thinking of their special needs. These people were not allowed by the general society to collect drinking water from the same sources as people still take it untouchable and infectious. Thereby they were deprived of the right to Clean Water and Sanitation (SDG-6).
VII. Having an identity is a fundamental human right which allows each individual the ability to enjoy all of their rights. So, special camps were organised at their doorsteps for generating their identity cards such as AADHAAR cards, Epic cards, Ration cards, etc. Many of them lost their fingers due to the disease and were deprived of self-identity cards like AADHAAR.
VIII. After getting Identity cards they were facilitated with the Government schemes through Duare Sarkar (Doorstep) camps such as Swasthya Sathi card (Health card), Laxmir Bhandar, Disable pension, Old Age pension, Widow pension, etc.
IX. They were provided food kits through the Department of Disaster Management besides that they were also connected with the food safety programs through NFSA, special and cash reliefs.
X. Health camps, as well as awareness camps, were also organised with the help of Medical Officers and Counsellors to promote good health practices among them.
XI. Activities around empowering women members through various training as well sensitization programs such as WASH, health and nutrition, livelihoods training, and education programs were also executed to increase their opportunities and ability to reach their full potential.
XII. Ducks and Chicks were provided by Animal Husbandry Department which are easy to rear for specially-abled people. The patients who were capable to do unskilled work were engaged in MGNREGA. Through this scheme, they got a 100 days employment guarantee and the wages were directly credited to their Bank Accounts.
The work was concentrated nearby the Gouripur Leprosy Hospital area which is within Anchuri Gram Panchayat. The first work started with 27 nos. of families and within a year it was extended to 300 Leprosy Patients.
After getting the houses, concrete road, drainage facility, and drinking water connection their life became smooth and free from health hazards and able to stay there as permanent residents. And, after getting the basic needs like food safety, shelter, self-identity, drinking water, sanitation etc. their equity has been secured in society.
Earlier, the main profession was begging for their livelihood. Now after getting food safety benefits from the Government, they can live in their own society without any dependency on others.
After providing pensioner benefits to all eligible persons, their Social Security is ensured. Now they are released from a hand-to-mouth situation as the cash is being given through their bank account directly.
They had no identity documents as their families also do not disclose any about them. With special emphasis, the Block Administration provided them with all documents viz., residential certificate, Ration Card, etc. Through these documents, it has been possible to get other documents for them such as EPIC card, and AADHAR Card and through these they were also connected with the Bank accounts to ensure their financial assistance in their account directly.
As their names are now included in the voter list, they can actively participate in the participatory planning process at the Gram Sansad level and proper planning in the Gram Panchayat and Panchayat Samity can be achieved in a normal way.
Now their children are going to school like other children. Many of them are willing to get higher education and other curricular activities. Besides that, some of them are also involved in training programs like nursing. Few sportspersons have also been identified from the children of leprosy-affected persons and training, especially football and athletics are being done.
Recently another similar kind of initiative was taken by Bankura District Administration in Peardoba Leprosy Colony as an expansion of the Gouripur Leprosy Rehabilitation project. The Peardoba Leprosy colony was established in 1976 on a 600-bigha Peardoba orchard in Bishnupur block of Bankura District and has been home to 52 leprosy-cured patients for over 50 years without any proper housing or land ownership. At this juncture, District Magistrate Bankura took the initiative in order to rehabilitate these patients by providing security and stability to the families. With the support of the State Government doorstep camps were organised to identify their needs and implement the solutions. Through this program, they were provided Voter cards, ration Card, AADHAAR cards, MGNRES Job cards, and PAN Cards, and facilitated with other government schemes such as Kanyashree Prakalpa, Laxmir Bhandar, Widow Pension, Old Age Pension, Manabik Pension, Swasthya Sathi, etc.
Under the guidance of District Magistrate Bankura, the Additional District Magistrate (L.R.) Bankura provided their patta on colony land to every family of this colony. In addition to this, by the noble initiative of District Magistrate Bankura, they will have their own houses on those patta land for which the work order for construction of those houses has already been given by BDO Bishnupur.
· As there are Leprosy people residing in an unorganised way at different Blocks viz., Bankura-II and other adjacent areas. This type of activity may be replicated with the assistance of government machinery and non-government organizations. The Government benefits include engaging different organisations with CSR funds and their infrastructures.
· Provision of sustainable livelihood generation through MGNREGS, MSME, KVIB, Department of Animal Husbandry, etc. to be done. Participatory planning may be done at joint seating at the place of their residence.
· Cashless health insurance is necessary for their treatment free of cost in all Government and Private Hospitals.
· Liaison with other departments to be made for social justice and better livelihood generation.
· As Land scarcity is a prominent issue in the construction of different infrastructures, Government Lands may be given as patta for the construction of more houses and also for involving them in agricultural activities.
· Different IEC and training programmes may be arranged for self-employment.
This model project was implemented by the Block Development Officer, Bankura-I under the guidance and funding support of the District Magistrate, Bankura. A committee comprising the beneficiaries of this special drive besides PRIs members, and block level functionaries including BDO was constituted. The various training programs were imparted with the assistance of government departments like KVIB and SHGs. Now they are getting Cash Credit Linkage through DRDC.
As they have deformities with their fingers, biometrics was not available, special AADHAR Camps were organised through their retina scanning and now a maximum of them got AADHAR cards and KYC updated so that pensions and other Government benefits can be given through Direct Benefit Transfer. The Sangha Netris and Community Service Providers paid regular visits to the area for helping in their Self-Help Group’s activities. Regular training programs are being organised by the SHG coordinators to make them self-reliant for maintaining the day-to-day tasks of their group.
The new colony with the pucca road, drinking water and electricity, and the drainage system has emerged as a safe permanent place for the leprosy-affected families. Now no members of this colony are engaged in begging as all are getting pensions and benefits from other schemes (Swastha Sathi, Laxmir Bhandar etc.) with health insurance and food safety from the Department of Disaster Management and Food and Supplies.
Now they can play an equal role like others by participating in all development plans of the nation as they have all documents like AADHAAR, Voter id, Ration Card etc. Training of general health staff like medical officers, health workers, health supervisors, laboratory technicians and ASHAs is being conducted every year to develop adequate skills for the diagnosis and management of leprosy cases in the right manner. Further intensive IEC activities should be conducted to generate awareness which will help in the reduction of stigma and discrimination associated with persons affected with leprosy. These activities could be carried out through mass media, outdoor media, rural media and advocacy meetings. A major focus is also given on inter personnel Communication. There will be active case detection and regular surveillance strategy throughout the year and timely referral and also follow-up for treatment completion on time through Multi Drug Therapy (MDT) available free of cost in all public health facilities. Our slogan for leprosy will be “Never hate the person suffering from leprosy but hate this disease.” we will all come forward and take appropriate steps to prevent this disease.