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Sunday, Jul 07, 2002

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Lacking vision to light up lives

Indrani Dutta

The West Bengal Government gets in touch with wait-listed patients through the post when a cornea can be preserved for only four days!

KOLKATA, July 6

MANY years ago, a Bengali film raised a storm when it depicted how a valuable eye cornea was thrown into a drain as an industrialist refused to have it implanted into his son's eye or anyone else's as it had come from one of his trade union leaders who was causing trouble.

The callous attitude regarding cornea collection and communication about its availability to the countless blind, who wait for such a call for lifetime continues to this day. Only the perpetrator in this case is not a murky businessman with no scruples but the State Government, which gets in touch with wait-listed patients through the post when a cornea can be preserved only for four days!

During an audit of the Health and Family Welfare Department of the West Bengal Government, the Comptroller and Auditor General found that of the total 946 corneas collected between 1996 and 2000 only 92 could be grafted, with the remaining 533 being rendered useless although there is a long waitlist of sightless people. Scrutiny revealed that in most cases the patients were contacted through post by the Regional Institute of Opthalmology.

The Centre launched the National Programme for Control of Blindness in 1976-77; in the State it was implemented from 1981-82. The programme aimed at reducing blindness from 1.4 per cent to 0.3 per cent by 2000.

However, even after 19 years, West Bengal could not achieve this target and 32 per cent of assistance for upgradation of operation theatre, construction of eye wards and preparation of blind registry has not been released by the State Government.

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