Punjab News Country’s best eye care facility coming to state


Prime VIP
New Delhi, June 22

Battling with a 1.01 per cent blindness prevalence rate, Punjab can finally count on some help from experts. In a significant move, Sankara Eye Care Institutions, which recently adjudged the best civil society organisation in the country for their work in the area of preventable and curable blindness, announced their decision to set up an eye care facility at Ludhiana.

To come up on the Pakhowal road along the Ferozepur road, the said facility will be the first-ever extension of Sankara institutions in North India.

The organisation is credited with its model of eye defect surveys in rural populations, which are surveyed for eye problems and treated at the base hospitals free of cost. As many as 80 per cent cases of blindness can either be prevented or cured by avoiding instances of needless visual impairment.

Speaking to The Tribune, Dr RV Ramani, managing trustee of the institution, said Punjab was one of the major states in North India to be affected by curable blindness. Moga and Bathinda districts of the state are particularly vulnerable. Asked why Sankara chose Ludhiana for a set up, Ramani said: “Since Bathinda is already being serviced by a hospital across the border in Rajasthan, we chose to come to Ludhiana which is nearer to Moga, and is severely affected.” Sankara is also looking at prospective eye care technicians from Punjab. “We work with the local population and select about 40 youths interested in working with hospital, train them at our oldest facility in Coimbatore for two years and bring them back to serve their own community. We call for applications from aspirants,” Ramani said.

The institution is a steady partner of the Government of India in the ambitious National Programme for Control of Blindness, which seeks to reduce blindness prevalence in India to 0.3 per cent by 2020. Its model of visual defect detection was recently hailed by the Centre, with the Health Ministry calling for a replication across India, which bears the largest burden of global blindness. One-fifth of the world’s blind live in India; they are numbered at 1.5 million. Another of Institution’s goals is encouragement to eye donation, with its Coimbatore facility getting two pairs of eyes a day in donation. “We have the experience in motivating the community and want to take it across the country,” Ramani added. Sankara started from Coimbatore and is now partnering with the national blindness control projects at seven other locations, including Guntur, Krishnakovil, Bangalore, Shimoga, Anand, Pammal and Silvassa.

It works on a self-sustaining model of providing 80 per cent free treatment to the poor and 20 per cent paid treatment to the rich, who are made to cross-subsidise the treatment of the economically weak.