Indian networking organization chooses Andhra Pradesh activist as leader.
Vagavathil Narsappa has been elected chairman of the National Forum India, succeeding Dr. P.K. Gopal as head of the national networking organization of people affected by leprosy founded in 2005.
President of the Society of Leprosy Affected People (SLAP) in Andhra Pradesh, and serving as a National Forum trustee up until his present appointment, Narsappa was elected chairman at a meeting of the trustees in June.
"I see the National Forum as a forum completely dedicated to the upliftment and welfare of people affected by leprosy," he says. "No affected person should face stigma or discrimination and should enjoy equal participation, equal rights, equal opportunity, equal dignity and equal integration."
Concerning the latter, he believes that leprosy colonies should no longer be labeled as such and that awareness programs should be undertaken in surrounding communities to promote integration.
Among the tasks he has set for the National Forum are to develop good leadership qualities at the grassroots level among people living in colonies; to teach people affected how to access government benefits available to them; and to forge links with other persons with disabilities to fight for rights and entitlements provided under the Persons with Disabilities Act.
Showing the younger generation of colony residents that they have choices in life and that there are alternatives to begging is a particular priority. "Young people should be counseled that by going on courses available to them and by attaining a minimum educational qualification, they can get better jobs and choose from among more options," he says.
Former chairman of the National Forum, Dr. P.K. Gopal, a social scientist and recipient of a prestigious Padmashree award earlier this year, stays on as senior consultant.
India's National Leprosy Eradication Program reports that 127,000 new cases of leprosy were detected during the year to March 31, 2012. Of this number, multibacillary cases accounted for 49%, female cases for 37%, child cases for 9.7%, and cases with visible deformity for 3%.
Of India's 35 states/union territories, 32 have achieved a level of elimination defined as a prevalence rate of leprosy of less than 1 case per 10,000 population. A total of 543 districts out of 642 have reached this level.
One state (Chhattissgarh) and one Union Territory (Dadra & Nagar Haveli) have a PR between 1 and 3 per 10,000 population. Although Bihar has reached a PR of below 1, it is considered too soon to declare it has achieved elimination.
During the year, reconstructive surgery was performed on 2,548 people affected by leprosy, 55,162 received multi-cellular rubber (MCR) footwear and 43,016 received self-care kits.
To date, 12.67 million people in India have been cured of leprosy since the introduction of multidrug therapy.