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WHO Goodwill Ambassador's Newsletter For The Elimination Of Leprosy

NEWS: Indian MPs Take the Initiative

Announce formation of cross-party committee to study leprosy.

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Minister of State for Human Resources and Development Dr. D. Purandeswari, flanked by MPs Dinesh Trivedi (left) and Madhu Goud Yaskhi (right)

Indian parliamentarians have formed a group to look into the issues facing people affected leprosy. MP Dinesh Trivedi, accompanied by Dr. Daggubati Purandeswari, Minister of State for Human Resources and Development, and fellow MP Madhu Goud Yaskhi, explained the initiative at the recent International Symposium on Leprosy and Human Rights held in New Delhi on October 3-4.

Saying that the only way to get rid of the stigma attached to leprosy is knowledge, Trivedi declared, "It is very important for people like us to spread this message of awareness."

The new group, which cuts across regional and party lines, will brief itself on the disease and look at what it can do, "including, if needs be, having a huge education campaign around the country," said Trivedi.

"As people in the public domain - legislators, members of parliament - we have a huge responsibility because whatever we do is for the people," he said.

Dr. Purandeswari said, "We have to look beyond leprosy as a medical and health issue and take an intersectoral approach. We should raise the issue of the intersectoral connectivity (of leprosy) within the parliament itself."

She also brought up the part the media can play. "We know that the media had a large role when it spoke about how HIV/AIDS should not be stigmatized and how we need to get people into mainstream society. It's the same proactive role that the media need to take when it comes to leprosy as well. That will help in addressing so many issues," she said.

Ram Naik, former Union petroleum minister, who was in the audience, said he hoped the new forum would use its influence to help realize the implementation of recommendations contained in a petition he first submitted to parliament in 2007. The recommendations, which relate to various ministries, concern the empowerment of persons affected by leprosy.

The former minister said he would be happy to assist the new forum in any way.