A new lease of life for leprosy patients

Kashibai Dashvant dreamt of leading a life like any other normal person, but she could not achieve this as she was often meted out humiliation and treated indifferently by the people after she was afflicted with leprosy.

But, now she is leading a dignified life and is respected and received by the society after she got rid of leprosy with the help of treatment and support given by a rehabilitation centre in Hubli, run by Hubli Hospital for the Handicapped Society in Anand Nagar.

Kashibai is not the only one who has been benefited by this centre, as it has reached out to many other leprosy patients also. The Hubli Hospital set up a rehabilitation centre for leprosy patients and handicaps on its premises in 1976, which is playing a vital role in removing social stigma attached to leprosy, by enabling leprosy-afflicted people to be economically self-reliant in the society.

Now, there are more than 20 leprosy patients working at the centre and engaged in various handicrafts works in paper section, textile printing, wooden carving, toy-making units. These handicrafts including toys, bed sheets, bags, gift articles, etc., will be exported to European markets including in France, Switzerland, Germany and England.

After treating the leprosy patients, the hospital will also give them an opportunity to take benefit of the rehabilitation centre. Depending on their physical strength, nature of leprosy, they will be assigned work in different sections. Each will earn from Rs 800 to 3,000 per month.

The centre has also conducted marriages among leprosy-afflicted men and women and helped leprosy-afflicted people to get married with other people not affected by leprosy, by making them economically-independent and curing their deformities.

Talking to the `Times of India,’ Allahbaksh Laxmeshwar of Laxmeshwar, who is settled in Hubli now and married to a woman who had leprosy said: “I faced much humiliation in society when I had leprosy. I wasn’t even allowed to board the bus. I was treated at this hospital and joined the rehabilitation centre 20 years ago. People who rejected and humiliated me, are today respecting me like others. I am leading a happy and peaceful life.”

Chandrashekhar Kalagi of Hubli, who works in the textile printing unit at the centre said nobody liked him because of the deformities he had due to leprosy. “My life has changed a lot and seen the light of day, after coming here. I also got married with a woman who was not affected by leprosy and I am leading a happy life today.”

A 50-year-year-old woman, Saroja Singri, who went through a very tough time when she had leprosy, said: “The indifferent treatment not only by society but even from family members often forced me to think of committing suicide. But I learnt to live when I got treatment here. Today I am not only leading a dignified life, but I am also supporting my family for the past few years,” she added.

Most of them have already availed housing loan facilities provided by the centre and have a new lease of life.

Manisha Godabole, director of the centre and Geeta Baliga, executive officer, explained that leprosy is curable and leprosy-afflicted patients can also lead a life like others in society if they take timely treatment.

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