Dr. Harsh Vardhan, the Union Health Minister of India urges the need to generate a positive attitude towards organ donation in general and eye (cornea) donation in particular among young children.
While speaking here at the centenary celebrations of Shroff's Charity Eye Hospital yesterday he stated that the ongoing National Eye Donation Fortnight that started from August 25 and would continue till today, September 8, an annual event organised by the National Programme for Control of Blindness, is meeting with good response in a large number of states, including the national capital. It is now felt that youngsters should be exposed to the enormity of the problem of blindness in India and their responsibility to contribute to its end.
Dr Harsh Vardhan said, "We teach the young the life stories of great savants and leaders with the hope that the new generation will imbibe their qualities. It is also necessary to instill in them their responsibility towards the blind population of India which could benefit if cornea donation becomes part of the nation's culture."
"Eyesight is one of the biggest gifts of God. Unfortunately, the corneal blind population of India is the largest in the world. At a rough estimate, the country needs 1 lakh corneas every year but only about 17,000 are procured. Of these only about 50 percent are utilized," he added.
Dr Harsh Vardhan observed, "We need more eye banks. But that is not enough. There should be synergistic interaction among professional health services and community engagement. Increasing public awareness, promoting eye donation, implementing quality standards and organising a network of trained professionals for procurement, preservation and distribution of tissues are vital cogs in the wheel."
"The history of ophthalmology in the country is inextricably linked to the vision of Dr S.P. Shroff, who founded the institution in 1914," he added.
Dr S.P. Shroff was a founding father of the Delhi Medical Association, the precursor of the Indian Medical Association. Both Shroff's hospital and DMA were established in the same year and have proved to be lasting institutions that have contributed much to India's development.
The tradition of pledging one's eyes after death is quite old in Delhi thanks to the pioneering work by Shroff's Hospital.
A number of facilitators and donors' families from Delhi, Karnal and other places of northern India were honoured at the function, including the parents of a 14-year-old girl and the son of a 65-year-old man. In both cases, the family members showed exemplary presence of mind while making the emotionally heavy choice of donating the just-deceased's eyes.
The government intends implementing a nationwide programme for setting up regional centres modelled on NOTTO at Chandigarh, Guwahati, Kolkata, Chennai and Mumbai. All the upcoming AIIMS at six cities will also have similar infrastructure.