'Jaipur Foot', the prosthesis that has helped thousands of disabled worldwide to walk again, is set to be launched from Colombia, its first centre on foreign soil.
The Colombian government has sanctioned the Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahayata Samiti (BMVSS), producers of the artificial limb, to set up base in the South American country. The BMVSS has entered into a tie-up with a Colombia-based NGO.
M.K. Mathur of BMVSS told IANS: "The Jaipur Foot centre in Colombia is slated to start in August."
According to him, experts would go to Colombia with the required machinery. Initially three-fourths of the artificial foot would be made in Jaipur and the rest in Colombia. The entire production would shift to Colombia after a few months.
It was Jaipur resident Ram Charan Sharma, who hails from a family of sculptors, who conceived Jaipur Foot in 1968. It was only after trials and with the assistance of eminent orthopaedic surgeon P.K. Sethi that the prosthetic limb was launched that year.
The amazing lightness and mobility of the artificial limb, coupled with its low price, is the reason for its popularity.
Those who wear it can run, climb trees, pedal bicycles and drive a car - all without the aid of a stick or any support.
While a prosthetic limb can cost several thousand dollars in the US, the Jaipur Foot costs only $20-28 in India.
Sublimely low-tech, it is made of rubber (mostly), wood and aluminium and can be assembled with local materials.
Established in 1975, BMVSS provides the artificial limb free to millions of people who have lost their limbs in accidents or war. Its chief patron is D.R. Mehta, a former head of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).
It was only after the Afghan war in the late 1970s that the use of the limb spread outside India.
Russian land mines in Afghanistan had then disabled thousands. The International Committee of the Red Cross found the Jaipur Foot to be the hardiest to tackle the tough, mountainous Afghan terrain.
Since then, countless landmine victims in many countries have been fitted with the Jaipur Foot. The limb has also provided relief to 15,000 physically disabled people in foreign countries.
The centre is also known as a "mini India" with people flocking to it for relief from all over the country.
"We receive patients from Gujarat in the west to Assam in the east, and from Srinagar in the north to Kanyakumari in the south," said a BMVSS official.