President Pranab Mukjerjee said there was a need to increase awareness and dispel myths about donation of bodies after death, lamenting that many people in India still believed in superstitions and evil social practices.
"Despite the country's space programme which has sent satellite to Mars, many people in the country still believe in lot of superstitions and evil social practices. There is lack of awareness about scientific temper in the society which is the reason for such superstition," Mukherjee said after launching a campaign for donation of human bodies, organs and tissues after death at the Raj Bhavan here.
The president said it was not an easy task to free people from superstition and instill in them scientific temper and rationalism.
"There is a need to encourage pledges for donation of posthumous bodies, organs and tissues among the people and increase awareness and dispel myths about this unique deed.
"There is also a need to sensitise the public, particularly those desirous of pledging to donate posthumously and those wanting transplantation, about following the due procedures as per law," he said.
People will have to come forward as a large population of the country will be benefited from deceased body and organ donation, he said, adding India lags many countries in terms of organ donation rates and suffers from a huge shortfall in that regard.
"Spain, with 35 organ donors for every one million people, has the highest donation rate in the world. The US, at 26 donors per million, and the UK, at 13 donors per million, also have high donation rates.
"In comparison, India has a rate of less than 0.2 donors per one million population. India suffers from organs shortage of gigantic proportions. An estimated two lakh people in our country are diagnosed with organ failure every year, needing transplantation as a life saving mechanism."
Noting 34 organs and tissues can be harvested from a brain-dead donor, he said that the number of brain-dead donors in India, at 196 in 2012 - the highest in a year so far - is woefully short to meet the demands for transplantation.
Mukherjee complimented NGO Ganadarpan for the excellent work being done by its members "to promote rational thinking, enhance frontiers of medical knowledge and give new lease of life to patients diagnosed with organ failure".
The campaign being undertaken on the occasion of the 178th anniversary of the first dissection of human cadaver in Asia in the Medical College of Calcutta by Madhusudan Gupta is organised by Ganadarpan, in collaboration with the health department of the state government, University of Calcutta and National Council of Science Museums.
Participants at the function included people who have pledged their body for medical research and recipients of organs.