"Since multi-drug therapy came to India in 1984, around 11 million people have been cured of the disease but they are still not leading a life of dignity," Nippon Foundation president Yohoi Sasakawa said here Friday.
"We have decided to give them location specific vocational training and provide scholarship to their children. We are ready to invest around Rs.500 million and urge Indian incorporation, non-resident Indians and NGOs to contribute to the fund," Sasakawa, who is also the World Health Organisation goodwill ambassador for leprosy, told IANS.
He said that cured leprosy patients would be provided micro credit to start their own business and encouraged to start dairies and poultry farms so that they lead an "independent life of dignity".
The philanthropist, who has been creating awareness about the disease in India for the last two decades, said that he had been in touch with some ministers and industry bodies like Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FICCI) on this matter.
"The initial talks with CII are over and some MPS are also of the opinion that their local area fund can be diverted to some extent for the rehabilitation of these socially marginalised people," Sasakawa added.
He said they were consulting lawyers to set up the foundation and hoping that the work in India could start within the next six months.
Expressing satisfaction over India achieving the "leprosy elimination" status, Sasakawa said the focus now should shift "from treatment to social rehabilitation."
On Dec 31, 2005 India achieved the leprosy elimination tag with prevalence rate going down to less than one in every 10,000 population.