The Vice- President of India, Shri M Hamid Ansari presented the ‘International Gandhi Award for Leprosy 2015’ to Dr. R K Mutatkar and Dr Arturo Cunanan Jr. for making outstanding contribution in the field of leprosy on January 30, 2016 at Up Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi.
On this occasion Honorable Vice President of India Shri Mohammad Hamid Ansari who was also chairman of the award jury also delivered his speech. Shri Dhirubhaiji Mehta, Chairman , Gandhi Memorial Leprosy Foundation Wardha delivered welcome speech . The citations of the recipient of the International Gandhi Award 2015 were read out by Dr. B.S.Garg, Director, GMLF. Both the awardees of IGA also delivered their `acceptance speech.
Speaking on the occasion, the Vice- President said That the World Leprosy Day is observed internationally on January 30 (or its nearest Sunday) to increase the public awareness of the Leprosy or Hansen's Disease. This day was chosen in commemoration of the death of Gandhiji.
Gandhiji understood well the social and psychological cost of the disease. He had said,
“Leprosy work is not merely medical relief, it is transforming frustration of life into joy of dedication, personal ambition into selfless service. …”
It was Gandhiji’s endavour to clear the cobwebs of superstition and fear surrounding the disease. It inspired an entire generation of reformers and activists, such as Baba Amte, to dedicate themselves to relief and rehabilitation of leprosy patients. It also paved the way for greater focus on cure and inclusion of patients.
Gandhiji also understood the need for working towards complete acceptance and integration of leprosy patients into the society, having famously remarked that he would be more inclined to attend the eventual closing of the institute, when requested by Prof. Jagadisan to inaugurate the building of the Kasturba Kustha Nilayam in 1945.
The Gandhi Memorial Leprosy Foundation, which was established in the 1950s has done pioneering work to combat the disease and to erase the stigma associated with leprosy. At a time when patients of leprosy were socially isolated, the Foundation worked to provide succor, treatment, rehabilitation and ensure integration of leprosy patients into the social mainstream.
In 2012-13, India recorded 83,000 leprosy cases with a prevalence of 0.68 per 10,000 population. I am happy to note that until 1st April 2012, 33 States and Union Territories had attained the levels of leprosy elimination of less than 1 case per 10,000. 542 districts out of 640 had also achieved elimination by March 2012.
The Vice-President extended his heartiest congratulations to the recipients of the International Gandhi Award for Leprosy– Dr. R K Mutatkar and Dr Arturo Cunanan Jr, who have both dedicated several decades of their lives to eradicating leprosy through treatment, training and research.
The International Gandhi Award was instituted by the Gandhi Memorial Leprosy Foundation to commemorate Mahatma Gandhi’s service and scientific approach towards leprosy. The two awards are given every alternate year to individuals/institutions for making outstanding contribution in the field of leprosy.
The vote of thanks were proposed by Dr. B.S.Garg and the program was compered by Shri Pramod Bahulekar, Jt. Director, GMLF. The program was attended by distinguished guests from the ministry of Health & FW, VHAI, Gandhi Peace Foundation, the renowned doctors and social workers.