On the banks of the beautiful Nageen Lake is the Leper Hospital housed in an old dilapidated Victorian style building of the British days. In the vicinity of the hospital is a shabby colony of single storey mud huts in crumbling state housing about 85 lepers. Not only are the mud hutments crumbling, the colony is without any fence or boundary wall.In old times there was a strong stigma attached with the disease and people were kept in isolated colonies. However, after the discovery of multi-drug therapy in 1980, the disease can be diagnosed and treated within the community and is totally curable. In most of the places in advanced countries the Leper colonies have been abolished. However, these still persist in the East and some other places. India has almost a thousand colonies spread all over.
Leprosy is a chronic disease caused by the bacteriaMycobacterium leprae and Mycobacterium lepromatosis. It is also known as Hansen’s disease named after physician Gerhard Armauer Hansen. It is a disease of the peripheral nerves and mucosa of upper respiratory tract. Skin lesions are its primary external sign. Untreated Leprosy can cause permanent damage to the skin, nerves, limbs and eyes. Earlier it was believed that the disease causes body parts to fall off. However, that is not true. The secondary infections can result in tissue loss causing fingers and toes to become shortened and deformed as the cartilage is absorbed into the body.
The disease seems to have afflicted the present government also as some of its limbs are deformed and without any sensation. Normally, both the government and the civil society should have been giving the first priority to these afflicted and abandoned people. A colony planned to have been constructed for housing them decently is lying half complete in shambles with construction material scattered all over. The construction of the colony was supposed to have been started about two years back in the name of Rajiv Gandhi after the visit of the Deputy Chief Minister. However, the work has been abandoned half way due to some contractual problems. When so many works of the government are undertaken by the J & K Projects Construction Corporation why this work of utmost humanitarian consideration could not have been allotted to them for completion in a time bound schedule? Ironically, the prisoners in the central jail have better living conditions and facilities! It is really lopsided planning when one considers the hundreds of crores being spent on Golf courses, cable cars, Tulip gardens for the enjoyment of tourists and the rich while the poor and down trodden suffer unheard and uncared for!
At the present moment the peoples’ representatives are attending the assembly session discussing money matters amounting to thousands of crores. It would be worthwhile if some of them could pay a visit to these suffering people and raise the issue in the legislature to speed up giving of some real and genuine succor to them. Will they do it? While on a visit to this wretched colony of the virtually condemned members of the society one was reminded of the movie Ben Hur. Jesus Christ in the movie visits a lepers’ colony and cures all of them of the affliction. Unfortunately in the present time we do not have the people with spiritual powers working miracles but if only the government with abundant resources (wasting a big chunk of these on unproductive projects) could only spare a miniscule amount of money as well as time for these unfortunate people, they would get the much deserved relief.Let us hope we still have people with a human heart!