New Delhi: The NHRC has issued a detailed advisory to the Centre, states and union territories, listing ”discriminating legal provisions” against leprosy-affected persons in 97 laws of the country, and called for their removal.
In a statement, the National Human Rights Commission, has also called for timely identification, treatment and for elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy.
The NHRC, headed by justice (retd) Arun Kumar Mishra, has issued the advisory, it said.
Among the recommendations made in the advisory, include that the Union government should consider enacting a law to provide for substitution of ”derogatory terms” used to describe persons affected by leprosy.
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”The advisory has listed discriminating legal provisions against the leprosy affected persons in 97 laws of the country and called for their removal,” the statement said.
The advisory has provided for ensuring that no person suffering from leprosy or any of his family members is discriminated against and denied all or any of the right to healthcare, employment, education and land rights, it said.
To raise awareness about the fact that leprosy is fully curable and a person suffering from the leprosy no longer remains contagious after receipt of first dose of MDT and may lead a normal married life, can have children, can take part in social events and go to work or school, college as normal, the Commission calls to organise awareness programs by involving print and electronic media, grassroots-level functionaries and civil society organisations, the rights panel said.
The advisory has also provided that awareness programmes should also highlight that persons affected by leprosy are not required to be sent to any special clinic or hospital or sanatorium and should not be isolated from the family members or the community.
The same should be included in school curriculum to enhance the sensitisation among the youth of the country, it added.
For the betterment of lives and for financial independence, the Commission has called for a launch of special programmes to provide vocational training, employment benefit, unemployment benefits, parental leave, health insurance, funeral benefits etc., to the persons affected by leprosy and their family members.
Important recommendations, among others in the advisory, include, that a state government should establish a helpline to ensure prompt reporting and medical attention to new cases of leprosy as well as development of acute signs and symptoms of lepra reaction, new nerve function impairment in existing patients.
Availability of adequate stock of drugs and other accessories including the MDT drugs for treatment and management of leprosy and associated complications, should be ensured, it said, adding, efforts be made to provide and expand mobile based tele-consultation services to persons affected by leprosy.
Other recommendations include, providing due attention to ensure that persons affected by leprosy are provided with BPL card, Aadhaar card, job card and other identity proofs on priority to facilitate such persons to avail benefit of government-run welfare schemes, such as Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna (PMAY), MGNREGA.
Chief secretaries of each leprosy affected-state, UT and secretaries in-charge of the ministries concerned in the central government should review, at regular intervals, the number of persons affected by leprosy in the state, country and the efforts made for treatment and welfare of the persons affected, it recommended.
The Commission, in a letter through its Secretary General Bimbadhar Pradhan, to the ministry concerned and the chief secretaries, administrators of states and union territories, has asked for the implementation of its recommendations in the advisory, and the action taken report within three months, the statement said.
Recently, a core group on health, under the NHRC, had expressed serious concerns on the problems faced by leprosy-affected people and those hit by mental health problems which got aggravated during the COVID-19 pandemic.