The Vice President of India Shri M. Hamid Ansari presented “International Gandhi Award-2011” to Dr. Caire Velut and Dr. J.D.Samant at a function organized by Gandhi Memorial Leprosy Foundation, Wardha (Maharashtra) here today. Addressing on the occasion, Shri Ansari said that as a disease, leprosy has affected humans for over 2000 years. Social stigma associated with leprosy had imputed moral and social overtones to a medical condition leading to ostracism. Mahatma Gandhi understood the social dimension of leprosy. He worked to end the social stigma associated with the disease and sought to bring about the reintegration of leprosy patients in the mainstream of society.
The Vice President said that the introduction of multi-drug therapy in the early 1980s has changed the scenario for the disease, curing over 13 million leprosy cases and bringing down the prevalence rate in the nation from around 150 per ten thousand population in 1983 to less than 1 per ten thousand population today. By the end of 2005, India had achieved the goal of eliminating leprosy as a public health problem at the national level.
Dr. Caire Vellut, a woman doctor from Belgium determined to serve leprosy affected persons, has rendered more than five decades of selfless service to alleviate the sufferings of leprosy patients and opted for Indian nationality in 1979 as she wished to continue to live in the country she had adopted. Dr. Jagdish Devrao Samant, founder of Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Leprosy Eradication Trust in Maharashtra, has to his credit about 50 years of dedicated service to leprosy patients.