There is a dim hope for more than 3500 corneal blind persons in Himachal Pradesh to get their sight restored as they would have to wait for two hundred years due to the indifferent attitude of the health authorities. The only eye bank of the state, run by the government in Shimla, could give sight to only 59 persons during last four years after its beginning. People from different districts are deliberately deprived of their right to donate eyes and blinds are being forced to live a life in dark by bureaucratic mentality. The government has spent huge sum of money to start another eye bank in district Kangra and to establish eye collection centers at district level, but nothing concrete surfaced.
Addressing a press conference to mark the start of national eye donation fortnight (25th August- 8th September), disability rights activist and chairman of Umang Foundation, a public welfare trust, Ajai Srivastava said, “The eye bank in Shimla was established by the government in 2010. In the last four years, the bank could collect only 72 corneas donated by 36 persons. Out of the available corneas, 59 were transplanted and 13 had to be discarded by the experts due to poor quality. There are people who wish to donate eyes but there is no facility for its collection.
He said, the efforts made by the Foundation had yielded result in 2010 when the government started an eye bank in Indira Gandhi Medical College, Shimla. The eye bank is doing well in given circumstances. But the government has not opened eye collection centers in different districts, which were necessary to increase the availability of cornea for the eye bank. Interestingly, eye surgeons and technicians in all the districts, except tribal districts of Kinnaur and Lahaul & Spiti, have been trained in IGMC Shimla to collect eyes and the money has also been given to open eye collection centers. But no such center has been opened.
Ajai Srivastava said, conceding to the demand of Umang Foundation to open another eye bank in district Kangra, the government released money to the tune of Rs. 15 lakh in May, 2012 to start the Eye Bank in Tanda Medical College. Subsequently, one eye surgeon of the rank of assistant professor from Tanda Medical College was sent to AIIMS for training in eye transplant. Not only this, a technician was also imparted training in the subject in Hyderabad. A huge amount was spent on their training. Tanda Medical College authorities earmarked space for the eye bank. But the eye bank has not seen the light of the day yet.
Another hurdle in availability of cornea is that the government has not appointed grief councilors in eye bank, Shimla, which was a pre-requisite to open an eye bank. Such councilors motivate the family members of those who lost their kith and kin to donate the eyes.
Ajai Srivastava urged the government to start eye bank in Tanda Medical College and eye collection centers in all the districts, immediately. At present, the rich blind go to other states for cornea transplant that costs more than one lakh rupees and the poor are forced to live in dark. He also demanded that to know the exact number of persons with blindness, the government should conduct an intensive survey.