New Delhi: Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan has written to Union Law and Justice Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Union Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Thawar Chand Gehlot, seeking amendment of the “existing discriminatory laws against persons affected by leprosy.”
“It will be a befitting tribute to the Father of the Nation on his 150th birth anniversary if we can expedite the process and introduction of the Elimination of Discrimination against Persons Affected by Leprosy (EDPAL) Bill, which was drafted by the Law Commission of India and annexed in its 256th report,” Harsh Vardhan states in the letter.
Vardhan further writes: “Even though the disease is now fully curable, it is disturbing to learn that there still exist 108 discriminatory laws against persons affected by leprosy including 3 Union and 105 State laws”.
The Health Minister said the National Leprosy Eradication Programme (NLEP) has achieved enormous success in leprosy control, particularly in the last four decades.
“In addition to the routine activities, more than a dozen innovations were introduced from 2016 onwards in a phased manner to address the issues being faced by the programme,” he stated in the letter.
“Majorly, Leprosy Case Detection Campaign (LCDC) (specific for high endemic districts), Focussed Leprosy Campaign (for hot spots, i.e., rural and urban areas), special plan for case detection in hard to reach areas, ASHA based Surveillance for Leprosy Suspects (ABSULS) have contributed to early case detection,” the Health Minister added.
“Moreover, leprosy has become fully curable by Multi-Drug Therapy (MDT). This therapy is available free of cost at all the Government health care facilities in the country. Leprosy affected person after treatment does not transmit the disease agent. Hence, there exists no justification for the continued stigmatization of the persons affected by leprosy,” he said.
Requesting for proactively taking steps to redress this wrong, Vardhan said that India is committed to justice and equality of all individuals including persons with disabilities as per the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).
He also mentioned that the target of Global Leprosy Strategy — 2016- 2020 is to reduce the number of countries with laws allowing discrimination on the ground of leprosy to zero.
In his letter to the Chief Ministers of 23 States/UTs — Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Goa, Daman & Diu, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Sikkim, Meghalaya, Haryana, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Assam, Maharashtra, Bihar, Puducherry, Delhi, Rajasthan and North Eastern Region and Governor of J&K — Vardhan has requested them to earnestly look into the matter and direct all the concerned departments and officers to work for the amendments of the existing discriminatory laws against persons affected by leprosy.