Contrary to the official claims of elimination of leprosy in Maharashtra, the State is witnessing a constant increase in the number of fresh cases detected 2007 onwards.
“It was officially declared in 2005 that leprosy has been eradicated in Maharashtra. However, fresh cases are still being detected in the State,” Sharadchandra Gokhale, founder President of the International Leprosy Union (ILU), said.
There is a further increase in the number of multi-bacilliary cases with child population accounting for 12 per cent of the total detected cases, he said.
The ILU, which is headquartered in the city, had in its search campaign conducted in 173 blocks in the State last year had detected as many as 2,515 fresh cases, Gokhale said, emphasising the need for a door-to-door campaign to unearth fresh cases and timely treatment.
At present, the Annual New Case Detection Rate (ANCD) is 15.96 per cent per lakh population in Maharashtra, he said, adding that the ILU had set up a human rights grievance cell to seek justice for the affected as the disease continued to be socially stigmatised.
“There is still no let-up in the stigma attached to the disease and discrimination against the leprosy affected continues unabated,” said Indranath Banerjee, an associate researcher attached to the ILU.
Of the 2,28,474 new leprosy cases detected in the world in 2010, India accounted for 1,26,800 cases, which accounted for 55.5 per cent, the data available with ILU shows.
“If the Union and State Governments do not take serious note of this fact and initiate effective steps to eradicate leprosy, the problem would become more acute,” Gokhale said.
To address the problems being faced by the Leprosy Affected Patients (LAP), the ILU has decided to constitute 'LAP’s Human Rights Cell’ to take their collective and individual grievances to the Human Rights Commission, he added.
Gokhale said the WHO has already alerted the Indian Government on the situation concerning LAPs in the country, underlining a pressing need for conducting a fresh all-India survey to assess the increase of fresh cases and its eradication.