A mini-ratna that lends a hand and more to the disabled

Urvashi Valecha | Updated on January 19, 2018 Published on January 19, 2018

A wheelchair designed by ALIMCO for persons with cerebral palsy. It includes a study board, straps for shoulders and feet and cervical collar for support   -  M Srinath

Artificial Limbs Manufacturing Corpn reaches out to 2 lakh disabled people every year through government schemes and NGO partnerships

Ten-year-old Zahur lost his arms in a mishap. His father, a low-income farmer, brought him to a medical camp distributing free prosthetics in Ladakh in the hope of getting new arms for his child.

Richika Padubidri from the Ratna Nidhi Charitable Trust, the non-government organisation that organised the medical camp, saw Zahur’s face light up with a smile when he was given prosthetic arms. She couldn’t help but ask him what he’d do with his new arms. “I’m going to learn how to write, just like all my other friends who go to school he told us,” Padubidri recalls the boy's simple words.

Having come across many such instances of people from disadvantaged backgrounds queuing up for free prosthetics at such camps, she says, “Yes, there is a need for low-cost prosthetics.”

And that’s where organisations like the Artificial Limbs Manufacturing Corporation of India (ALIMCO), a Central Public Sector Unit, lend a hand.

Touted to be the only manufacturing company producing under one roof assistive devices to serve all types of disabilities, ALIMCO produces 355 quality aids and appliances required by persons with disablities of the limbs, the eyes and ears, according to publicly available data.

At a time when medical products are coming under the Government's price control regime, ALIMCO’s mandate is to reach out to the many disabled people who are unable to afford these products that are pricey in the private sector.

"Of the total disabled population in India (2.2 per cent), 70 per cent of the divyangjan live in rural areas, of whom 80 per cent are unemployed,” says DR Sarin, Chairman and Managing Director of the 46- year-old miniratna company. In fact, modernisation plans are underway at ALIMCO, with sanctions worth Rs 200 crore from the Central Government in the pipeline, he says.

"We have received (Rs) 10 crore till now and, gradually as the project progresses we will be receiving more funds." The 37-month timeline for the funds would go towards constructing a new manufacturing facility at the PSU's 40-acre site in Kanpur. This would supplement the existing facilities that manufacture products including hearing aids, artificial limbs and an array of wheelchairs.

The company has also partnered Ottobock, the German prosthetics-maker, for technology and better quality products. Technology helps keep the product reasonably priced, says Sarin.

"We have an arrangement, where once our quality standards match those of the equipment they’re making in Australia and China, they will buy back 25 per cent of our produce," he said. ALIMCO pays a royalty of about 3 per cent to Ottobock. ALIMCO has a workforce of over thousand people and reaches out to almost 2 lakh people every year through government schemes and NGO partnerships. Sarin says, “Being a Section 8 company (not for profit) under the Companies Act, our mandate is to reach out to the poorest of the poor. So, it has to be supported by government agencies and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) activities.”

With the need for prosthetics and aids in the country being as high as it is, maybe more local medical devices companies can take a leaf out of ALIMCO’s book to make products available to those who need them.

(The writer interned with the newspaper.)

Published on January 19, 2018

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