Magsaysay winner and inventor of the Jaipur prosthesis (rekno) ‘Jaipur Foot’, an artificial limb used all over the world for the physically challenged, Dr P.K. Sethi died of a cardiac arrest at private hospital on Saturday.
He was 80 and is survived by his wife Sulochana, son and three daughters. He was cremated in a local burial ground where a large number of people attended the funeral procession.
Dr Sethi first thought of the idea of working on the artificial limb mechanism in 1965, when he was prescribing solid-ankle-cushion-heel (SACH) feet to people with amputated lower limbs in Jaipur. He would ask users, in casual encounters outside the hospital setting, how satisfied they were with their new feet and found that many of them had returned to using crutches.
The production team had not realised that the SACH Foot, intended to be worn with shoes and for sitting in chairs, was not suitable for Indians who walked bare feet and sat on the floor. By 1970, with the help of his team members, Dr Sethi had come up with the new designs, which have since been known as the Jaipur Foot.
These devices have two other features that led to their popularity. First, they can be made easily by local artisans and with local materials. Therefore, once the design is known, they can be produced anywhere. Second, Dr Sethi’s team did not patent the designs, making them available free of charge and thus reducing the cost to users. As a result, the devices have proved useful not only in the ESCAP region, but also in Africa, and Latin America.
Former vice-president, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, governor S.K. Singh and Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje have expressed their grief on the demise of Dr Sethi who had brought fame to Rajasthan as well as the country. Shekhawat said “Dr Sethi proved the ‘mesiah’ of handicaps who became self-dependent and started walking after the invention of Jaipur Foot by him.”
Born on November 23, 1927 at Agra who went on to win the Padmashree, Dr Sethi got his FRCS degree from Edinbera in England in 1954 and invented the Jaipur Foot in 1968. He practiced in Swai Man Singh Hospital and established a rehabilitation research centre.