Extend disability quota to leprosy patients, BPL cards for poor sufferers, rules SC
Calling on the Centre and states to take steps for eradicating discrimination against leprosy and to rehabilitate those suffering from it, the Supreme Court on Friday issued a slew of directions to the government, including providing leprosy patients reservation under the disability quota and with Below Poverty Line (BPL) cards to enable them secure their right to food.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra also said publicity drives should be undertaken to make citizens aware about leprosy being a curable disease.
“Medical staff in private and government hospitals should be sensitised to ensure that leprosy patients do not face discrimination,” the court said while disposing a public interest litigation (PIL) case filed by advocate Pankaj Sinha claiming the government was not taking adequate measures to eradicate leprosy.
One of the suggestions also includes framing rules that public and private schools do not discriminate against children suffering from the disease. Children should not be turned away and an attempt should be made to provide them free education, the court said.
“Due attention must be paid to ensure that the persons affected with leprosy are issued BPL cards so that they can avail the benefits under AAY (Antyodaya Anna Yojana) scheme and other similar schemes which would enable them to secure their right to food,” the court said.
“Awareness campaigns should also inform that a person affected with leprosy can lead a normal married life, can have children, can take part in social events and go to work or school as normal. Acceptability of leprosy patients in the society would go a long way in reducing the stigma attached to the disease,” it added, asking the Centre and States to undertake the awareness exercise every year on International Leprosy Day.
It must be ensured that drugs for leprosy are available free of cost and do not go out of stock at all Primary Health Centres and other public health centres. Treatment of leprosy should be integrated into general health care which will usher in a no-isolation method in general wards and OPD services.
The court made a specific mention about women suffering from leprosy and said it must be ensured that there is no discrimination against them and they are “given equal and adequate opportunities for treatment in any hospital of their choice.” “ To this effect, proactive measures must be taken for sensitization of hospital personnel,” the court said.
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