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NRI philanthropist works to remove blindness

An NRI, who lost his wife and two children in the 1985 AI bombing, is on a mission to serve humanity.

india Updated: Oct 01, 2005 13:09 IST

An Indian biologist-turned-philanthropist who lost his wife and two children in the 1985 Air India bombing is here to create awareness of his efforts at removing blindness among the rural Indian poor.

Chandrasekhar Sankurathri is a man with a vision - to erase blindness within the poor and rural communities of Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh. Most cases, he believes, can be tackled with proper treatment.

"Many are unnecessarily blind. A lot of women and the elderly are burdens for themselves and their families because of this. They live in a pathetic situation, which is not good for them emotionally," Sankurathri told IANS here.

The 61-year-old Sankurathri is visiting North America, making presentations among various groups including doctors and members of the Indian community.

Sankurathri founded the Srikiran Institute of Ophthalmology, named after his six-year-old son who perished along with his daughter Sarada, 3, and wife Manjari in the Air India Flight 182 in a bomb attack 20 years ago that killed 331 people.

After the loss of his family, Sankurathri relocated from Ottawa where he was working for the Canadian government, to Kakinada, his wife's native place in 1989.

Since then, he has dedicated his life to social activism through community outreach.

He founded the Manjari Sankurathri Memorial Foundation in Canada and the Sankurathri Foundation in India to provide eye care, education and disaster relief to rural residents.

He spends most of his time in Kothuru, a village in Kakinada, from where he takes care of the programmes.

"Many (physicians and lab technicians) have come from the US and Canada to help us. They transfer skills to local volunteers and workers. We want to give the best quality treatment even to those who are not able to pay for treatment," he said during his recent Canada visit.

According to Sankurathri, since 1993 more than 500,000 patients have received eye care out of which 100,000 have had cataract operations at the state-of-the-art eye hospital.

Through Sarada Vidyalayam, an upper primary school, the foundation provides free education to rural children.

"More than 1,000 children have received education. In fact, the first batch of children is ready to go to college. We will give scholarships for college education to deserving students," Sankurathri added.

International agencies and organisations such as Help the Aged Canada, Canadian International Development Agency, Rotary International, ORBIS International, Asha for Education, Eye Foundation of America and Eye Care for the Adirondacks support the programmes Sankurathri heads.

There is much more that remains to be done to improve the quality of life of rural dwellers, he says. "We should not be complacent but work more."

First Published: Oct 01, 2005 13:02 IST