Volume 3 Issue 11 - June 01, 2005

SC issues notices for constitution of panel to look into treatment of blind children

DNIS News Network - In a significant move, the Supreme Court has issued notices to government departments to look into the possibility of restoring eyesight of children across the country who have been deemed blind or visually impaired.

SC issues notices on finding cases of avoidable blindness

A bench comprising Justice Y.K. Sabharwal, Justice S.B. Sinha and Justice P.P. Naolekar sought responses on a petition alleging that there were several children whose eyesight could be restored but they were being treated as blind.

The petitioner, Dr. Harsh Bhalla, drew attention to a medical survey of 120 children in blind schools in Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh that showed that 32 of them had a fair chance of restoration of eyesight. According to a study, the state has 80,000 blind or visually impaired children, and over 50 per cent of them are either treatable or preventable. India has an estimated 15 million blind people - more than any other country in the world. Of these, more than 3,20,000 are children, making India home to one of the world’s largest populations of blind children.

Experts and stakeholders in the disability sector feel that preventive and corrective measures can significantly bring the number of blind children in the country down. If the government responds positively to the notices by the apex court, and constitutes a panel to conduct a national study to ascertain the correct picture, it would be a formidable step towards bringing down cases of avoidable blindness.

According to UNICEF 2005 report, millions of Indian children are deprived of their rights to survival, health, nutrition, education and safe drinking water. It is reported that 63 per cent of them go to bed hungry and 53 per cent suffer from chronic malnutrition. This makes them vulnerable to many illnesses caused by nutritional deficiency, including vitamin A deficiency that causes Xerophthalmia, a blinding eye condition that is the leading cause of blindness in children in the developing world.

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