President Rajendra Prasad made an eloquent plea for leprosy relief work when he told the annual general meeting of the Indian Leprosy Association that “little cases of compassionate work here and there which are at best a reflection of the spirit of exceptional dedication” were not enough. There is no more heartrending a sight than that of hopeless men and women squatting for endless hours on the kerbside seeking alms. Of late, the tendency for the afflicted to migrate to the cities has become more pronounced; the only reason for this is that while in the countryside there are no agencies to take even compassion on them, the city at least affords more opportunities for an existence based on alms. Of late, Bombay has become, as it were, the asylum of all who seem to be marking time to end the agony. …There is little that compassion can achieve when what the afflicted require is rehabilitation and opportunity to engage in some useful work.

Although leprosy has been included among the communicable diseases, there does not seem to be any awareness on the part of the civic authorities to prevent the influx of those suffering into this congested city. No doubt, it is not always possible to contro their movements.

But as it has become evident that Bombay’s streets have become their haunts, the authorities could have taken measures to expand the facilities available at the Acworth Leprosy Home at Matunga.  The leprosy control scheme suggested in the Second Plan with an outlay of Rs 4 crores should be liberally supplemented by private donations and utilisation of funds in such public trusts as are earmarked for improving the health of the people.

(EDIT, April 23, 1956.)

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