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Times Of India
26 July 2012

Pune:A human rights cell to address the problems of leprosyaffected persons (LAP) was formed in the city on Wednesday by the International Leprosy Union (ILU). The ‘LAPs human rights cell’, will forward the individual as well as collective grievances of LAP to the Human Rights Commission (HRC). It will also follow up on the 14 demands made by ILU to the Union and state governments regarding formulation of a comprehensive policy to empower the LAP.

A three–day training workshop is currently underway in the city for activists and leaders working in the field of leprosy. Two representatives each from 12 states are attending the workshop and will be part of the newly–formed cell. In the last few months ILU has filed 64 cases before the HRC and has secured redressal in 90% of the cases.

Addressing a news conference Ram Naik, former Union petroleum minister, who inaugurated the workshop on Wednesday said that he had submitted a petition to Parliament on December 5, 2007 for empowerment of leprosy–affected people. The subsequent action taken report (ATR) made several recommendations.

He said, "Despite several follow–ups with the Union and state governments, there has been no reaction. Hence, we decided to form this cell and do whatever we can through this it."

Among the 14 demands sought are provision of social and economical benefits given to persons below the poverty line and handicapped persons to all leprosy patients, provision of civic amenities to self–settled colonies of patients, provision of higher educational facilities and scholarships for children of leprosy patients.

The ILU has also demanded removal of value added tax imposed on products made by leprosy patients, nomination of such patients on the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) state and district–level committees as well as nomination of such patients on rehabilitation council of India.

Sharadchandra Gokhale, president, ILU, who was present for the workshop, said that the cases filed with the HRC included those about property, salaries, community as well as discrimination.

He said, "A teacher was made to retire compulsorily from school so the teacher agreed but asked the school to pay him a pension, which the school refused. So we filed a case against the school at the HRC. The verdict was given in the teacher’s favour. Similarly, there were cases where the child of a LAP was not admitted in school or a husband asked for a divorce from his wife because she was suffering from leprosy."

The ILU filed these cases in the HRC and has had great success. Gokhale said that more people must come forward and raise their voice against discrimination.

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