Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Foot soldiers of Jaipur

Foot soldiers of Jaipur
Author: Rohit Parihar
Publication: India Today
Date: February 25, 2008
http://indiatoday. digitaltoday. in/index. php?option= com_content& Itemid=1& task=view& id=4605&sectioni d=24&issueid= 41&latn=2

Introduction: An organization working for the handicapped takes the
science of artificial limbs forward

It is probably the only city in the world to have lent its name to a
prosthetic, but now limbs other than foot-like a Jaipur knee or
wheelchair-may soon be associated with the pink city.

The leader of the team that invented the Jaipur foot, Dr P.K. Sethi,
died recently but the organisation which helped make it a reality, the
Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahayata Samiti, is still working to take this
legacy forward.

The Samiti, founded in 1975 by retired IAS officer D.R. Mehta runs
institutes in its endeavour to provide low-cost limbs and tools to the
physically challenged.

In January, Steve Goldband, director of private sector initiatives,
Centre on Longevity, Stanford University, US, visited the Samiti to
assess its functioning. Also on the agenda was development of low-cost
above-knee limb replacement. "Our major challenge is to create a cheaper
version of an above-knee limb," says Goldband.

Work on this project is proceeding at a brisk pace. The needy will be
identified in Jaipur through video conferencing and trials of the
prototype will take place here. "It may turn out to be as revolutionary
as the invention of the Jaipur foot," says Mehta.

In what could be a major diversification project for the Samiti,
production of low-cost, high quality wheelchairs is also set to begin
soon in collaboration with Whirlwind Wheelchair International, US, a
non-profit organisation.

The initial numbers to be produced, within a year if everything goes on
schedule, are slated to be 500 chairs a month. The Samiti will donate
150 chairs to Iraq through the Joint Iraqi Development and Unity
Foundation which provides chairs for exports.

At present the Samiti procures and donates 100 wheelchairs every month.
Mehta says last year the organisation donated 20,000 limbs compared to
8,800 by an international agency like the Red Cross.

Besides providing the Jaipur foot and wheelchairs, the Samiti caters to
the needs of the handicapped by giving them calipers and hearing aids

As the number of the Samiti's beneficiaries crosses a million mark, a
retired Mehta-who also headed the Securities and Exchange Board of
India- has reason to smile. Having been conferred the Padma Vibhushan on
Republic Day this year, Mehta says "it is crucial for us to move ahead
and tie up with the best in the world to improve upon technology."

He nearly lost a limb in an accident in Jaisalmer decades ago. But that
miraculous escape seems to have become a source of inspiration for him
to do the same for others.

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