Government to review programme for control of blindness

Bangalore: The National Programme for Control of Blindness (NPCB) will be reviewed to check its implementation and progress, union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan has said.

NPCB was launched in 1976 as a fully funded scheme of the Centre to reduce the prevalence of blindness in the country.

"Though it has been 28 years since the launch of the programme, the rate has not shown much appreciable difference even today," Vardhan said speaking at an event here Thursday.

India has the largest burden of global blindness -about 3.5 million with 30,000 new cases being added each year.

Vardhan said that funds earmarked for NPCB for the 12th Plan period (2012-17) need to be utilised optimally and that he will raise the matter with the state governments.

The minister emphasised the need of eye donation and said the government will be working with NGOs in promoting the concept of eye donation.

"There are many lapses on the part of both the donors' families and the eye banks in implementing the wishes of a donor. Often the bereaved family members forget to call the eye banks so that the cornea is taken away swiftly. At other times, the collectors fail to turn up on time," he said.

Only about 35,000 corneas are collected in India each year whereas 150,000 are needed to combat corneal blindness.

The minister appreciated the work done by the alliance of ophthalmologists, social workers, faith-based organisations and ordinary citizens in fighting the scourge of blindness in Bangalore.

In Karnataka, the prevalence of blindness is 13 percent, markedly above the national average of eight percent.

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