The President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee presented the International Gandhi Award for the year 2013 to Dr. Vijaykumar Vinayak Dongre and Prof. Guocheng Zhang for making outstanding contribution in the field of leprosy on February 15, 2014 at Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi.
Speaking on the occasion, the President said that the need of the hour is to intensify our efforts towards early detection of leprosy cases, provide equitable access to appropriate treatment and provide integrated leprosy services in the geographically focused areas. Over the years, the scourge of leprosy has remained a blot on humanity. More than the medical condition, the social stigma attached to the disease is a cause for concern. He stated that there is a need to empower those who have been socially discriminated an account of leprosy, through advocacy and information dissemination. Social challenges for leprosy do persist, but at the same time, it is heartening to note that the United Nations has now passed a resolution on discrimination against people affected by leprosy and efforts are being made to repeal laws that prevent people affected by leprosy from participating in society.
The President extended his heartiest congratulations to the recipients of the International Gandhi Award for Leprosy– Prof. Guocheng Zhang and Dr. V. V. Dongre who have both dedicated several decades of their lives to eradicating leprosy through treatment, training and research.
The President said that the latest World Health Organization Expert Committee has set the challenge to reduce the rate of new patients with disability due to leprosy to one in a million by 2020. This challenge can be met only through a multi – dimensional and integrated approach. He urged all stakeholders to come together and make concerted efforts for the total eradication of leprosy. He also wished the Gandhi Memorial Leprosy Foundation and all those involved in this noble mission all success in their endeavors.
The International Gandhi Award was instituted by the Gandhi Memorial Leprosy Foundation to commemorate Mahatma Gandhi’s service and scientific approach towards leprosy. The two awards are given every alternate year to individuals/institutions for making outstanding contribution in the field of leprosy.