Friday, June 20, 2008

I don't mind being called Leprosy Pillai

DNA newspaper in Mumbai carried the following report on 20th June 08. IDF thank Mr. T.K. Unnikrishnan for the special interview. Also our sincere gratitude to the DNA team for their kind and continued support to the humanitarian programmes of IDF.

Close friends of Anandan Ramakrishna (ARK) Pillai lovingly call him ‘Leprosy Pillai’ and Pillai does not mind being called that. He says, “I do not mind. Actually I am happy that when they call me Leprosy Pillai they automatically give a thought to the pathetic condition of the leprosy patients of our country.”

ARK Pillai is a happy and satisfied man now. He is the President of The Indian Leprosy Foundation (ILF) presently renamed as the Indian Development Foundation (IDF) headquartered in Goregaon west, which is celebrating its Silver Jubilee Year of useful existence in the country and secondly Pillai himself has turned 80 this year and is hail and hearty.

Pillai came to Mumbai as any other malyalee hunting for a livelihood. The first job he got was that of a clerk in the Central Railways. And with his hard work and quest to learn more, he could complete his MA, LLB and even a Phd. When Pillai got a plum job in a private ad agency and was living luxuriously, he started feeling mentally guilty as he saw many others living in utter poverty. “The luxurious life style made me feel sick in my mind. I quit my high-paying ad agency job to start ILF in 1983. I actually got attracted to the announcement made by former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in the United Nations that leprosy will be eradicated from the country in the year 2000 under the 20 point programme,” explained Pillai as to how he got interested in helping leprosy patients of the country.

Pillai collected Rs 720 from his well wishers to start ILF which has now a corpus fund of over Rs1 crore. Recently the IDF received donations of 500 pounds from Polesworth International Language College of UK and 700 US dollars from St. Pius School of US. “ILF became IDF in 2005 as the leprosy elimination programme bore fruit and the number of leprosy patients of the country shrunk to about 60,000 from 40 lakh in 1982,” says Dr Narayan B Iyer, National Cordinator of IDF. “IDF aims at rural development making available basic education, health and development facilities through their Project Goodness Programme,” adds Iyer.

IDF has 15 Gurukuls (schools) and 100 associate leprosy hospitals and projects to take their goal to the masses. IDF has recently joined WHO’s ‘Stop TB Partnership’ working for creating awareness and making available counselling and medicines free to the needy patients. Explaining the urgent need to rope in NGOs and private practitioners into TB Control Programme, IDF Trustee Secretary C N N Nair said, “Rough estimates show that there are about 14 million TB cases in India and about 1000 patients die of TB everyday. The annual loss to the exchequer is roughly Rs 12,000 crore.” Nair added,“TB is completely curable and the medicines are available free from the government run hospitals.”. With generous support flowing from philanthropic persons and organisations, Pillai is sure that IDF would definitely live up to the expectations and would become a role model to the country’s NGOs.

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