Where can we trace the starting of a river? At the spring or underground?
So it is with Lok Seva Sangam (LSS): it was registered on the 5th February 1976, but our work for leprosy control was going also before that date. Sr. Luigina Marchesi had a long experience of leprosy control in Vegavaram (Eluru, Andhra Pradesh), where she started a 100-bed leprosy hospital. Fr. Carlo Torriani had done the first systematic leprosy survey in Mumbai at Janata Colony, Mankhurd, in 1973.
When the Government of Maharashtra decided to coordinate the work of the different NGOs, the M and L wards (Chembur and Kurla) had been allotted to LSS, and we started submitting a monthly report of our work to the medical authorities. LSS since the beginning undestood that leprosy patients suffer more from their segregation due to the stigma than from the disease itself.
So, our motto was and is: “TO CURE LEPROSY WITHOUT SEGREGATION”.
Therefore it is not by chance that the word leprosy does not appear in our name. Our survey of population is to detect skin diseases. Our dispensaries are dermatological clinics. Our kindergartens are for all children. When we started in 1976, we could already say: “Leprosy is curable”. Since the fifties, in fact, Dapsone was the only effective cure for leprosy. And after Rifampicin was discovered, LSS was the first to use it systematically in Mumbai.
To undertand how for the first time in history we can claim success against leprosy – the scourge that has been present since biblical times – it is enough to say that in the eighties LSS was having in its register more than 4,000 names of leprosy patients in a population of one million; at the beginning of 2007 we were having only 219. Since the beginning of our activity we treated almost 28,000 people and we cured approx.21,000 of them.
Because of the success of the anti-leprosy campaign all over the country, the Government had taken responsibility to integrate the cure of leprosy in the national health program and had requested NGOs like LSS to take up the challenge of tuberculosis. This is why now LSS acts on both fronts.