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  • Writer's pictureJaaikaran Chanana

Leprosy: The Unknown Disease that Split a Nation

Updated: Mar 6, 2023

The Leprosy Mission Trust India:

Sasakawa-India Leprosy Foundation:

According to the World Health organization, Leprosy or Hansen’s disease is a chronic infectious disease that is caused by Mycobacterium leprae, a bacillus that multiplies slowly over a period that can range from a year to 20 years. It is transmitted through oral and nasal droplets during close contacts with untreated cases. According to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the prevalence of this disease should not be underestimated as 2 to 3 million people live with leprosy globally. Out of the estimated 128,000 cases in 2020, over half of these were in India, a collectivist society where families are at the heart of everyday life. This results in the ostracization of individuals from their families.

The result of ostracization can have a profound impact on individuals as they are left homeless, jobless and without the essentials of life: food, water, shelter, safety, and human interaction. People who may not have specific knowledge about Indian society and culture may ask why are they ostracized? Why can’t they just buy the cures? To answer these questions, we would need to delve deeper into the religious indoctrination that Indians experience since the day that they are born. Many believe that the people contract the disease due to their misdemeanors in their previous life along with the negativity in their atman, their poor execution and lack of dedication of their dharma or duty. Furthermore, some are of the belief that interacting and associating with people infected with the disease has negative effects on their atman and dharma. Unfortunately, the Indian government echoes these sentiments and has 121 laws against people infected with leprosy.

After hearing about these laws, I was deeply moved to find a way to help people with leprosy as I could empathize with them but for a different reason: I was ostracized by members of the Indian community as I had ADHD. Thus, I contacted leper homes in New Delhi where I now donate food, water, and blankets to families in need. This occurs on a weekly basis as I believe that helping others should be a consistent behavior rather than a solitary occurrence.

I hope you will echo my sentiments and understand why education will be the only source of fundamental change. As Pep Guardiola once said: “If you change the way you look at things the things you look at change.”

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