Laughter and the sound of little children teasing each other welcome you as you enter 3rd street, Balaramapuram, SIDCO Nagar.
The government had helped the people here with jobs around two years ago. But the residents say that today, such jobs are no more a benefit they can enjoy. “Most of those who are employed are either plumbers or drivers or sweepers – none provided by the government. We have also been fighting for patta for this land for the past 35 years,” said A Prakasam, president of the Balaramapuram Leprosy Colony Association and a resident of the colony. “Around 10 per cent continues to beg, as they need some means for survival.”
Most of the houses in the colony were executed by Fr Gerard, a caregiver. “No women in our colony suffer from leprosy, but they have their own share of problems. More than half of the 68 families here have widows, after their husbands succumbed to the disease. They survive mostly on the pension of their deceased spouses. The government has been providing each family with Rs 1,500 a month but some of the colonies in the State have not received this for the past few months,” he said.
Lourde Mary (50) lost her husband seven years ago after he developed severe jaundice. “I am dependent my husband’s pension and the ration of other people who are generous enough to help me. Without this, I am not sure how I will manage,” she said.
The colony has a few who have not been diagnosed with leprosy, but have still opted to live here. “They have no qualms about the disease as they know it’s not a problem,” said a resident.
Dr Renuka Ramakrishnan, a leprologist, caregiver and mother to these persons who have been suffering from leprosy, said, “Unless we get rid of each aspect pertaining to the stigma, we cannot say there has been a complete progress. Referring to the colony as ‘Leprosy’ Colony even after so many years is the biggest blot to our fight against the stigma.”
Leprosy is curable
- Leprosy is a chronic, progressive infection caused by Mycobacterium leprae
- It is curable, not hereditary and does not spread by touch or through air
- It does not cause body parts to fall off
- It affects nerves of the extremities, skin, nose lining and upper respiratory tract; causes skin ulcers, nerve damage and muscle weakness
- The result is a loss of sensation in these areas, putting a person at much greater risk of injury as they cannot feel pain
- Those affected tend to lose the ability to blink, move their fingers or grasp objects