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Report No. 256

C. The Prevalence of Leprosy

2.3.1 To this day, Leprosy continues to be the most dreaded of all diseases (with the possible and recent exception of AIDS).31 As of 2014, India accounts for 58% of the new Leprosy cases in the world, leading the list of countries that have reported high figures of Leprosy infection globally.32 As per the 1985 records of the WHO, India had estimated 7,30,540 of its citizens to be affected by Leprosy.

However after the introduction of MDT in the same year, the government was able to reduce the overall rate of Leprosy to 1 new case per 10,000 population by December 2005, by means of door to door surveys and other drives initiated for the purpose of administering MDT. This reduction in the overall rate marked the elimination of Leprosy as a public health issue in India.

31. Navin Chawla (n 7).

32. Annual Report of the International Federation of Anti-Leprosy Associations (2012 - 2013), available at
accessed on 24th January, 2014.

2.3.2 However, once the declaration of the elimination of Leprosy as a public health issue was made, the vertical health programme of Leprosy was merged into the general healthcare system of the country. This transition did not happen as smoothly and in as well-planned a manner as it should have, leading to gaps in service delivery including the detection of Leprosy, which continue to exist till today.

In addition, from 2005 onwards there was an increase in the incidence of Leprosy in India, on account of the shift in public health priorities from Leprosy to AIDS and cancer. Thus, from 2005 till 2014, the National Leprosy Eradication Programme (NLEP) of the Government of India has been recording a rate of 1.25 to 1.35 lakh new cases every year.33 During 2013-2014 alone, 1.27 lakh new cases of Leprosy were detected in India.34

A major portion of these new cases of Leprosy in India are of children, who face the threat of isolation and discrimination at a very young age. An estimated number of 850 Leprosy colonies are currently operating in India and housing Persons affected by Leprosy that have been otherwise segregated from the public.35

33. NLEP - Progress Report for the year 2013-14, Central Leprosy Division, Directorate General of Health Services, available at
accessed on 24th January, 2014.

34. 24th January, 2014.

35. NLEP - Progress Report (n 33).

2.3.3 Therefore, after a sharp decline till 2005, the detection or incidence of Leprosy has not shown much improvement. It is however pertinent to mention that the recent draft of the National Health Policy, 2015 endeavours to carry on the efforts of the Government to fully eliminate Leprosy in India through an integrated approach towards "communicable diseases". This however does not extend to repealing discriminatory legislation and introducing new protective legislation which is the subject matter of this Report.

Eliminating Discrimination against Persons affected by Leprosy Back

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