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RSS, Sewa Bharti played active role in polio eradication prog: Vardhan

twitter-logo PTI        Last Updated: October 31, 2019  | 22:21 IST

(Eds: With additional inputs) New Delhi, Oct 31 (PTI) Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Thursday credited the RSS and the Sewa Bharti for playing an active role in the polio eradication programme, saying their cadres worked behind the scenes but did not publicise their efforts. Presiding over the silver jubilee celebrations of the Pulse Polio Programme, he recalled the contribution and support of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in the eradication of polio from the country. BJP working president J P Nadda was the chief guest at the programme. Vardhan also lauded the role of the then Congress MLAs for the making the anti-polio campaign successful in the national capital between 1994 and 1998. He said there was a spurt in cases of polio in 2002 in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and a senior WHO official sent letters to nearly 200 RSS leaders on the subject seeking their active involvement.  Vardhan had then made a 45-minute presentation to top RSS leaders and pracharaks at Karnavati in Ahmedabad.  RSS chief K Sudarshan subsequently toured the states and asked the cadres to help the programme after which awareness efforts began at the level of RSS shakhas, he recalled. "Very few people know that starting with the top leadership of the RSS to the grass-root workers, the entire organisation played a crucial role in the polio eradication programme. The RSS and Sewa Bharti did not publicise. "Their cadres worked behind the scenes and formed a kind of backbone of the programme," Vardhan said as he launched the Intensified Mission Indradhanush 2.0', with a special focus on improving coverage in areas with "low" immunisation, on the occasion. He also fondly remembered L K Advani saying he made it a high-profile agenda within the party and even spoke to BJP chief ministers and health ministers to extend support to the campaign. Recalling how Atal Bihari Vajpayee had referred to him as 'Swasthya Vardhan' (health giver), Vardhan said the former prime minister took personal interest and held many meetings including some with top campaigners of the world, from the WHO, UNICEF or Rotary, inspiring the workers.  Vardhan started the pulse polio campaign in Delhi 1994 and by the next year it turned into nationwide movement. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared India a polio free country on March 27, 2014. Reminiscing the 25-year-old journey of the campaign, Vardhan thanked all the partners and stakeholders of the programme. "I laud the efforts of community and religious leaders who joined hands as advocates of this mission. I cheer for the efforts of the nation's youth ambassadors, celebrities and sportsmen who supported in building the campaign. I salute the stalwarts of our country, our ASHA workers, ANMs, Anganwadi workers (AWW) who ensured all doors were knocked. "I commend the uncompromised commitment and zeal of our state governments, civil society organisations, professional bodies like IMA, IAP, partners such as WHO, Rotary International and UNICEF and most importantly the support of citizens of our country," he said. He added that lessons from the polio campaign have further provided guidance for roll out of Mission Indradhanush and called upon all states, volunteers, partners, NGOs and other stakeholders to once again come forward and join hands to save every child from vaccine preventable diseases like they did for making India polio free. Nadda congratulated Vardhan for spearheading a campaign of such a magnitude for polio eradication and said the surveillance mechanism is so robust that despite around 50,000 people from Pakistan and Afghanistan (which are not polio-free) travelling to India every year, the government has ensured that there is not a single case of polio. He also mentioned the success stories of how Nipah, Zika and Ebola virus infections were contained because of the strong robust surveillance and detection mechanism. Through 'IMI 2.0' launched on Thursday, the health ministry aims to reach each and every child below the age of two years and all pregnant women still uncovered or partially covered in 271 districts of the country and 652 blocks of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The current national full immunisation coverage rate stands at 87 per cent. According to government data, 260 lakh children are born every year and an estimated 31 lakh out of them would not receive complete rounds of vaccination in the first year of their life due to various reasons. These 271 districts and 652 blocks in UP and Bihar which have been identified as low immunisation coverage pockets. We aim to target every child below the age of two years and pregnant women left uncovered under the existing immunisation programme in these areas, a senior official said. IMI 2.0 will include four rounds of vaccination, with each round involving a seven-day immunisation drive to be conducted each month from December 2 onwards.  "As the health systems are robust and surveillance system of the country is very strong, I am very confident that Harsh Vardhan and his ministry will achieve the full immunisation coverage targets," Nadda said. PTI PLB ZMN

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