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Jaipur Foot : The real story[continued]

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Prompted by Mahavir:

He recalled that experience later. He was back in service and risen to be Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Hardeo Joshi. 1975 was the 2,500th birth year of Mahavira, the founder of Jainism, which the Indian government wanted all states to celebrate fittingly. Leaping over obvious token gestures, D R Mehta suggested rescuing the Jaipur foot from its neglect and delivering it to the needy.

"Where will we do it?" asked the Chief Minister. "We have no funds for building and stuff." Mehta suggested using ramshackle ambulance garages of SMS Hospital. His proposal was accepted. The Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahayata Samiti [BMVSS] was born in 1975. Masterji was delighted to be back in active mode.

Technology by itself cannot bring about change, however elegant it may be. The Jaipur foot was no doubt a technical winner but what made it lie unavailable to the needy? There were no processes to manage its delivery in thousands.

"The first thing I wanted changed was the approach to visitors," says Mehta. "It had to become human". It was common for the maimed to arrive at SMS Hospital and be made to wait for days for mere registration. "These are usually poorest of the poor who lose their limbs in the course of daily labours for employers who took no responsibility. They arrived penniless, starved and were without shelter as they waited for days in hope of being fitted with a limb," he says.

When BMVSS began operations, the first practice he put in place was that registration must be done on arrival, round the clock. Then the patient is given food and a bed. He and a caretaker are hosted till his limb is custom fitted. And she walks out upright in dignity, with return fare in hand. No fees of any kind is ever collected. The whole service is free.

Amputees waiting in wards quicken the craftsmen, many of whom wear the Jaipur foot themselves. There is an ordered assembly line approach to fabrication. Amputee's stump is covered with a knitted sock and a plaster of paris mould is made. From this socket a plug is made which is an exact replica of the limb. High Density Polyethylene Pipe [HDPE] is warmed and stretched over the plug. A vulcanised rubber foot is attached and suitable straps are provided to fasten the limb to the body. Most of the time, fitment is on the same day and comfort with using it is achieved in hours.

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