Septuagenarian Chandramukta Jamatiya, a resident of an obscured hill top hamlet Casco, which is situated in Tripura's Gomati district is now a happy man as he can see everything properly after undergoing a cataract operation in his left eye with the Voluntary Health Association of Tripura (VHAT).
Jamatiya used to cultivate vegetables in a strip of land near his house and manufacture handicraft items with bamboo and cane that is available in abundance in the neighbouring forests. His wife is a daily wager, who also used to sell the vegetables produced in their fields along with a few handicraft items (manufactured by her husband) at a small market called Sarbong, situated about two kms from their house.
Suddenly one day, while selling vegetables in the market she heard someone announcing that there would be an eye camp in the next two days, where doctors would examine people's eyes and operate on cataracts if necessary. All costs would be borne by the Voluntary Health Association of Tripura (VHAT).
Two days later, a health camp was actually organised and after routine examinations the doctors and ophthalmologists found that the veteran tribal villager (Jamatiya) was suffering from myopia owing to cataract. Volunteers brought him to the VHAT operated and owned eye hospital near Agartala where he underwent a cataract surgery. After a successful operation Jamatiya was also provided with medicines and spectacles. He now can manufacture handicraft items and vegetables at the Sarbong market.
Jamatiya is not alone as more than 9000 old people, who live in rural, remote and backward areas have undergone successful cataract operations since the inception of this hospital in 2002."Our hospital came into being in 2002 in collaboration with the District Blind Control Scheme (DBCS) of the state. We set up our own hospital building at West Bhubanban village, near Agartala Airport in 2003. Our target group is poverty stricken elderly people, who live in remote and backward areas of the state", said, Dr. Sreelekha Roy, executive director of VHAT.
VHAT has benefitted many a needy person with free eye surgeries and after careIn the year 2019-2020, 18 eye screening camps were organised in different rural areas of the state and around 3000 rural people had received services in the OPD's installed within the camps. About 569 persons have undergone successful cataract operations in the eye hospital. Besides 924 spectacles, medicines including vitamins had been distributed to these people.
Starting its journey in 1988, in the field of health and development with a specific focus on capacity building in terms of health and environment issues, VHAT has gradually expanded its activities and entered into the fields of education, child rights, women empowerment, care and protection of children, livelihood promotion and access to safe drinking water.
However, raising funds is now a big challenge for carrying out the activities, said Sujit Ghosh, assistant director of VHAT. "We are not getting ample funds from the funding agencies. So we now collect funds even from individuals and some of the corporate agencies like ONGC, who donate by way of CSR activities", he added.
After the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, fund constraints reached its peak. "Even as we faced extreme fund crunch we distributed relief materials among the needy people", Ghosh said.
VHAT is just one of the many organisations in the social sector that are reeling under a fund crunch because of the pandemic. It is now to be seen which private organisations and right thinking philanthropists come to their aid. Central and state governments too need to act as a catalyst for re-growth and resurrection.