Jaipur Foot has international role in helping civil conflict victims, say diplomats

By Arul Louis
United Nations, May 16 (IANS) The Jaipur Foot, a marvel of “Gandhian engineering,” has an international role in helping victims of civil strife around the world regain their dignity by restoring mobility, according to diplomats and activists.

D.R. Mehta, the founder of Jaipur Foot, invoked the ancient Indian concept of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakama – “The World is One Family” – and said on Tuesday the affordable prosthetic, as well as its technology and know-how, was available to all the countries.

“It is not technology for India, it is technology for the disabled” of the world, he said.

So far, Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahayata Samiti, the organisation behind the Jaipur Foot has held camps in 29 countries, set up associate permanent centres in five countries including Pakistan and has proposed setting up such centres in five more, he said during a panel discussion here on “50 Years of Jaipur Foot: Lessons Learnt”.

A Jaipur Foot costs only about $70 while a similar prosthetic in the US can run up to $15,000, he said.

A Nigerian immigrant in Connecticut, John Matthew, who had lost a leg in an accident, came to present a personal testimony.

Unable to afford a prosthetic in the US, he was sponsored by a youth affiliate of Jaipur Foot USA to visit Rajasthan and be fitted with one.

Asked by Bangladesh Permanent Representative Masud Bin Momen how his organisation could produce them so cheaply, Mehta said it was because the Jaipur Foot was the “epitome of frugality” based on “Gandhian Engineering of doing the most with the least” utilising locally available materials.

Mehta said that 1.7 million people have received the Jaipur Foot, making it the world’s most widely used prosthetic.

India’s Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin said that the panel discussion on the Jaipur Foot, sponsored by the Indian Mission and the World Health Organisation, was a fitting lead up to next month’s UN Conference on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which seeks to prevent discrimination against them and provide equality of opportunity and acceptance.

Maria Emma Mejia Velez, the Permanent Representative of Colombia, where Jaipur Foot has an associate centre, said there was great need for the mobility aid in her country because a large number of victims of internal conflicts had lost their legs.

She said that there should be international cooperation among countries for helping the disabled and said that working with Jaipur Foot and India was an example of South-South cooperation.

Mauritius Permanent Representative J.D. Koonjul said the Jaipur Foot movement was an excellent template for South-South cooperation and with the North.

The Jaipur Foot affiliate in his country was reaching out to other Indian Ocean countries like Seychelles and had also received European Union assistance, he said.

Mohammed Hussein Mohammed Bahr AlUloom, the Permanent Representative of Iraq, spoke of the scourge of landmines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs), which had maimed a large number of people.

He said that Iraq welcomed Jaipur Foot, which has plans for an affiliated center there.

There were 25 million IEDs and landmines in his country – or one for every Iraqi – and the recently defeated Daesh, or the Islamic State, had added more to them, he said.

Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative Amrith Rohan Perera said that a large number of combatants as well as soldiers had lost their legs during the 30-year civil conflict in his country and asked for Jaipur Foot cooperation to help them.

John Mullen, who has worked with victims of landmines in Mozambique, spoke of how Jaipur Foot invited him to bring along a woman who had lost her leg to a landmine in that country to Rajasthan and fitted her with a prosthetic.

He recounts the woman’s journey to India, and from her tragedy to regaining mobility in a book, “Florecia”.

He found Help One Walk International that is partnering with Jaipur Foot and a Mozambican organisation to set up a prosthetic clinic in Mozambique which has 10,000 victims of landmines, according to him.

(Arul Louis can be reached at [email protected])

–IANS
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