Celebration and Felicitating the Lokdoots...

Leprosy was a subject that wzome, but, I shall be very happy if you invite me to close it.

This national meeting, planned by the International Leprosy Union and Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti, and supported by the Nippon Foundation, Japan, was an event meant to reiterate the commitment towards the elimination of Leprosy from India by the end of the year 2005. The venue chosen was also very appropriate for this programme - Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti, New Delhi, on 27th January, 2005.

It was an interesting gathering of over 100 lokdoots from different states in India- namely, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, New Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Orissa, and Tamilnadu, This was possibily the first effort of its kind. This was an opportunity to felicitate the heroes who have conquered leprosy, and, 36 of them were felicitated during this occasion. Former President of India, Hon'ble Shri. R. Venkataraman was the guest of honor, at the occasion, Dr.Salim Habayeb, WHO representative to India, was the chief guest . Other dignitaries' were- Dr. K. D. Gangrade, Vice Chairman, Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti, Shri. B.G.Deshmukh, President,CASP, Mr. Bharat Kothadiya, for his dedicated service in the leprosy field for over 15 years, & Dr. P. K. Gopal, President, IDEA India, were felicitated with the ILU award.

`Publication of the "THE LAST MILE" Prof. Ujjwal Choudhary, Media Consultant, ICONS, and his team members, Sonali Advani and Sneha Walke, are the content writers of this issue and have published these issues.

The first issue was released in Hindi and English during the programme held at Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti, at New Delhi on 27 January, 2005, THE LAST MILE second in Hindi and English at the Human Rights meeting on 18/ 19 March2005 at Pune, the third at the Kolkata consultation on 13/ 14 May 2005 in Bengali; and the fourth has been released in ' French' at the UN sub- commission meet at Geneva on August 4, 2005. Simultaneously, a book ' Dignity Regained' containing stories of people who have battled leprosy was released at the Geneva meet.

A special edition of the Last Mile was circulated in the city of Pune, in Marathi in 2005. The Seventh & last issue of 'The Last Mile' was released during the issuance of the Global Appeal by Mr. Yohei Sasakawa in New Delhi on 29th Jan.'06. Copies were also distributed during the Human Rights workshop at Delhi & Jamshedpur and at the M.P.W. and consultation in Ranchi. President message

The leprosy scenario in India and several parts of the world is going through a sea change both in qualitative and quantitative terms. Leprosy workers everywhere are redefining their roles and redirecting their efforts to newer areas in leprosy hitherto neglected. The challenge facing them is not inconsiderable.

For several years the International Leprosy Union has been playing a very important role in the fight against leprosy everywhere. In recent years it has been pioneering important initiatives in the areas of media support for leprosy work, community participation, and empowerment of leprosy affected persons. In this connection ILU's collaboration with the Nippon Foundation and Sasakawa Memorial Health Foundation have been very productive. ILU's role in leprosy elimination, human rights and rehabilitation issues is vital to the final goal of seeing a world without leprosy. For this it deserves all the support and encouragement from everyone interested in the cause of leprosy.

President, ILU