Eye bank in Jammu still on waiting list

Only eye bank in the region lacks provision and infrastructure for vision restoration

JAMMU: The only Eye Bank of the Jammu region, established in the Government Medical College, Bakshi Nagar, on the directions of the High Court, is yet to be operational. The J&K Medical Supplies Corporation Ltd is allegedly delaying the procurement of equipment required for it to be functional in restoring the vision of thousands.

The GMC authorities claim to have completed some of the work regarding the Eye Bank, for instance, the establishment of infrastructure and recruitment of staff have been done. Now, they are waiting for J&K Medical Supplies Corporation Ltd to provide them with drugs, surgical items, and other required material, for which the funds were transferred to the agency several months ago.

The state of Jammu and Kashmir has a population of 66,448 people, who are visually challenged, out of a total headcount of 1.25 Crores, as per the Census 2011. The process of corneal transplantation from donated eyes can benefit most of the people in vision restoration, and help them to see the world. But the casual approach of the concerned authorities, deprives them of their right to sight, while it is also a failure to comply with the High Court order.

Eye Bank in GMC Jammu was approved about three years ago, but it got the license for the cornea transplant in February 2018. It has conducted six cornea transplantations since then, for which the eyes were brought from Hyderabad. The authorities can't bear that cost again, so the process has been abandoned. Eye Bank in GMC Srinagar was made operational in 2017, and it conducts regular vision restoration process in the Valley.

In the absence of proper facilities in the state, people are left with no choice but to travel to other states or even foreign countries, to seek vision restoration through corneal transplant, if they can afford. The poor people of the state are forced to live without sight for their entire lives. For the eye banks, being informed and reaching in time is crucial. Hence, outstation eye banks do not serve the purpose for interested eye donators of the state, since the eye or particularly the cornea has to be removed from the dead body within six hours.

A number of PILs have been filed in the High Court time and again, seeking the establishment of eye banks, all of them emphasizing that the huge blind population has absolutely no medical facility in the state. Taking note of the issue, in 2012, the then state government was directed by the HC to establish eye banks - in GMC Jammu and GMC Srinagar. The govt. had released a total fund of Rs. 130.95 Lakhs for the purpose of setting up an eye bank at the GMC Jammu. The lone eye bank in the region has been crying for several years, to get proper infrastructure and provisions for serving its purpose of restoring vision.

"Our department and various NGO's run campaigns to make people undertake the noble service of donating eyes. As a result, more than 2000 people have shown interest in donating their eyes and have registered with us. But the lack of infrastructure here does not help such volunteers and prospective beneficiaries," said a doctor in the Ophthalmology Department, GMC Jammu.

The state govt. should open their eyes and immediately take cognizance of the delay. It should responsibly work towards such a matter of public interest.


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Harry Walia