The Magic of Social Enterprise
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
A social entrepreneur’s record of bringing quality vision care to the poor and underprivileged, especially in rural India, and the phenomenal work done by his team with the support of local communities is an inspiring healthcare model.
It is easy to get overwhelmed, even depressed, by statistics that tell a dark tale about India’s millions living miserable lives. Rural India has been left far behind in India’s story of growth and development, oft trumpeted from international platforms. Undoubtedly, urban India rules the roost; the importance of activism that can electrify the urban middle-class was driven home by Anna Hazare recently during the Lokpal Bill saga.
But while the brave talk vis-à-vis corruption is still very much at the theory stage, there are many real, and unsung, initiatives happening at the ground level across the country. One of these pertains to the Sankara Eye Care Institutions headquartered in Coimbatore and run by its founder and managing trustee, Dr R.V. Ramani.
The objective of this social entrepreneur’s 35-year honorary service is to bring quality vision care to the poor and underprivileged, especially in rural India. The phenomenal work done by his team of doctors, with the supporting zeal and commitment of the local communities, has resulted in the screening of millions of people in rural India, over 10,000 weekends, for eye ailments or vision defects.
These doctors perform 500 free eye surgeries a day, 70 per cent of which are cataracts, at its various hospitals, including 200 a day at the headquarters in Coimbatore. From 1990 onwards, 9 lakh free operations have been done by the Sankara hospitals, which were set up at the behest of the Kanchi Kamakoti Mutt’s Sankaracharya. The first of the Sankara eye hospitals was set up in Coimbatore in 1977, a year before the famous Sankara Nethralaya in Chennai. “But because we are not in a metro like Chennai or Delhi and only in a ’mofussil’ area like Coimbatore, nobody talks about us”, says the quiet and genial doctor.