Karnataka to help heal leprosy with folk art

October 25th, 2008 - 10:42 am ICT by IANS  

Bangalore, Oct 25 (IANS) The healing power of music is well known, and Karnataka intends to do just that by using popular folk art to spread awareness about leprosy and make the state free of the disease that still carries social stigma.On Nov 1, the state will launch the new initiative to help eradicate leprosy in the region. On this day in 1956, Karnataka was formed by incorporating Kannada-speaking areas from neighbouring states.

“People of the state have traditionally been inclined towards art and culture. Hence, we have decided to use the powerful tool of folk art to educate people on the sensitive issue of leprosy,” H.V. Krishnamurthy, regional deputy director of song and drama division, told IANS.

He said that removing the stigma attached to leprosy was a “huge task”.

Since the laws to end discrimination against leprosy patients are not making much impact, the state will use popular folk art forms to spread the message that leprosy is curable and the disease can be eradicated.

Yakshagana, a form of dance drama with colourful costumes, Krishna Parijata, a folk theatre form devoted to Hindu god Krishna, Togalu Bombeyaata puppetry, Bhootha Aradhane, or worship of the spirits, will all be used to entertain and educate people on ways to treat leprosy patients and how to prevent the spread of the disease.

There will also be magic shows, street plays and folk songs.

Around 35 cultural troupes attended a daylong workshop here recently on various aspects of leprosy and on the message to be conveyed to the people about the disease.

“The purpose of the workshop was to train and orient the artists about leprosy and help them incorporate various aspects of the disease in their respective art forms. These artists through their art forms will reach the rural masses in Karnataka and help educate them about leprosy,” Krishnamurthy added.

The workshop was organised by the song and drama division of the ministry of information and broadcasting in association with the Karnataka State Health and Family Welfare Society (leprosy division).

To begin with, the troupes will stage around 300 shows in Bellary, Chamarajanagar, Koppal, Raichur, Bidar, Gadag, Dharwad, Haveri, Uttara Kannada, Gulbarga, Mysore, Davanagere and Bagalkot districts. The programme will later cover the remaining 17 districts.

G. Shivaram, surveillance officer of the Karnataka State Health and Family Welfare Society (leprosy division), said the artists were trained in the workshop to communicate to the rural audience about early detection and treatment of leprosy.

“Though the disease is completely curable, there is a social stigma attached to it. This message can be spread in an effective manner through the medium of song, dance and other art forms,” Shivaram said.

The 75 artistes participating in the programme are preparing packages on the theme with the help from experts from song and drama division.

Karnataka initiated leprosy eradication measures, along with the rest of the country, under the National Leprosy Eradication Programme (NLEP) in 1954-55. The main thrust of NLEP was early detection and sustained and regular treatment of all patients. But as the treatment was long, it became irregular, resulting in the disease developing drug resistance.

However, after the inception of Multi-Drug Treatment (MDT), the prevalence rate in Karnataka has come down sharply from 50 per 10,000 people in 1986 to one per 10,000 in 2007, according to health department figures.

Sixty-four percent of all new leprosy cases registered worldwide are from India, according to an estimate of the World Health Organisation.

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