BHUBANESWAR: How many times can a government launch one scheme? If communications issued by the state government are to be believed, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s flagship universal eye health programme Sunetra has been launched at least four times in the last two years.
Claiming that Odisha is the first State in the country to have formulated the universal eye health programme to provide comprehensive eye care to all and keep people protected from avoidable vision-related complications, the Chief Minister first launched the scheme on October 12, 2017 on the occasion of World Sight Day.
The Government had then planned to spend Rs682 crore in five years and set the target for complete eradication of cataract and establish vision care centres at the CHC level in all districts by 2022.
It was also announced to provide free treatment for diabetes retinopathy and serious eye problems, including glaucoma and free spectacles for children for refractory error and other eye complications.
Six months after the launch of first programme, the Chief Minister again launched the programme along with two other schemes, Nirmal, for promotion of healthy and hygienic atmosphere in hospitals and Sammpurna Suraksha Kabacha for mother and child on April 7, 2018 to mark the World Health Day.
Ahead of the General Elections in 2019, the CM once again started the eye care scheme during the ‘Ama Gaon Ama Bikash’ programme on January 15. While during the first launch in 2017, the State Government had claimed it would provide universal eye care for all by 2022, the target shifted to 2023 at the January launch.
If three launches by the Chief Minister were not enough, Health and Family Welfare Minister Nabakishore Das was not to be left behind. The Minister on Tuesday launched Sunetra programme again with the promise to ensure quality and advanced eye health care for all by 2023 and flagged off mobile vision centres for Khurda, Ganjam, Jharsuguda and Sundargarh districts.
However, despite all the hype and hoopla, the programme is yet to achieve its basic target of maintaining eye health records of people as the digital eye health system has still not been made operational in all districts.
The virtual skill centre, which was to be inaugurated in October last year for imparting skills to all ophthalmic and para-ophthalmic personnel including optical dispensing and support personnel, is yet to be opened.
October 12, 2017: Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik launched the universal eye health scheme to mark the World Sight Day
April 7, 2018: The Chief Minister again started the scheme along with Nirmal and SAMMPurNa Suraksha Kabacha on the occasion of World Health Day
January 15, 2019: The CM once again launched the scheme during the State’s flagship ‘Ama Gaon Ama Bikash’ programme
October 22, 2019: Health and Family Welfare Minister Nabakishore Das launched the programme again and flagged off mobile vision centres