Friday, March 11, 2011

Jakhar raises issue of children blinded by polluted water

Chandigarh, Indian Express, Page 5, 11 March 2011
THE reference of a restaurant in Zurich, run by visually impaired people, came up during the Zero Hour on Thursday, as the issue of children from Fazilka who lost their eyes due to use of polluted water was raised by Congress MLA Sunil Jakhar.

Talking about the children in Dona Nanla village of Fazilka, Jakhar said they came to a television studio in Chandigarh on Wednesday and narrated their stories of how they were blinded by the polluted water in the Chand Bhan drain. He said the drain flowing from Muktsar had pollutants in its water, discharged by Setia Paper Mill that never used its anti-pollution plant.

He added: "There is a restaurant run by the blind in Zurich by the name Blindecuha. The building was given to these people by the local church. The restaurant is expensive and those who want to have food there, need to book a table two months in advance. The person at the reception is 90 per cent blind and can only make out whether it is day or night. The waiters are totally blind and so are the chefs, who are assisted by `normal' volunteers. T o be a volunteer, too, also one has to wait for six months."

Stating that by running this restaurant these people want to make one feel what difficulties a visually impaired person faces in life, Jakhar said: "They take you to a totally dark room and are asked beforehand to remove all glittering items they are wearing. Food is served in the same room, making the diners experience their pain."

Presenting a contrast, he said: "For National Programme for Control of Blindness, under the National Rural Health Mission (NHRM), the state government got Rs 6.91 crore in 2010-11 and Rs 2.86 crore in 2009-10, but it did not spent a single penny. In 2008-09, it had got Rs 1.86 crore and spent only Rs 85 lakh, while in 200708, it received Rs 3.2 crore and spent only Rs 79 lakh," he added.

On this, Health Minister Laxmi Kanta Chawla said: "During Congress tenure too, money under this scheme was not utilised. Tell us your figures." On the other hand, Chief Minister Parkash Sngh Badal said: "We are cleaning the rivers and a fund of Rs 2,100 crore has been sanctioned by the Centre for Sutlej Action Plan.

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