The setting for the celebration of a significant milestone of a service meant to serve patients in the deep interiors of the country was most appropriate. The valedictory function of the 50th surgical camp by the Mobile Eye Surgical Unit (MESU) was not being held in an auditorium/ hotel in the city but at a simple highway motel on the tiny hamlet of Sappanipatti, on the Krishnagiri – Salem highway in the State of Tamil Nadu. The highway and tiny hamlets after all had become their home away from home for the MESU team and crossing milestones on the road everyday on the way to setting new ‘Milestones’ in vision revival and blindness prevention in remote regions of the country had become their noble quest for the past 6 years. ‘Swami’s Cafe’ the venue of the event, provided pro bono by Shri KM.Swaminathan, friend and well wisher of Sankara Nethralaya and a prominent personality of the locality, was milling with jubilant, happy beneficiaries who had got back their vision, right from the morning, they had assembled in large numbers to see and thank the noble souls who had brought the light of vision back into their lives.
Among the earliest to arrive at the venue Dr SS.Badrinath, Chairman Emeritus, Sankara Nethralaya got the event started on an impromptu note even before it began formally. He engaged in a friendly interaction with the villagers assembled, explaining to them in simple terms the ‘why’, ‘what’ and ‘how’ of MESU, he thanked them for their faith in Sankara Nethralaya which made them turn up in good numbers and for the opportunity to serve them. A man to whom quality was everything, he enquired with concern to the beneficiaries if they were happy with everything about the camp or if there was scope for improvement.
The relevance of MESU in combating rural blindness could be gauged by the fact that none other than the Governor of the State, His Excellency Shri Banwarilal Purohit, was presiding over the function as the chief guest and the district collector, senior bureaucrats from the health ministry, a senior official from the District Blindness Prevention Program (DBCP), a Dean and Head of the Department, from the IIT-Madras and Head Human Resource and Corporate Social Responsibility – L&T Technology services, were in attendance, at a function being held not in Chennai but in a village 5 hours away by road from the city.
The program started with an introduction of the illustrious Chief Guest of the day with a highlight of his credentials and roles by Dr PS. Rajesh, Senior Consultant, serving at the MESU and proud recipient of the ‘Mayan Award’ for service to society, from the Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry, for his role in taking eye care to poor patients in remote villages. This was followed by Dr KS.Vasan, Managing Director, declaring that it was a ‘Red letter Day’ for Sankara Nethralaya, he expressed his sincere thanks and extended a most warm welcome to the Chief Guest, the Governor of Tamil Nadu, Shri C.Kathiravan, IAS, Collector, Krishnagiri District, Dr K.Ashok Kumar, Joint Director, Medical and Rural Health Services, Dr.P. Priya Raj, Deputy Director, Health Services, Dr S.Manoharan, Project Officer, District Blindness Prevention Society, Dr Jagdish Kumar, Professor &Dean, Department of Electrical Engineering, IIT-Madras, Sankara Nethralaya’s technical partner in developing the MESU, Shri Paneesh Rao, Chief Human Resource Officer and Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, L&T Technology Services whic was sponsoring the camp and Shri KM.Swaminathan, educationist, philanthropist and a great friend and supporter of Sankara Nethralaya and proprietor of Swami’s Cafe, the venue of the function. Dr Vasan had a special word of praise for Shri KM.Swaminathan for his deep commitment to the camp from day one and for extending support and involving himself with dedication and offering his hotel totally cost free for the function and referred to him as the ‘Host’ of the function. The senior Sankara Nethralaya official followed this with a quick recap of his institution’s inception, growth and achievements, he highlighted its philosophy as laid down by the founder and Chairman Emeritus Dr SS.Badrinath, which governs it to this day and finished his welcome address with sincere thanks to the beneficiaries of the 50th MESU camp who had given Sankara Nethralaya an opportunity to serve them.
Starting the Chief Guest’s address on a highly emotional note that his joy knew no bounds on seeing quality eye care being made available in a remote part of the State, Honourable Governor of the State Shri Banwarilal Purohit went on to highlight how the MESU travelled vast distances, offering uncompromising eye care to landless labourers and other needy people who did not have the financial affordability or access to quality eye care, which he termed as ‘Paropakaram Punyam’ which translates as ‘Helping others is the most meritorious act’ in keeping with the highest Indian tradition. He closed his talk with a high word of praise for Dr SS.Badrinath, the senior state and corporate officials assembled, Sankara Nethralaya and L&T technology services the camp sponsor and expressed his sincere desire to preside over the 100th MESU camp which he hoped would take place soon.
Shri C.Kathiravan, IAS, District collector, Krishnagiri District expressed his gratitude to Sankara Nethralaya and L&T for the invaluable healthcare services to his district following which Dr V.Jagdish Kumar, Dean & HOD, Department of Electrical Engineering, IIT-Madras gave an interesting account of how the MESU was the fruit of labour, of specialists from diverse fields motivated at every stage by Dr SS.Badrimath, the driving force behind the project, he expressed that IIT-Madras was proud to be engaged in offering their technical co-operation and an innovative solution bringing quality eye care to the villages of Tamil Nadu and India.
Dr SS.Badrinath the man whose brainchild and passion the MESU is, spoke with natural felicity and great authority and passion on every aspect of the medico-engineering marvel he had envisioned and made a reality, he touched upon its need, relevance, its impact thus far, its functioning, technical details etc. He had a high word of praise for the MESU team, for maintaining a ‘0’ infection rate, which was a great achievement, considering that the MESU operated in the vast outdoors and for the impeccable record of not having a single case of post operative complication in all its 6 years of operation.
A highlight of the event was the spirited expression of their deep gratitude to Sankara Nethralaya, its founder and the MESU team by the beneficiaries of the MESU camp at Krishnagiri which had brought vision and joy to their doorsteps.
The momentous event ended with a Vote of Thanks by Dr. Gajendra Kumar Varma, Consultant serving at the MESU who had been honoured with the ‘Mayan award’ for ‘Service to Society’ by the Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry for his long and sincere service to patients living in remote regions of the country.