Prof. B.R.Shamanna, Professor at the School of Medical Sciences, UoH, was invited as a reviewer of the programme in Varanasi district by the implementation agency Sri Sadguru Seva Sangh Trust, Chitrakoot, MP and the Commissioner of Varanasi district entitled “Swasth Drishti Samriddh Kashi” initiative. This is a flagship programme under the constituency of the Honourable Prime Minister who is the MP of the constituency.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched “Swasth Drishti Samriddh Kashi (Healthy Vision, Prosperous Kashi)” initiative for those facing the challenge of cataract in Varanasi early in 2023. The aim of the programme is to ensure proper treatment and comprehensive eye care for persons over the age of 50 in Varanasi district. This is in line with the Government of India’s “Rashtriya Netra Jyothi Abhiyan” under the National Programme for Control of Blindness and Visual impairment. This programme involves providing door-to-door facilities for the convenience of the people at their home so that eye care should reach every needy and target those people above 50 years of age for screening and cataract surgery as case of need and free eye check-up for the elderly.

The backbone of this initiative capacitates the ASHA and Anganwadi workers with training for identification, referral for correction and surgery on a campaign mode. Cataract surgeries are performed absolutely free of cost at state of art operation theatres in SNC, Chitrakoot, MP. Medicines and spectacles are also provided free of cost through this initiative to the needy and all records are digitised for facilitating follow up and assessment of impact on quality of vision and life in future.

During the review, since the launch in early 2023, a total of 5,345 ASHA and Anganwadi workers were trained, 4.5 lakhs people above 50 years in the district were screened, 25,342 spectacles were prescribed and given. Out of 10,345 people identified to undergo cataract surgery, already 2,500 surgeries were performed with the remaining surgeries scheduled to be completed by November 2023.

The review found that the uniqueness of this approach is the capacity to be scaled and scoped to other districts and nationally on a mission mode with a team approach, especially field functionaries, and the cycle of care from screening-identification-treatment and follow up using technology for data capture and documentation. This would very soon convert Varanasi as a Cataract blindness backlog free district.

The School of Medical Sciences and the University of Hyderabad is fortunate to be part of the review.