Bringing it in line with the WHO criteria, India has changed its over four- decade-old definition of blindness, and according to the new definition, a person who is unable to count fingers from a distance of three metres would be considered "blind" as against six metres, in the previous definition, which was adopted in 1976.
Notification issued by the ministry
The notification in this regard has been issued by the Union Health Ministry. Now, in accordance with the new definition, the population of blind people in India will reduce to 80 lakh from 1.20 crore, which was mentioned as per National Blindness survey 2007 data. The objective behind revising the definition is to generate data which can be compared with global estimates besides achieving the WHO goal of reducing the blindness prevalence of India to 0.3 per cent of the total population by 2020.
Projecting a higher figure of blind people from India
"Because of the earlier definition, we were projecting a higher figure of blind people from India at any international forum, presenting ourselves in poor light. "Also, the data that we generated under the programme could not be compared with the global estimates as other countries were following the WHO definition," said Dr Promila Gupta, Deputy Director General of National Programme for Control of Blindness (NPCB).
With previous definition, it was difficult to achieve WHO’s goal
To achieve the elimination of avoidable blindness WHO has recommended reducing the prevalence of blindness to 0.3 per cent by 2020 and India has to achieve the goal. "It would have been extremely difficult to achieve the WHO goal using the earlier NPCB definition since we had been addressing an extra 4 million (40 lakh) individuals blind due to refractive errors. Whereas, by adopting the blindness criteria of WHO, India now can achieve the goal," said Professor Praveen Vashist, in-charge Community Ophthalmology at Dr R P Centre for Ophthalmic Sciences, AIIMS.
Name of the scheme has also been changed
The name of the scheme, 'National Programme for Control of Blindness' has also been changed to 'The National Programme for Control of Blindness and Visual Impairment'. "The programme, henceforth, will not only focus on the blind persons but also those with some kind of visual impairment. With the change in nomenclature, the number of beneficiaries will now increase to 40 million," Dr Vashist added.