Here’s how India has made one of its most promising NGOs an important component of its regional outreach strategy

Here’s how India has made one of its most promising NGOs an important component of its regional outreach strategy

  • The Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahayata Samiti (BMVSS), a Jaipur-based non-profit organisation, is providing artificial limbs to people wounded in the Syrian war.
  • The first phase of the programme, which was facilitated by India’s Ministry of External Affairs, will see 500 amputees be fitted with prosthetic limbs.
  • The BMVSS is responsible for scaling the famous invention, the Jaipur Foot, and has provided it free of charge to 1.75 million people inside and outside India.
  • Last month, India’s Ministry of External Affairs, unveiled the “India for Humanity” programme, under which the Jaipur Foot will be distributed to people in other countries through Indian missions.
At the end of October 2018, the Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahayata Samiti (BMVSS), a Jaipur-based non-profit organisation, said that it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Saint James, a Christian organisation in Syria, to provide artificial limbs to people wounded in the Syrian war, according to the Press Trust of India.

The agreement was facilitated by India’s Ministry of External Affairs in conjunction with Syria’s Foreign Ministry. The first phase of the programme will see 500 amputees be fitted with prosthetic limbs.

The signing of the MoU comes a few weeks after India’s Ministry of External Affairs, led by foreign minister Sushma Swaraj, unveiled the “India for Humanity” programme. Under the initiative, the artificial limbs made by BMVSS will be distributed to people in other countries through Indian missions.
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Most people don’t know what the BMVSS is, but have likely heard of its world-famous invention: the Jaipur Foot. Founded in 1975, the charitable organisation has provided all kinds of artificial limbs to as many 1.75 million people worldwide so far, according to the company’s website, all of which have been given free of charge.

In fact, the Jaipur Foot was developed in 1968 at the SMS Medical College Hospital in the city of Jaipur, after which the BMVSS became responsible for scaling the invention for common good. The organisation mainly relies on donations, grants and government support.

To date, the Jaipur Foot is said to be most widely used prosthetic limb in the world. In 2009, Time Magazine named the Jaipur Knee, a $20 prosthetic kneecap developed by BMVSS and a group of engineers from Stanford, one of the 50 best inventions of the year.
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The Jaipur Foot exemplifies the concept of “frugal innovation” that India is known for, which is why it seems obvious that the Indian government would make the Jaipur Foot an important part of its regional outreach strategy.

Prior to the official launch of “India for Humanity”, a number of camps had been organised by BMVSS and India’s foreign ministry in neighbouring countries. In July 2018, 1000 amputees in Myanmar and Vietnam were given prosthetic limbs. In March 2018, an exhibition of the Jaipur Foot was inaugurated at the UN headquarters in New York.

In September 2017, a 15-day camp was organised in Bangladesh wherein 300 disabled people were given artificial limbs while 700 additional amputees registered for new ones. In mid-2014, a month-long camp was held in the Afghani capital of Kabul, also for 1000 beneficiaries.
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The programme may be a way for the Indian government to capitalise on the cultural cachet of this world-famous technology and build goodwill. But it will also help the BMVSS expand its global operations, possibly helping hundreds of thousands more disabled people in the process.
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