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Lots more from LIONS CLUB

Mumbaikar Ashok Mehta, the second Indian to head the International Association of Lions Clubs, is promising more research into preventable ailments



Ashok Mehta: "There's not much awareness about diabetic retinopathy."

HE IS the second man from India to be elected International President of the International Association of Lions Clubs for 2005-06. He will oversee the work of 46,000 Lions Clubs spread across 193 countries. Ashok Mehta, the man who will be installed soon, was in Mangalore recently. Managing Director of a company in Mumbai, Mr. Mehta is planning to secure a huge sum, put at Rs. 500 crore, for Lions Clubs in India in the next four years, starting with his tenure.

Outlining priority areas for utilisation of the funds, he said the Clubs would be looking at research on preventing blindness arising from inter alia diabetes, and on creating awareness on prevention of HIV/AIDS.

Too many people are falling victims to diabetic retinopathy (blindness caused due to diabetes) in recent years. "There is not much awareness about this. We would like to fund a research project to know how and whether diabetic retinopathy can be prevented, if not treated effectively."

He pointed out that Lions International in the past had funded a research project at the Melbourne Medical Institute, Australia, on vaccination for cervical cancer. "Now the vaccination is available because the research showed positive results." Funding research projects is a shift in the focus of Lions International because its activities have been so far confined to awareness programmes.

When asked whether the Lions clubs would be involved in mid-day meal scheme in schools in different parts of India, he said he would be attending a meeting with the European Commission (EU) in Brussels. He would discuss how the network of Lions Clubs could be utilised to implement food aid programmes of the EU. "Something concrete may emerge after the meeting," he said.

The Lions Clubs have also joined hands with the state governments to impart "value education" to children to keep them away from drugs, smoking and alcoholism. About 2,000 students in seven States — Karnataka, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Orissa and Tamil Nadu — are being covered under the programme. The Lions Clubs implement this programme on request from schools.

The Lions Clubs, along with other organisations, have built around 100 hospitals in India over the last 10 years and arranged for three million eye operations costing nearly Rs. 400 crore, Mr. Mehta said.

RAVIPRASAD KAMILA

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