BMVSS: “As we stood among the poorest of poor in Jaipur, someof them coming there from thousands of miles away, we realized that this wasnot about fitting limbs, but about restoring dignity to other human beings, andin the process, to ourselves.
For it is in giving that we receive. There may beother places in the world where compassion is that tangible, it is just that wehad not seen any.” -Elaine and Armand Neukermans, eminent US scientist Imagine if you could bring a difference in thelives of millions of people, Imagine if you could bring a ray of hope in their lives,Imagine if you could give their broken hearts a reason to be mended again andrestore their faith in themselves and humanity. This is what Jaipur Foot, aprosthetic leg did.
A prosthetic leg made not for minting money, profits,greed, or business purposes but solely to help the people and to give them backtheir ability to walk and not make them feel helpless anymore. Who was behind changing the lives ofthese million people? A man filled with compassion, who gave them somethingmore valuable than money was D.R Mehta who set up BMVSS, a non-governmental organization in 1975,which provided them the prosthetic leg, also known as the Jaipur foot, and therequired aid along with it, free of cost.
However,what triggered Mehta to set up this organization and devote all his time to it?The actual pain of such people can only be seen if one has experienced it. Mr D.RMehta took a leaf out of his own traumatic life-threatening incident and wenton a path to enlighten the lives of many disabled people. BMVSS has become a hugeorganization over the years and has focused on the advancement of theprosthetic leg along with providing the best quality to the people irrespectiveof their caste, creed, religion and status.
They’ve treated rich and poor alikebecause for them everyone’s life is valuable and equal. It’s remarkable how theorganization has managed to get such large donations every year however, theorganization is not self sufficient and often the sustainability is questioned.Also, without any advertising strategy how did the organization get donorsevery year? Perhaps, the good connections of D.R Mehta did work and a word ofmouth was enough for the kind and selfless work that he was doing. Jaipur Footinitially became famous through word of mouth publicity, but today when theorganization is so huge, and the need of funds is even more, is a word of mouthenough today? The Invention of Jaipur Foot Jaipur Foot, a prosthetic legwas born out of anidea presented by Dr. Udawat, in the form of a thesis which was guided by Dr.P.K Sethi and truly brought to life by Sculptor Master Ram Chander Sharma.
Sharmasaw Dr. P.K Sethi working with accident patients who had lost their limbs at SMSHospital. A few of them were fitted with artificial limbs, as they wereexpensive and based on German and American designs. However, Sharma observedthat the limb instead of making their lives easier provided them withdiscomfort and didn’t provide them mobility. He decided to put his sculptingskills into use and model a foot, which would look, and function like a humanfoot. He discussed this idea with Sethi and over the next two years theystarted developing the alternatives. Theirfocus was to design a low-cost artificial foot according to the Indian amputeesand the functionality as close to a human foot.
They decided to use materials, which were locally available and costeffective, and this in turn lead to a successful design of the Jaipur Foot in1968 THE STORY OF BMVSS Thestory started with D.R Mehta. Who was Mehta and what made him devote all hislife to help people and in return take nothing? Mehta, a retired IndianAdministrative Service officer, a former chairman of the Securities and ExchangeBoard of India who had also held the position of Deputy Governor of the ReserveBank of India, had a great career, however, Mehta was instilled with the feeling of serving people since a very youngage and it was his grit and the want to help people that he built anorganization this big over the years. In 1969, D.R Mehta had amajor car accident and his leg was broken in 43 places.
The doctors thoughtthey had to amputate the leg but he was lucky to have received such good care,and the doctors managed to save it. After his recovery he used to visit hisdoctors regularly to thank them however every time the doctors would tell himthat his condition was so bad that they thought they had to amputate his leg.However in his case the government would send him to U.
S or U.K for thetreatment but what about people who were poor? While going to the hospital forphysiotherapy, the accident victims whose legs were amputated saddened Mehta,he could feel their pain. It made him think about the people who weren’tfortunate, he wanted to do something for them and six years later he establishedBMVSS. He had a vision of what BMVSSwould be like and he welcomed people with open arms who had nothing and notonly provided them with limbs free of cost but also focused on other aspectsi.e.
economic and social rehabilitation and gave them the confidence to starttheir lives afresh Everyday life at BMVSS “When I camehere for the first time, I saw people who had lost their legs, and what Inoticed was they had not only lost a leg but something even more than that,they had given up, their numb eyes conveyed the pain that they were in, but ina few hours I saw those faces again, their numb eyes conveyed hope this time,they were fitted with a prosthetic leg and when I saw a man taking his firststep again, it was heart rendering and fulfilling and I was convinced that thiswas the greatest form of humanity I have ever seen.” BMVSS witnessed people comingin from different cities everyday who had nothing, they weren’t able to walk, alot of them were uneducated and couldn’t read or write, many of them were evenbelow the poverty line who weren’t able to afford their meals. People who came in with the hope of getting a prosthetic leg andbe able to walk again, most of them were lost not literally but emotionally,physically, and socially lost and why wouldn’t they be? One of the majorreasons why they were disheartened was because of the society, the way theywere treated and looked down upon after losing their leg. Some of them wereeven fired from their jobs after becoming disabled and this left them helpless,as they didn’t have any money or resources for treatment.
The specialty of BMVSS that D.R Mehta created which set it apartfrom other organisations was that he made sure that the patients could walk inat any time, no prior registration was required and anybody working in theoganisation could admit them, including the guard, and they would then beexamined by the doctors in the next working hours. D.R Mehta said, “Poorpeople…do not know how to read and write.
How do you expect them to write to ahospital for an appointment or register themselves?” Keeping a registrationsystem like other hospitals would’ve gone against Mehta’s ideologies, as itwould’ve excluded the neediest who required immediate help. The organization works completely on a Patient-centricmanagement system. A person coming in BMVSS is given full attention from themoment he arrives. Patients start coming in the morning and the doctors andworkers immediately get to work and start with the process of making theirartificial limb. Within a few hours, the patient is fitted with an artificiallimb. However, in complex cases if the prosthetic leg takes more time thepatient can stay at the centre at the expense of BMVSS.
After the fitting ifthe patient is dissatisfied or facing any discomfort he can tell the technicianwho works on it till the patient is satisfied. UPLIFTING PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES The organization has always put their patients first, and tilldate they have treated every single patient and sent them home with theirrestored self-respect and dignity. Moreover, they have given the people in needa means to start their livelihood. It’s difficult to find an organization that’smaking such a huge difference in the lives of people who hardly had anything.
They’veadopted certain values and philosophies since the organisation’s inception andhave been following them diligently. i) Free Assistance – They have been providing all the aids andappliances free of cost. Many people who come here are poor and some of themeven below the poverty line.ii) At the organizations the employees make the patients believethat the free services are not charity and help that they are offering themwillingly so that they can walk out with their self-respect intact.iii) Equality and Respect – BMVSS treats everyone with equallyirrespective of their caste, religion, background and every patient is givenindividually given attention.
iv) Accessibility – The organisation has been organizingrehabilitation camps in remote areas so that theirs services could reach to asmany handicapped people as possible.v) Empowerment – Patients are motivated the minute they enter thepremises. After the leg fitting they’re pumped up with enthusiasm. BMVSS triesto help people and gives them assistance for self-employment.
OUTREACH “People who live inside the world’s many was zonesfrom Afghanistan to Rwanda may never have heard of New York or Paris, but theyare likely to know of a town in northern India called Jaipur. Jaipur is famousin strife-torn areas as the birthplace of an extraordinary prosthesis orartificial limb known as the Jaipur foot that has revolutionized life formillions of landmine amputees. The beauty of the Jaipur foot is its lightnessand mobility – those who wear it can run, climb trees and pedal bicycles – itslow price.
” BMVSShas established 22 permanent centres across India in order to provide as muchaid as possible. The main centre being Jaipur, the other branches functionindependently but they have to use the Jaipur foot technology and adhere to theguidelines set by BMVSS. As apart of their outreach programme, BMVSS has camps in India and internationally andmore than 60,limb fitment camps have been held in 27 countries across the worldsuch as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria etc. The organization alsotrained people at these sites about the making and the fitting of the leg sothat they could make one on their own and can others in need in their country.One such example is of a girl named Florencia – Florenciawith a few other people from Mozambique was working in the organization and making a prosthetic leg. Butwhy was girl from another country and a different continent altogether here? Thestory goes back to 2015, two humanitarians Douglas and John from California whoread an article about Florencia and other handicapped landmine victims in aNational Geographic article and decided to find her and get her a prostheticleg. Prosthetic leg in the U.S would have cost around $15,000 each and the limbwould only last for 4-7 years.
Worried, they started looking for other optionsfor Florencia on Google and came across Jaipur Foot. The prosthetic leg thatthey saw in the pictures looked like a human foot and not like the otherrobot-like foot. They read further that the limb was produced for $50 and thattoo without taking a single penny from the patients, it was FREE. Not onlythis, a person could bathe with the prosthetic as opposed to the otherexpensive ones. They instantly sent them a mail and got a reply within a day. Areply, which was full of concern about Florencia, and D.
R Mehta, was more thanhappy to help, if they could get Florencia to Jaipur. Not only Florencia, Mehtaexpressed a desire to help others suffering in Mozambique. He offered to trainthe technicians from Mozambique, free of cost, who could create a permanentclinic. As a further option he also told them he could send his team toMozambique for a month and fit limbs on 500 amputees. Douglas and John were inawe and they exclaimed, “What kind of man would do this? Why? For an anonymousgirl in the bush of Africa? At the request of two unknown men, thousands ofmiles away, on another continent?” Perhaps, a man with a very kind heart. Florencia, travelled for the first time everin her life and came to Jaipur.
When Florencia entered BMVSS, everyone was sowelcoming and embracing that she no longer felt like an outsider and as soon asshe got a limb, it was a moment of pure joy for everybody who made it happen. Whoknew an article could change somebody’s life. Florencia with a group of peoplecame back to India after 2 years to learn the process of making an artificiallimb and help as many people as she could in Mozambique with the support of D.RMehta. Outreachin terms of opening 22 centres is fulfilled, however are people living in thosecities aware about Jaipur Foot? Funding and Sustainability The funds come in from the grants and generous donations by thepeople.
The organization had also established aphysiotherapy clinic on its premises, which also generated some revenue. It’sremarkable how the organization managed to get such large donations every yearhowever, the organization is not self sufficient and often the sustainabilityis questioned. With the increasing number of patients coming in every year, theneed of funds also increases.
The organization has faced trouble in the pastbut has managed to sustain every year even though Mehta had to put his personalmoney to reach the requirements at times. D.R said, ” We have never had to turnaway a patient, God willing, never will.
In my equation, E=MC2 + G,where E stands for effort, M for money, C for compassion and G for God.” The number of donations is unpredictable everyyear and with the increasing patients the organization needs a sustainableplan. Some people in the Advisory board also question the free-for-all modeland a chief patron of BMVSS, Neukermans said ” The way to develop a company isnot by keeping the services free but by setting a sustainable business.” Thismeant that Mehta should start charging a nominal amount for his product.
Charging the product could also improve the technological advancements in theleg even to a further extent like the longevity. But how was this evenpossible? Most of the patients are poorest of the poor and fall below thepoverty line, how could they expect them to pay. There are a lot of people in India and abroadwho want to be part of organisations like BMVSS but aren’t aware about them. Famousuniversities like Stanford who helped BMVSS and developed a Stanford-Jaipurknee, a knee joint for above knee prosthesis with a revolutionary new technology,which was declared as one of the 50 Best Inventions of the world by the TIMEmagazine in the year 2009. Ongoingresearch projects with MIT for the development of a new knee joint, apolyurethane foot, and an off-road wheelchair for paraplegic patients have alsobeen going on.
Some famous Indian scientific institutions like ISRO, IITs, MNITJaipur, NIT Delhi, etc. have also provided support. With a support system so huge, which consists names ofsuch renowned universities, how is it that majority of people, especially inIndia aren’t aware about this organisation? Will the organization sustainafter D.
R Mehta? BMVSS was a one-man army,everything depended on one man, D.R Mehta and he was solely responsible forbuilding the organization with his beliefs and compassion. When you enter theorganization, you see all the technicians following a systematic process andworking diligently to satisfy the patients. Mehta has build trust amongst thetechnicians, doctors and everybody working in the oganisation and that hasmotivated them to work. Some of the technicians working in the organization arealso disabled and were fitted with Jaipur foot and then employed by Mehta toserve the other patients because who would understand the pain of the patientsbetter than them. Mehta not only gave them a livelihood but a chance to upliftthemselves and help others like them. The majority of donationsthat the organization received were due to the connections of Mehta during hisgovernment days.
Mehtahas kept the system completely transparent and the person who’s donating knowthat his entire amount is going to go for the benefit of that poor person only.The organisation doesn’t even spend Rs 5 for tea during their meetings unlesssomebody sponsors it. Not even a single penny is used from their funds. Thisinstigated the donors to donate more and spread the word about Jaipur Foot. The main question howeverremains, What is going to happen to the organization after Mehta? Will thesuccessor able to get in as many donations? Is a word of mouthenough?