The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Care-less, cricket’s eye donors

It was billed in February 2001 as a noble chapter in Bengal’s association with cricket, when the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) appealed to Calcuttans to pledge their eyes for ‘Cricket for Life Beyond Death’ and avail life-long free treatment and regular check-ups at a city hospital.

Last month, donor Niranjan Gidwaney, 70, former state billiards champion, learnt that the donor’s identity card handed to him by the CAB was useless. His attempts to get the “promised” quality treatment free at Anandalok Netralaya did not materialise either. Instead, Gidwaney had to shell out money himself.

In February 2001, the CAB issued an appeal to Calcuttans in the newspapers to donate their eyes. It later sent certificates to the 250-odd donors, signed by cricketers Sunil Gavaskar and Ian Chappel. The donors were also given free tickets to watch the India-Australia second cricket test match at Eden Gardens from March 11. Free lunch packets and Panama hats were distributed on production of the identity card at the Eden gates. The donors, Gidwaney included, had a wonderful time at the match, which India won.

In August 2001, the donors were informed by a letter that the CAB had “entered into an arrangement with Anandalok Netralaya, in Salt Lake, for provision of eyecare and eye treatment facilities… on producing the CAB-issued I-cards there.”

Last month, Gidwaney turned up at the hospital. “The first thing I learnt was the arrangement between the CAB and the hospital did not exist any longer. They told me that producing the special I-card wouldn’t help my cause of getting treatment,” says Gidwaney. He then paid for his check-up at the hospital, where doctors advised surgery.

D.K. Saraf, Anandalok Hospital trustee, alleged that the CAB had failed to honour a commitment of providing health insurance to the donors. “It was a verbal commitment, where we decided to provide Indian lenses to the donors, but most of them had been insisting on costlier treatment, which we cannot provide free. Still, we have treated many of the donors free.”

Vaishali Sengupta, chief co-ordinator of the CAB eye donation programme, admitted that the association had decided recently not to send any more patients to the hospital because “it is going through some internal problems.” She added: “We have informed the donors that we are going to involve a well-known eye hospital in Anandalok’s place.”

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