Sightsavers, a leading global development organisation working in over 30 countries to combat avoidable blindness and promote equal opportunities for visually impaired, unveiled “Eyes OK Please”, a report on National Truckers Programme, named RAAHI – Road Safety and Assurance By Healthy Eyes, in the presence of its honorary brand ambassador and internationally acclaimed actor, Shri Kabir Bedi. The programme will reach out to 500,000 truck drivers and helpers of the laborious 9 million truck drivers and transporters community present in India. This 9 million-truck driver community transports 65% of national cargo by road.
With an aim to understand the situation of refractive errors and spectacle usage among truckers and transporters who were part of Sightsavers’ interventions, the study spanned across 3 years analysed vision for thousands of truckers, including a 360-degree testing of all normal visual faculties. Drawing from the research-backed insight that good vision accounts for as much as 95% of all sensory requirements to drive safely, the National Truckers Programme detects visual problems, provides spectacles or other service/ referrals. This intervention is an attempt to pre-empt visual problems among drivers, since road travel accidents have an annual death toll of 1.2 million worldwide and up to 50 million injuries. The findings corroborate an earlier study by road safety experts CSRI-CRRI and IDTR that states that drivers operating trucks have undetected eye problems and live and drive for long periods of time with these problems. The intervention for truckers is as necessary as it is missing, in the country’s road safety discourse.
The data in this report comes from 235 outreach camps that Sightsavers India and its partners conducted over 10 cities in India. From April to December 2016, these eye camps screened 17,546 people. A total of 324 respondents – 268 drivers and 56 staff (including Conductors and Helpers) – from 10 cities were interviewed for this study. The average age of the drivers interviewed was found to be 44.6 years. Among the 268 drivers, 81% were truck drivers, 11.6% were bus drivers, and 7.5% drove other vehicles such as autos, private vehicles or tempos.
The findings of the report states that a very high number of respondents knew that there is a problem. Nearly half, i.e., 48.5% of the respondents said they felt the need to attend the eye camp because of an eye-related problem. Of these, as many as 42.2% said they faced a problem in driving or working. It also states that the respondents have been living and driving with eye problems for as long as 8+ months, with 64.2% of the respondents saying that they were not doing anything about their eye problems. Of the 324 respondents, each one required professional eye care; with 96.6% required spectacles and 3.4% were referred for further treatment.
Unveiling the report, Dr. S.Y. Quraishi, former chief election commissioner (CEC) of India and Honorary Chair of Sightsavers in India said, “I feel proud to be part of this great organization that is undertaking such important studies for the betterment of the country and the citizens. The Eyes OK Please! report on National Truckers Programme brings out that eye conditions such as refractive errors are quite common among truckers and transporters. The effort by Sightsavers in this direction is commendable. The mission that was started more than five decades ago is forging ahead to bring sight to many and lighten up their lives with hope. I pay my respect to Sir John Wilson whose vision had set a course to change the eye health scenario of not only India but globally.”
Mr. RN Mohanty, CEO Sightsavers(India) said at the event, “We envisage a world where no one is blind from avoidable causes and where visually impaired people participate equally in society. From this experience, Sightsavers India can confidently state that community-based eye testing, provision of spectacles and referral services for the trucking community have a huge potential for scaling up in India. Sightsavers India will relentlessly work for the betterment of its people and also contribute significantly to Sustainable Development Goal number three (SDGs), especially 3.6 which says that by 2020, 50 percent of the deaths from road accidents will be reduced.”
Declaring the programme open, Shri Kabir Bedi, honorary brand ambassador, Sightsavers India and internationally acclaimed actor said, “Not many in the past have paid heed to such a significant need of having an eye health programme for our truck driver community. It is clearly a welcome intervention by Sightsavers to enhance road safety in India by reaching out to this laborious truck driving community.”