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Easter Sunday Bomb Attack on April 21, 2019:

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The author is a staunch advocate of police reforms and was one of those who contributed to the proposal put up by the OPA in 2001 that brought some police reforms in the form of the 17th Amendment to the Constitution.

In Retrospect

By Dr. Kingsley Wickremasuriya

Senior Deputy Inspector- General of Police (Retd)

E-mail: kingsley.wickremasuriya@gmail.com

Prologue

It is more than two years since the infamous bomb attack on civilian targets in Colombo, Negombo, and Batticaloa took place on Easter Sunday, 2019. Now that the dust from the political fallout from the incident is almost settling down (or is it?) it would be opportune to look back at the events that took place dispassionately removed from a politically charged environment. Undertaking such a task is particularly pertinent in view of the lingering protests and statements made by the Catholic Church representing the victims expressing fears that there would be a repetition of the violence.

Although many theories have been advanced in the public domain as to who is responsible for the failure to prevent the attack on Easter Sunday, prima facie it would seem that the failure is a clear Neglect of Duty on the part of the police, PREVENTION being its mandatory duty in terms of Section 56 of the Police Ordinance No 16 of 1866. However, looking at it from a practical point of view, invoking Section 56 alone is not realistic. Before coming to any conclusion as to where the final responsibility rests, the incident has to be analyzed in the background of many intervening socio-political factors that have intruded into the body politic of the country since the enactment of this law.

Accordingly, based on what is reported in the media on the instant case, the author would argue, that what contributed to the violence on that fateful Easter Sunday, was more a system failure than deliberate criminal negligence. Going on this premise he would venture to suggest a methodology that could prevent a repetition of another Easter Sunday.

Easter Sunday Attack

Wikipedia reported that , April 21, 2019, a series of Islamic bombings targeted three (St. Anthony’s Church, Katuwapitiya Church, a Church in Batticaloa, and three luxury hotels (the Kingsbury, Shangri-La, and Cinnamon Grand) in the country’s commercial capital, On the same day, minor explosions were reported at an apartment complex in and a lodge in At least 277 people were killed and more than 500 were injured, including at least 45 foreigners, three police officers, and eight bombers during the incident. According to the State Intelligence Service, the second series of raids were planned but were successfully stopped as a result of government raids.

Further, it is reported that all eight bombers were Sri Lankan nationals and affiliates of the . group suspected of having foreign links and has previously targeted and told parliament on April 23 that the government believed the attack was in retaliation for the March 15, 2019 attack on . However, the Tawheed Jamaat has been collecting explosives since January 2019.

While this was the local reaction, at the international level, the United Nations in Sri Lanka responded to the incident by strongly condemning the attacks against civilians carried out in places of worship and city hotels on Easter Sunday and urging the authorities, and all citizens to ensure that the rule of law is upheld.

Police Taken to Task

In the meanwhile, on Monday, November 22, 2021 ‘The Hindu’ reported that, following investigations, Sri Lanka’s former police chief was charged with criminal negligence for failing to act despite receiving prior intelligence warnings in the 2019 Easter Sunday terror attack that killed nearly 270 people, including 11 Indians. A total of 855 charges of criminal negligence were leveled against him as the Sri Lankan High Court began trial proceedings in the case, which has over 1,200 witnesses, according to the lawyers.

The ex-police chief on the other hand has told a panel probing the attack, that the former Sri Lankan President should take responsibility for the 2019 Easter Sunday bombings that claimed the lives of over 250 people, according to media reports.

Courts acquit the Police

The police chief was finally freed after a lengthy Trial at Bar on February 18, 2022 when the Colombo Permanent High Court Trial-at-Bar ordered his acquittal and release from all charges filed against him over the Easter Sunday attacks without even calling for evidence from the Defense, reported News First. If the High Court Bench have found the Inspector-General not guilty, then it is pertinent to ask the question as to who should be held responsible for the failure to prevent the carnage?

Lines of responsibility

It is a well-known fact that the police since its inception worked on the basic principle of law as given in ‘The Police Ordinance No 16 of 1866’ that “Every police officer shall for all purposes in this Ordinance contained be considered to be always on duty, and shall have the powers of a police officer in every part of Sri Lanka“. While the police in keeping with the principle of Separation of Powers draw this power from Parliament (the PEOPLE), and are held responsible to the Courts of Law (who have the power of review over the police) for the exercise of those powers, the administration of the police is vested in the Inspector-General of Police (Section 20) and policy making in the hands of the Minister (Sections 3,4,5,6,9 & 10) following on the same principle.

Further, Section 56 makes it obligatory on the part of every police officer that:

“It shall be his duty

(a) to use his best endeavors and ability to prevent all crimes, offences, and public nuisances;

(b) to preserve the peace;

(c) to apprehend disorderly and suspicious characters;

(d) to detect and bring offender s to justice;

(e) to collect and communicate intelligence affecting the public peace; and

(f) promptly to obey and execute all orders and warrants lawfully issued and directed to him by any competent authority.”

Thus, the lines of authority and responsibility drawn vis a vis the police are clear and unambiguous in law.

How the System Worked

For administration purposes the Island is divided into Police Stations, Districts, Divisions and Ranges. Police station is one of the first bulwarks of democratic government dispensing services to the community at grassroots level. Police station being the basic unit of security in the country, the Officer in Charge (OIC) of the police station played a key role in the System in maintaining law and order. In practical terms, the responsibility started at the Police Station level. The Officer in-charge of the Police (OIC) Station was responsible for securing his area against all threats to public peace. If he failed, the entire System would fail. The OIC naturally had therefore, to take the center stage of the local law and order scene.

In maintaining his position as a key link of the security system in the country, the OIC drew his strength from the Gazetted ranks (ASP & above) in playing his role and looked to his superiors for leadership and personal advancement. This expectation fulfilled, his loyalty never went beyond the Head of the Department, the Inspector-General. So, the SYSTEM worked fairly effectively (in spite of an occasional derailment) and the Police by and large stood their own against any calamity, be it coup d’état, Insurrection or communal violence or even natural disaster.

What went wrong

Although the System worked initially for some time, it was soon overwhelmed by the steadily increasing influence of the Member of Parliament (MP) over time. Various Sessional Papers on Constitutional Reforms reports of the Donoughmore Commission Report (1928), the Soulbury Commission Report (1969) and on Police Reforms such as the Soertz Police Commission Report, Basnayake Police Commission Report(1970)), Subasinghe Committee Report (1978), and Jayasinghe Committee Report (1999) give a detailed account of the gradual encroachment of the System by the MP – first in matters of transfers, promotions etc and then going even to the extent of interfering in police operations like Criminal Investigations.

The three-man Committee headed by Mr. W. T. Jayasinghe, a former Secretary to the Ministry of Defence (1995),

the last committee on Police Reforms describing the extent to which the canker had grown said:

The interference did not stop with personnel matters like transfers, promotions etc.. It extended even to operational matters like criminal investigations. As a result of increasing incidence of interference by MPP in investigations the Committee said that some of the officers who were fair and acted impartially were removed and transferred from their stations overnight at the instance of the MP because the offender happened to be a supporter of the MP, and yet others who had a well-known track record of corruption or inefficiency were promoted over the heads of those conscientious and dedicated officers. They also pointed out how in recent years junior officers have been promoted over their seniors, ostensibly on the ground of outstanding merit. This affected the morale of the entire Service.

These undue pressures were mostly from politicians and those close to politicians. This was one of the main reasons for the breakdown of discipline, loss of morale and high incidence of corruption in the police, the Committee reported.

Thus, Commission after Commission and Committee after Committee reported that the evidence before them showed that there is political interference in the sphere of appointments and promotions. Such interference they said affects the impartial discharge of their duties and consequently their independence. Commenting further, they said that the efficient maintenance of law and order by the Police depends on non-interference with the performance of their duties. This is a prerequisite to the efficient maintenance of law and order. They should have the freedom of performing their duties without the fear of coming under external pressure.

The impact of this continued political onslaught on the police by those in power was subversion of the police into a feudal instrument of political subservience waiting for ’Orders from Above’ (resulting in the abdication of responsibility) than an organization providing services to the community in a democracy according to the Rule of Law. Easter Sunday attack, one cannot therefore rule out, is a direct outcome of this process.

Had it not been the case, I would imagine that the first officer to be on the scene before the attack would have been the OICC of the concerned police stations who would have communicated and shared the information (intelligence) in their possession with the Church/ hotel authorities – the mandatory duty laid down by Section 56 of the Police Ordinance. Having done that, I would imagine that they would have gone further and either posted officers in uniform overtly at the concerned sites or taken other measures like establishing check points or going even to the extent of getting the church services for the day canceled in consultation with the authorities concerned in order to deter any attacks. They could even have considered calling for a local curfew with the support of their superiors instead of waiting for orders from above.

Conclusions

Politicians’ interest in government business in this country is not a new phenomenon. It has been in existence ever since the establishment of constitutional government and the introduction of democratic institutions in Ceylon. Such interest however, is a healthy sign of a vibrant democracy. The author recognizes this development as such and the legitimate right and the duty of the elected representative to represent matters about his electorate and its constituents.

Similarly, he also recognizes the responsibility that an elected Government has towards its constituency and its accountability to the country for its actions through the government machinery and the need to implement its policy through that machinery effectively. But what is of concern here is how undue political pressure brought to bear by elected representatives of the people on those in public service in matters other than policy has been detrimental to Good Governance, Democracy and Rule of Law and how it had led to inefficiency, corruption and inaction in the Public Service. Police are no exception.

Police in a Democracy are an institution responsible for maintaining safety and security of the citizen according to the rule of law. Impartial police therefore are a sine-qua-non-if they are to ensure a just & a peaceful society. Their commitment should ideally be to serve the community “for the happiness of the many, for the welfare of the many” – bahu jana hithaya, bahu jana sukhaya. Any compromise of the role of the police beyond his legal position is bound with calamitous results as we have seen in the case of Easter Sunday attack. Therefore, if we are to prevent a repetition of another Easter Sunday in the future, political tinkering with the police and their impartiality is what must be guarded against at all costs. The way towards achieving the desired end is through repeated police reforms from time to time.

The last Commission sitting on police reforms publicly was the Basnayake Police Commission (1970) – half a century back. Others were only Committees (last Committee sitting in 1999) with a limited scope. Much water has passed under the bridge since then. Police as well as the Community had to grin and bear their grievances without a chance being given to come out with them – particularly the police who have no Trade Union Rights. It is therefore, time to call for police reforms, a task that is best left to the leadership of civil society.

BHAVATU SABBA MANGALAM.!! MAY ALL BEINGS BE HAPPY!!



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Scarcity, prices, hoarding and queuing

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By Usvatte-aratchi

We live in a scarcity economy and will do so well into 2024, past the next Presidential elections if it comes then; it may not. (The new minister may open bets.) All economies are scarcity economies; otherwise, there would be no prices. We also live in plentiful economies; look at the streets of Tokyo, Shanghai, Singapore, Paris or San Francisco during day or night. Scarcity is a relative term, as most terms are. A scarcity economy is one where prices rise relentlessly, where cigarettes are more expensive in the evening than they were the same morning. Scarcity economies will have two or more sets of prices: one official, others in markets in varying shades of grey until black. Scarcity economies are where everyone (producers, traders, households) hoards commodities, hoards everything that can be hoarded, at reasonable cost. Scarcity economy is one where productivity is lower than it was earlier, where both labour and capital idle. Scarcity itself may push down productivity. Observe thousands of people standing in queues to buy all kinds of things whilst producing nothing. That is labour idling. Others hang on to dear life in crowded trains arriving in office late to leave early, to get to ill lit homes where to cook each evening they repeat what their ancestors did millions of years ago to light a fire. Money is one commodity that can be hoarded at little cost, if there was no inflation. The million rupees you had in your savings account in 2019 is now worth a mere 500,000, because prices have risen. That is how a government taxes you outside the law: debase the currency. In an inflation afflicted economy, hoarding money is a fool’s game.

The smart game to play is to borrow to the limit, a kind of dishoarding (- negative hoarding) money. You borrow ten million now and five years later you pay 500 million because the value of money has fallen. US dollars are scarce in this economy. It is hoarded where it can wait until its price in Sri Lanka rises. Some politicians who seem to have been schooled in corruption to perfection have them stored elsewhere, as we have learnt from revelations in the international press. Electricity is not hoarded in large quantities because it is expensive to hoard. Petrol is not hoarded very much in households because it evaporates fast and is highly flammable. That does not prevent vehicle owners from keeping their tanks full in contrast to the earlier practice when they had kept tanks half empty (full). Consequently, drivers now hoard twice as much fuel in their tanks as earlier. Until drivers feel relaxed as to when they get the next fill, there will be queues. That should also answer the conundrum of the minister for energy who daily sent out more bowser loads out than earlier, but queues did not shorten.

As an aside, it is necessary to note that the scarcity economy, which has been brought about by stupid policies 2019-2022, and massive thieving from 2005 is partly a consequence of the fall in total output (GDP) in the economy. Workers in queues do not produce. The capital they normally use in production (e.g. motor cars, machines that they would otherwise would have worked at) lie idle. Both capital and labour idle and deny their usual contribution to GDP. Agriculture, industries, wholesale and retail trade, public administration, manufacturing and construction all of which have been adversely affected in various ways contribute more than 75% of total GDP. Maha (winter crop) 2021-22, Yala (spring crop) 2022 and Maha 2022-23 and fishing are all likely to have yielded (and yield) poor harvests. Manufacturing including construction are victims of severe shortages in energy and imported inputs. Wholesale and retail trade which depend directly on imports of commodities have been hit by the sharp drop in imports. Tourism, which is more significant in providing employment and foreign exchange, collapsed dreadfully since late 2019 and has not recovered yet. About 16 percent of our labour force work in the public sector. They have failed to contribute to GDP because they did not engage in productive work due to variegated reasons. Teachers were on strike for two months in 2021. In 2022, so far government employees have worked off and on. Wages of government employees are counted as contributions to GDP, by those that make GDP estimates. However, here is an instance where labour was paid but there was no output equal to the value of those wages. Such payments are rightly counted as transfers and do not count to GDP. For these reasons estimates of GDP for 2021 must be well below the 2020 level. The 3.6 growth in official estimates is unlikely. The likely drop in 2022 will be roughly of the same magnitude as in 2021. These declines are not dissonant with misery one sees in towns and the countryside: empty supermarket shelves, scant supplies of produce in country fares, scarce fish supplies, buses idling in parks and roads empty of traffic. There have been warnings from our paediatricians as well as from international organisations of wasting and probable higher rates of child mortality. It is this sort of sharp fall in wellbeing that engenders the desperation driving young and ambitious people to obtain passports to seek a living overseas. You can see those from mezzo-America amassed on the southern border of US. Will our young men and women end up beyond the wall of China?

Of this lowered supply of goods and services, this society is expected to pay a massive accumulated foreign debt. (Remember the reparation payments in the Versailles Treaty). In real terms it will mean that we forego a part of our lower incomes. Do not miss this reality behind veils of jargon woven by financial analysts. It is not something that we have a choice about. That is where international help may kick in. Gotabaya Rajapaksa government after much senseless dilly dallying has started negotiations with the IMF. There is nobody compelling our government to seek support from IMF. They are free go elsewhere as some who recently were in their government still urge. Examine alternatives and hit upon an arrangement not because it permits the family grows richer but because it will make life for the average person a little less unbearable.

If prices are expected to rise people will seek resources to hoard: money to buy commodities, space and facilities to hoard, security services to protect the property and much more. Rice producers cannot hoard their product because animals large as elephants and small as rodents eat them up. Because of the unequal distribution of resources to hoard, the poor cannot hoard. In a scarcity economy, the poor cannot hoard and famines usually victimise the poor, first and most. If prices are expected to fall, stocks are dishoarded to the market and prices fall faster and deeper. In either direction, the rate at which prices change and the height/depth of the rise/fall depends on the speed at which expectations of change in prices take place. A largescale rice miller claims he can control the price of rice at a level that the government cannot. His success/failure will tell us the extent of his monopoly power.

When commodities are scarce, in the absence of a sensible system of coupons to regulate the distribution, consumers will form queues. A queue is rarely a straight here, nor a dog’s tail (queue, in French, is a dog’s tail which most often crooked). Assembled consumers stagnate, make puddles and sometimes spread out like the Ganges, with Meghna, disgorges itself to the Bay of Bengal. They sometimes swirl and make whirlpools and then there is trouble, occasionally serious. There is order in a queue that people make automatically. To break that order is somehow iniquitous in the human mind. That is why breaking the order in a queue is enraging. For a queue to be disobeyed by anyone is infuriating, and for a politician to do so now in this country is dangerously injurious to his physical wellbeing.

The first cause of rising prices, hoarding and queues is the scarcity of goods and services in relation to the income and savings in the hands of the people.

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Terror figuring increasingly in Russian invasion of Ukraine

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In yet another mind-numbing manifestation of the sheer savagery marking the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a shopping mall in Ukraine’s eastern city of Kremenchuk was razed to the ground recently in a Russian missile strike. Reportedly more than a hundred civilian lives were lost in the chilling attack.

If the unconscionable killing of civilians is a definition of terrorism, then the above attack is unalloyed terrorism and should be forthrightly condemned by all sections that consider themselves civilized. Will these sections condemn this most recent instance of blood-curdling barbarism by the Putin regime in the Ukrainian theatre and thereby provide proof that the collective moral conscience of the world continues to tick? Could progressive opinion be reassured on this score without further delay or prevarication?

These issues need to be addressed with the utmost urgency by the world community. May be, the UN General Assembly could meet in emergency session for the purpose and speak out loud and clear in one voice against such wanton brutality by the Putin regime which seems to be spilling the blood of Ukrainian civilians as a matter of habit. The majority of UNGA members did well to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine close on the heels of it occurring a few months back but the Putin regime seems to be continuing the civilian bloodletting in Ukraine with a degree of impunity that signals to the international community that the latter could no longer remain passive in the face of the aggravating tragedy in Ukraine.

The deafening silence, on this question, on the part of those sections the world over that very rightly condemn terror, from whichever quarter it may emanate, is itself most intriguing. There cannot be double standards on this problem. If the claiming of the lives of civilians by militant organizations fighting governments is terror, so are the Putin regime’s targeted actions in Ukraine which result in the wanton spilling of civilian blood. The international community needs to break free of its inner paralysis.

While most Western democracies are bound to decry the Russian-inspired atrocities in Ukraine, more or less unambiguously, the same does not go for the remaining democracies of the South. Increasing economic pressures, stemming from high energy and oil prices in particular, are likely to render them tongue-tied.

Such is the case with Sri Lanka, today reduced to absolute beggary. These states could be expected ‘to look the other way’, lest they be penalized on the economic front by Russia. One wonders what those quarters in Sri Lanka that have been projecting themselves as ‘progressives’ over the years have to say to the increasing atrocities against civilians in Ukraine. Aren’t these excesses instances of state terror that call for condemnation?

However, ignoring the Putin regime’s terror acts is tantamount to condoning them. Among other things, the failure on the part of the world community to condemn the Putin government’s commissioning of war crimes sends out the message that the international community is gladly accommodative of these violations of International Law. An eventual result from such international complacency could be the further aggravation of world disorder and lawlessness.

The Putin regime’s latest civilian atrocities in Ukraine are being seen by the Western media in particular as the Russian strongman’s answer to the further closing of ranks among the G7 states to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the issues growing out of it. There is a considerable amount of truth in this position but the brazen unleashing of civilian atrocities by the Russian state also points to mounting impatience on the part of the latter for more positive results from its invasion.

Right now, the invasion could be described as having reached a stalemate for Russia. Having been beaten back by the robust and spirited Ukrainian resistance in Kyiv, the Russian forces are directing their fire power at present on Eastern Ukraine. Their intentions have narrowed down to carving out the Donbas region from the rest of Ukraine; the aim being to establish the region as a Russian sphere of influence and buffer state against perceived NATO encirclement.

On the other hand, having failed to the break the back thus far of the Ukraine resistance the Putin regime seems to be intent on demoralizing the resistance by targeting Ukraine civilians and their cities. Right now, most of Eastern Ukraine has been reduced to rubble. The regime’s broad strategy seems to be to capture the region by bombing it out. This strategy was tried out by Western imperialist powers, such as the US and France, in South East Asia some decades back, quite unsuccessfully.

However, by targeting civilians the Putin regime seems to be also banking on the US and its allies committing what could come to be seen as indiscretions, such as, getting more fully militarily and physically involved in the conflict.

To be sure, Russia’s rulers know quite well that it cannot afford to get into a full-blown armed conflict with the West and it also knows that the West would doing its uttermost to avoid an international armed confrontation of this kind that could lead to a Third World War. Both sides could be banked on to be cautious about creating concrete conditions that could lead to another Europe-wide armed conflict, considering its wide-ranging dire consequences.

However, by grossly violating the norms and laws of war in Ukraine Russia could tempt the West into putting more and more of its financial and material resources into strengthening the military capability of the Ukraine resistance and thereby weaken its economies through excessive military expenditure.

That is, the Western military-industrial complex would be further bolstered at the expense of the relevant civilian publics, who would be deprived of much needed welfare expenditure. This is a prospect no Western government could afford to countenance at the present juncture when the West too is beginning to weaken in economic terms. Discontented publics, growing out of shrinking welfare budgets, could only aggravate the worries of Western governments.

Accordingly, Putin’s game plan could very well be to subject the West to a ‘slow death’ through his merciless onslaught on the Ukraine. At the time of writing US President Joe Biden is emphatic about the need for united and firm ‘Transatlantic’ security in the face of the Russian invasion but it is open to question whether Western military muscle could be consistently bolstered amid rising, wide-ranging economic pressures.

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At 80, now serving humanity

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Thaku Chugani! Does this name ring a bell! It should, for those who are familiar with the local music scene, decades ago.

Thaku, in fact, was involved with the original group X-Periments, as a vocalist.

No, he is not making a comeback to the music scene!

At 80, when Engelbert and Tom Jones are still active, catering to their fans, Thaku is doing it differently. He is now serving humanity.

Says Thaku: “During my tenure as Lion District Governor 2006/2007, Dr Mosun Faderin and I visited the poor of the poorest blind school in Ijebu Ode Ogun state, in Nigeria.

“During our visit, a small boy touched me and called me a white man. I was astonished! How could a blind boy know the colour of my skin? I was then informed that he is cornea blind and his vision could be restored if a cornea could be sourced for him. This was the first time in my life that I heard of a cornea transplant. “

And that incident was the beginning of Thaku’s humanity service – the search to source for corneas to restore the vision of the cornea blind.

It was in 2007, when Dr Mosun and Thaku requested Past International President Lion Rohit Mehta, who was the Chief Guest at MD 404 Nigeria Lions convention, at Illorin, in Nigeria, to assist them in sourcing for corneas as Nigeria was facing a great challenge in getting any eye donation, even though there was an established eye bank.

“We did explain our problems and reasons of not being able to harvest corneas and Lion Rohit Metha promised to look into our plea and assured us that he will try his utmost best to assist in sourcing for corneas.”

Nigeria, at that period of time, had a wait list of over 70 cornea blind children and young adults.

“As assured by PIP Lion Rohit Mehta, we got an email from Gautam Mazumdar, and Dr. Dilip Shah, of Ahmedabad, in India, inviting us for World Blind Day

“Our trip was very fruitful as it was World Blind Day and we had to speak on the blind in Nigeria.”

“We were invited by Gautam Mazumdar to visit his eye bank and he explained the whole process of eye banking.

“We requested for corneas and also informed him about our difficulties in harvesting corneas.

“After a long deliberation, he finally agreed to give us six corneas. It was a historical moment as we were going to restore vision of six cornea blind children. To me, it was a great experience as I was privileged to witness cornea transplant in my life and what a moment it was for these children, when their vision was restored.

“Thus began my journey of sight restoration of the cornea blind, and today I have sourced over 1000 corneas and restored vision of the cornea blind in Nigeria, Kenya and India till date.

“Also, I need to mention that this includes corneas to the armed forces, and their family, all over India.

“On the 12th, August, 2018, the Eye Bank, I work with, had Launched Pre-Cut Corneas, which means with one pair of eyes, donated, four Cornea Blind persons sight will be restored.”

Thaku Chugani, who is based in India, says he is now able to get corneas regularly, but, initially, had to carry them personally – facing huge costs as well as international travel difficulties, etc.

However, he says he is so happy that his humanitarian mission has been a huge success.

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