India's blind population to reduce drastically after new definition
The new definition lowers the benchmark for people to be considered blind, which will drastically reduce the number of people in the country currently identified as blind.
From 1.2 crore, the number of 'blind' people is set to come down to 80 lakh.
India's blind population to reduce by 1.4 crore
The new definition of 'blind' in the Indian context
With this change of definition, a person will now be considered blind if he/she is unable to count fingers from a distance of three metres. The earlier definition, adopted in 1976, stipulated this distance to be six metres.
Old definition was hampering estimates, distancing WHO goal
"We were (earlier) projecting a higher figure of blind people from India at international fora," said Dr Promila Gupta, Deputy Director General, NPCB.
It is also an attempt to reduce the blindness prevalence in India to 0.3% by 2020 - a WHO target.
"(Earlier) we had been addressing an extra 4mn individuals 'blind' due to refractive errors," said Professor Praveen Vashist of AIIMS.
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How does WHO define blindness?
According to the WHO definition, blindness implies visual sharpness less than 3/60, or corresponding visual field loss to less than 10 degrees in the better eye, with the best available spectacle correction.
Why did India's earlier definition differ from WHO's?
India decided on a 6m distance while considering economic blindness - a level of blindness which prevents a person from earning wages.
On the other hand, the WHO considered the criteria for blindness as a level that interferes with routine social interaction of a person, or social blindness.