Disable for the disable person

Hatchinghoi Haokip *

1st State Level Sports Meet for Person with Disability at Khuman Lampak :: 02 October 2013
State Level Sports Meet for Person with Disability in October 2013 :: Pix - Ashok Ningthoujam

With India being a signatory to United National Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), the government at the centre on December 2016 passed the "The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill 2016″ to ensure true inclusion in the society as well as fulfil the obligation on the part of India in terms of UNCRPD.

The new law rolled out many provisions from expanding the types of disability from existing 7 to 21 along with the inclusion of speech and language disability and specific learning Disability, increasing reservation from 3% to 4% among others. This is a move toward giving them the right share in the society as well as in economic development.

As the centre move forward to an inclusive India with the latest move through Mental health care bill providing several rights to access mental health-care and treatment, the status at the state level in Manipur is in dismay. As per the 2011 census, the total number of disabled persons in Manipur is 54110 out of 28.56 lakh people (approximately 2% of the total population) which include seeing, speech, hearing, movement, mental, multiple disability and others types of disability.

Even though this appears meagre but this doesn't justify us to sideline them and starved them of their rights and entitlements as enshrined in the constitution. No government or society is developed unless it is with the inclusion of all groups and sections of the society. Their fight for life starts from the day they were born with the kind of rejection approach and sympathy for being born the way they are.

As they grow up, this struggle enlarged with the biggest form in term of "Social Stigma" and a tendency of "unwelcomed" in every corner of society. In a society where children are considered as an asset: a gift from God, the disable children are met with opposite approach. Rather seen as asset they are considered as a liability to the family unable to engage in the productive activities.

They are rejected in every stage of life right from young age of rejection in their peer group to rejection in marriage proposal as they are seen as a burden. In this integrated web of struggle even those who braved to come out of the societal compression they are confronted with our ineffectively and unpreparedness in our approach both in term of infrastructure and opportunities.

Nelson Mandela said, "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world". But the darker side of the story is the state educational institution right from High school to university level including the government and the private institution has no room for the disable. Even the state-of-art institution's infrastructure with hundreds of steps, doubled-tripled storey, well-structured classroom with world class facilities when it comes to an index of disable friendly infrastructure neither do they have lift nor ramps for disable.

With the new bill providing for the right to free education between the age group of 6 and 18 years and inclusive education to the children with disabilities the educational institution of the state has a mammoth role in it. Their policy and approach should be pro-active, inclusive, accessible and disable friendly so that not a single disable child with the capacity to learn is denied of its fundamental right of "Right to education" under Right to education act 2009.

The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act 1995 which have been long enforced has a provision that the States are required to provide for Ramps in public buildings, Provision of toilets for wheelchair users, Braille symbols and auditory signals in elevators or lifts, Ramps in hospitals, primary health centres and other rehabilitation centres. However such facilities which ease the movement and life of disable person is far to be seen from the educational institution, the government offices, the public transport and the hospitals in the state.

Even with the Prime Minister's Accessible India Campaign, which stresses to ensure accessibility in public buildings (both Government and private) in a prescribed time-frame the condition in Manipur is still at the nascent stage.

While to those handful number who could acquired the required minimum level of education, with exception to few government jobs all the road to employment are blocked with no ample space to pursue the empowered independent life. The concerned authority at the state level, district levels and the civil societies should take the initiative to let this group of "Differently-able person" their right share in economic production through innovative, comprehensive and pro-active approach.

As per the ministry of Social welfare department, Government of Manipur website, the government has implemented many schemes and programs which also included 2 (two) Specials Schools: one for Visual Impaired and one for Hearing Impaired with hostel facilities running. Besides these two Govt. schools, 4 NGOs have established another 5 (five) Special Schools (4 for Mentally Retarded and one for Hearing Impaired).

Several other initiatives of government include employment opportunities, Rehabilitation centres, music courses, vocational courses and scholarship program of amount ranging from Rs 40 to rs 120 per months (rs 60 to rs 170 for hostellers) with the upper limit of the combined income of parent at rs 2000. In a situation where a simple classmate notebook cost rs 40 this amount provided seems to fails in its intended purpose.

The government of the day should look into this and considered for increasing the scholarship amount to the desired level. The mere presence of schemes and facilities does not assure them of education, skill and employment more need to be done in sensitizing the people to avail the facilities, bringing in awareness and reaching to the targeted section of the population.

Encompassing all these, government should also take initiative in imbibing them the skill of knitting, weaving, tailoring, bamboo work, Embroidery etc according to their capacity and capabilities so that they can be self-employed and expansion of existing vocational courses or training centre to engage them in the economic activities. This should be provided along with token relief grants to the pass out trainee of vocational training to enable them to start income activities in the skill and trade they are trained as done by the government of Meghalaya.

Reservation in various government schemes like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Midday Meal Scheme, Skill India Mission , Startup India, Standup India, MGNREGS etc can be provided or a provision of Unemployment allowance in line with the provision of the government of Mizoram can be followed. Along with it the civil societies and media are to be robbed in to promote the products of skilled disable person's work through trademark policy or setting up a separate store for them or sensitizing the public the value of such product etc. This is to ensure that they are empowered and to enable the disabled people to stand on their own feet.

The larger issue that needs to be considered is the way the society as well as individual approach to this group of people. More awareness programs, bringing in the trio: mindset, perception and behavioural changes, rolling out of punitive measures to punish those involve in discriminating or depriving disable person's legitimate right. Observing "World Disabled Day" on 3rd December in every district headquarters is one way to create awareness among the people the difficulties and challenges faced by the disabled.

A simple change in the word from "disable to differently able" as promoted by our prime minister can do wonders in the long run. The family members and friend should also join hand to give moral support to explore the world of opportunities and make them realised that they are no less inferior than anyone.

For all these to implement and bear fruitful result maintaining an authentic and reliable database of all disable person with regular updating at all level i.e. state, district and village levels along with the types of disability is the need of hour for proper allocation of the resources, targeting the right person without inclusion and exclusion error.

At present this might seems like speaking about the heaven while we are in earth but the reality is not far from truth and to include them is vital to the health and vibrancy of the society. As we take the path of progressive society let's work together to strengthen Manipur as a modern, open and inclusive state and be the role model state of Accessible India Campaign.

* Hatchinghoi Haokip wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on April 23, 2017.

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