Monday, February 6, 2023
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Disability sector in J&k facing flood of issues even World has been celebrating World Disability Day

Javed Ahmad Tak

Today is World Disability Day. The annual observance of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) on 3 December was proclaimed in 1992 by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 47/3. The observance of the Day aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities.
The theme this year is “Transformative solutions for inclusive development: the role of innovation in fuelling an accessible and equitable world“.

The 2022 global observance to commemorate the International Day of Persons with Disabilities will be around the overarching theme of innovation and transformative solutions for inclusive development, covering in three different interactive dialogues the following thematic topics:

• Innovation for disability inclusive development in employment (SDG8): this dialogue will discuss the linkages between employment, knowledge and skills required to access employment in an innovative, rapidly changing technological landscape to all and how assistive technologies can increase accessibility to employment and be mainstreamed in the workplace.

• Innovation for disability inclusive development in reducing inequality (SDG10): this dialogue will discuss innovations, practical tools and good practices to reduce inequalities in both public and private sectors, which are disability inclusive and interested in promoting diversity in the workplace.
• Innovation for disability inclusive development: sport as an exemplar case: a sector where all of these aspects coalesce; sport as a good practice example and a site of innovation, employment and equity.

The above said theme and sub themes linked with Sustainable development goals show persons with disabilities all around glob have attained development crossing all models of disability from medical to charity, to social to Human Rights and now Developmental model. The persons with Disabilities of Jammu & Kashmir are still struggling with charity model. Neither they have no knowledge about Laws, legislations and rules nor are they given the rights to attain development. The demands of education, social security, employment and independent living in the community through proper rehabilitation have not been met properly. The persons with disabilities have super burning issues in their life in J&K. These include

Accessibility: Accessibility is the highest challenge for persons with disabilities. Although prime Minister of India on eve of world Disability Day launched Accessible India Campaign in order to bring broader safe passages for persons with disabilities. But in J&K the grants in crores were lapsed because disability is not considered an important issue. There was heavy miscommunication seen between construction agencies like Public works Department and nodal agency Social Welfare department hence money was not utilized. The saddening part is number of buildings were recently constructed and huge number are under construction but accessibility for persons with disabilities is not there. Although number of directions has been passed by Honourable Supreme Court of India, High Court of J&K and even the Circulars have been notified by Public Works Administrative department of J&K, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and DOPT but Jammu Kashmir administration has no priority to empower the disability sector. There is no monitoring cell for such works neither any guideline for contractors and designers to make the infrastructure of Jammu & Kashmir Disable friendly. From block to District level rural infrastructure college buildings, hospitals Courts and all government offices are unfriendly to the disable persons. Thus disability sector is confined to four walls waiting for government pension and charity from various headquarters. May be today any High Court Judge will read this article and take cognizance or may be LG administration will find it an eye opener to start creating accessibility otherwise the darkness is continue for disability sector and there will be some day when retired officers will face troubles in accessing huge stairs and footpaths. Then they may be our partners in movement of accessibility.

Education: The special educators are not available in all schools. The teaching learning material in not available in the accessible format in all schools to cater the needs of all the children with disabilities enrolled there. The deaf children are mostly dropped out from schools because of non availability of the sign language knowing teachers. The school accessibility is no way considered, thus the schools are full of barriers and even class rooms are not accessible for all 21 types of bench mark disabilities. There are lack of disable friendly toilets, wash stations, parking facilities, accessible entrances, wide doors, accessible white/black boards and other facilities needed for safe and hassle free inclusive education. A handful of already employed special educators/ resource teachers are not getting appropriate salaries and regularization of their services thus along with career of children with disabilities, manpower providing services of overall rehabilitation of children with disabilities with education department through SAMAGRAH is in dark.

The only school for deaf and mute children in Rambagh Srinagar (Abidanandan Home) which has been taken over by the Social Welfare Department under the erstwhile J&K State Cabinet under Chairpersonship of then Chief Minister is facing the stagnation. The students with 100% hearing and speech disabilities belonging to almost all districts are struggling there to seek education. There is no trained staff and other required facilities for the students enrolled. The Honourable Lieutenant Governor administration, The Chief Secretary of J&K, Secretary Social Welfare and all the Stake holders of School Education department despite knowing odd situation of students with hearing and speech disabilities ignore and avoid them. All the parents of hearing and speech disable children are now disappointed as they approached the above said quarters but they didn’t get any positive response and Social welfare department has failed to do the reengineering of Abhidanandan Home at Rambagh where around hundred children with disabilities had linked their hope to seek educational empowerment.

Employment: Employment is the only tool to empower persons with disabilities economically. Around 20% of persons with disabilities complete the school education upto 10th or 12th and less than 10% of persons with disabilities succeed to seek higher education. After overcoming hurdles and barriers the persons with disabilities expect the jobs under reservation by constitution of India and legislations like Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 but the recruiting agencies like J&K Services Selection Board and Public service commission do not have any proper guideline to serve the quota for eligible and educated persons with disabilities. The confusion that hinders the recruiting agencies from serving 4% reservation as per Rights of persons with Disabilities Act 2016 is word “Horizontal Reservation”. The recruiting agencies feel they are giving some charity to persons with disabilities not the rights. They feel it is a sub category and not a full-fledged reserved category. There is heavy miscommunication between Social welfare department, General Administration Department and recruiting agencies. Thus there are no proper guidelines and the document of understanding for the recruitment of persons with disabilities. Despite orders from Honorable Supreme Court of India that persons with disabilities should get equal benefits given to SC and ST category and open merit is open for all, JK SSB charge fee from aspirants with disabilities and both JKPSC and JKSSB count the persons with disabilities in open merit as reserved categories. There is no waiting list in disability category and 4% is not fully counted for reservation. Recently JKSSB notified the selection list for class 4th and Junior assistants. In class 4th Disability quota was 343 against 8545 candidates the accurate number was not given. In the same way candidates selected against 1500 posts advertised 60 persons with disabilities were supposed to get selected but JKSSB failed to do justice with Disability category. The recruiting agencies need to change their attitude towards disability sector and create greater vision to empower and do justice with persons with disabilities.

The uneducated or illiterate persons with disabilities also face difficulties in seeking livelihood. They are not included in startup programmes interest free loans from banks by the EDI and Banks. The Entrepreneurship development Institute has no specific programmes for youth with disabilities. Hence there is no livelihood programme for youth with disabilities that can give them sustainable development to live with dignity.

Private sector or corporate sector has also not been accepting the youth with disabilities as worth human resource. Despite RPWD Act – 2016 directions that 5% of employees should comprise of eligible persons with disabilities, but still corporate sector ignore the educated youth with disabilities and a huge chunk of youth with disabilities possessing talent and higher qualifications are staying idle and stereotypes are linked to talented youth with disabilities. In other states corporate sector provide jobs to persons with disabilities and agree that 20 to 30% results are more than physically fit because persons with disabilities never focus on other things but have goal oriented thoughts to complete the work. One of the biggest reasons is that due to disability they prefer to work consistently that mingling for side talks or see what is happening around, so JK Corporate sector and all business chambers should wake up and create inclusivity.

Social Security pension: Social Security pension is the only help which persons with disabilities are getting on recurring basis. It is highly meager and the persons with disabilities who are dependent on high support needs and drugs are not surviving against the money. In various states the social security pension is more than 2000 to 3500 rupees. But in J&K it is 1000 from last many years. The persons with disabilities have been living miserable life and now going for online procedures have been giving more sadness and troubles. The persons with blindness, cerebral palsy, multiple disabilities and severe orthopedic disabilities due to stroke and spinal cord injuries are not in a position to reach Courts and get affidavit, neither can they reach inaccessible food and supplies offices to get ration tickets in e format. What will be their fate is a million dollar question on world disability day. LG of J&K Shri Manoj Sinha, Chief Secretary of J&K, Secretary Social welfare, Secretary Health don’t take any high level meetings on the Disability issues. Hence lower strata officers don’t take any concrete steps. It is time to take issues of disability sector on priority otherwise the dependence will increase and persons with disabilities will again fail to break the cocoon of dependence to fly with independence when the Azaadi Ka Amrit Maha utsaw guarantees we all are developed and can contribute for the country. Disability sector will continue to be at receiving end because of bad or no policies.

Inclusive Society: Persons with disabilities are facing social and attitudinal barriers. The youth with disability are not accepted. Despite possessing all good human traits persons with disabilities are not accepted as life partners. There are thousands of women with disabilities and males with disabilities who after losing parental support are forced to live a life in isolation and single status. There is no support available at community level and no care and protection institutions for the persons with disabilities after losing parental support. If livelihood and earning avenues are available for persons with disabilities then there are chances of family making and living with independence in the society.

Other grave issues: In Jammu & Kashmir persons with disabilities are not counted well and there is no database available. The Census 2011 has reported Jammu and Kashmir has around 361,153 persons with different disabilities. The percentage of males is more than the percentage or population of females. Number of Males is 204,834 and
Number of females is 156,319. But from last eleven years number of nongovernmental surveys show that J&K has around 10% of disable population. During past 33 years of armed conflict J&K has highest number of mental illness cases as compared to rest of the country and highest number of orthopedic disabilities because of cross boarder shelling, use of weapons and guns. The disability is still on rise due to electric shocks, transportation accidents and conflict. The census enumerators are not well trained and the census department is not highlighting disability counting on priority thus the figure of population of persons with disabilities is every time blurred. The Disability Commission in 2017 took the data collection in hand but it too failed to generate accurate database. The picture was ugly during Floods in 2014 and COVID in 2020 to 2021 when persons with disabilities suffered inside homes and they couldn’t seek equal protection. The availability of data base could have maximized the protective measures for the disability sector. The coming census should be perfectly inclusive and population of persons with disabilities should be counted with high priority so that policies are framed in appropriate manner to empower persons with disabilities.

Sports is the tool to ensure overall development of all including youth with disabilities. There is lack of inclusion in sports programmes. Recently sports department gave reservation in jobs to various sports persons but international players of wheelchair users and other disable sports persons. The stadiums at state level and indoor stadiums are not completely disable friendly. Thus exclusion of youth with disabilities happens. In other states under Para Olympic and Special Olympic Bharat hundreds of children with disabilities and youth rise and shine and bring medals for the country. But due to neglection of sports department a huge talent gets wasted. Youth with disabilities always beg before district administration, police Army NGOs and private sectors to organize cricket matches and other sports events. J&K sports department could have replicated models from various other states. There are no disable persons in Paralympics committee of J&k and blue eyed persons having no disability are still given undue favours to represent disability sports in J&K which is always reason for failure for JK sports stake holders. There are only photo shows when any disable person brings any medal. Recently two wheelchair users were participants in international match of wheelchair basket ball but in all district sports infrastructure there is no accessibility but barriers exclude the sports persons with disabilities. Crores of funds are for sports events but no inclusive sports programme or exclusively for persons with disabilities are organized. No awards are given to sports persons with disabilities.

Electioneering is the important process of implementing the democracy, but in J&K voters with disability have no voter ids with logo of disability. The pooling booths are not accessible and EVM machines are not explained to voters with communication and seeing disabilities. The election commission of India organizes meetings on inclusive and accessible elections but J&K government doesn’t give representation to persons with disabilities so that disability sector is aware about all electioneering processes. All India Disable ICONS know what new has been introduced for persons with disabilities but persons with disabilities are unaware who the state icon is for persons with disabilities in J&k. There should be a committee of disability in election department in order to ensure inclusion of persons with disabilities. There is no reservation in municipal to Assembly seats. J&K should announce the political reservation for persons with disabilities. otherwise inclusion of persons with disabilities as per constitution of India reservations and entitlements will prove futile. Disability sector will never get development till political reservation is served because persons with disabilities are not trusted by political parties.

Persons with disabilities are called with different names and every head of the state want to serve new name. The names likes specially abled, differently abled, special persons, persons with special needs and DIVYANG etc but the big question on the eve of World Disability Day is that when we don’t hand hold the persons with disabilities and build their capabilities what will be the difference by the name change. It is just a conventional trade to say sweet names and don’t make anyone worth part to become a contributor. When society, stake holders, parents and social workers will collectively take steps to provide Education Employment Accessibility and independent living in the community for persons with disabilities then the common person with disability will ultimately change into Specially abled or Divyang otherwise all persons with disabilities are poorest of poor creatures and changing their names will never change their fate. All laws starting from United Nations Convention on the Rights of persons with disabilities to Indian Rights of persons with disabilities Act has given standard identity to Disability sector is (Persons with Disabilities). Let us trust in laws and stop giving sweet names and no dignified living.

Javed Ahmad Tak is a Disability Rights Activist.he can reach at [email protected] 9469064964

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