Empowerment of the disabled

Although in theory a quota for disabled persons in school and government service exists, its implementation runs into endless difficulties. Seldom does one find a disabled person holding some important office. The government has announced that the secondary schools must enrol 10 per cent students from among the disabled but it has not been enforced vigorously. Ten per cent of the population is indeed the number of people labouring under various degrees of disability, according to a WHO estimate. The first-ever government survey conducted sometime ago revealed that 10,380 disabled girls and boys have been enrolled in the secondary schools and madrassahs of the country excluding those enrolled in the specialised schools for the physically challenged, like blind school, deaf and dumb school. Obviously, if the 10 per cent quota were seriously enforced the number of disabled students in secondary schools would have been much larger. This shows that even when the physically challenged girls and boys are being educated, they are mostly outside the educational mainstream. Needless to say, mainstreaming of their education is a prerequisite for bringing them in the mainstream of the economy. The move to bring the specialised schools under education ministry instead of social welfare ministry we regard as a positive step.

When nothing moves on the prescribed lines or moves very slowly, the intervention of the law court has to be sought. This is an unfortunate tradition currently crystallising in India and Bangladesh – the courts being dragged into matters of day-to-day governance due to failure of the executive. Same is this case. The High Court on Sunday asked the government to inform it in a month about the steps taken so far for employment of persons with disabilities in line with the Disabled Welfare Act 2000 (we think the act should have been titled not Disabled Welfare but Disabled Rights Act), which stipulates equal right to work for such persons. The court order came after hearing two writ petitions filed by a visually impaired person and four rights organisations. Even when the government acts despite its characteristic apathy and sloth, for proper rehabilitation of the disabled much will depend on social attitude. We often learn of physically challenged girls and boys with legendary perseverance taking public examinations and even qualifying at the tertiary-level examinations. But we do not find such bold spirits at top echelons of any profession. Are we then to conclude that even when their environment is helpful to them in pursuing education, it is no longer so when they go to join some profession? Even as arguments were going on in the court in connection with the two writ petitions, Attorney General Mahbubey Alam said the disabled persons ‘are not fit for work in the public service and the judiciary.’ He did not explain why. If a disabled person is fit to surmount the heaviest odds to complete their education, if they can learn and assimilate the lessons of the voluminous tomes of law and jurisprudence and let themselves be examined on their success in it, then why are they not fit to sit on the bench. We find here a regressive mindset on the part of an eminent professional which is indicative of the mindset of society at large. This mindset must change. 
Source: 27 April, 2010, New Age.
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