Chinmaya Himachal marks disability day

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SUREKHA DHALETA writes from DHARAMSHALA

Bharat Khera, D C Dharamshala, in conversation with President of Chinmaya Umang, during the World Disability Day Rally organised by Chinmaya Umang, December 2. World Disability Day is on December 3.

Do kadam hum chalein, do kadam tum chalo,
Ye safar kat jayega, chalte chalte
Kuch hum kahein, kuch tum kaho
Ye safar kat jayega kehte kehte…
— Praveen Kr. ‘Ambadia’

What makes these lines unique, may be the words, or the imagery it carries, but the special thing about this poem is it that these are expressions of an individual who could not pursue his education after 7th class as his body had been rendered immobile due to a condition called muscular dystrophy. This condition however could not deter him from writing. He is Praveen Kumar ‘Ambadia’, a poet confined to a wheel chair, who can hardly move his body. He has written around 500 poems, and has a book published titled, ‘Maa’. ‘Ambadia’ is a sobriquet that he has assigned to himself as he hails from the village Ambadi of Nagrota block in Kangra district, Himachal Pradesh. The biggest challenge as he opines is not his disability but his financial insecurity, as he manages to sustains through writing and some donations. More…

There are many individuals like Praveen who are confronted with challenges of different forms of disability in life, but it is their invincible spirit and the unconditional zeal to overcome impediments that makes them worth admiration. To celebrate this undying spirit, December 3 is marked as the ‘World Disability Day’. Praveen along with his differently abled friends from ‘Chinmaya Umang’ and others who support the cause of disability participated in a rally in Dharamshala on December 2 organised by Chinmaya Organization for Rural Development (CORD) to commemorate the ‘World Disability Day’.

The march
Wearing blue and yellow ribbons (used to express solidarity with the cause of disability), displaying banners and placards, shouting slogans like Viklang Ekta Zindabad, Hamara Nara Samamnta Ka Adhikar… participants(differently abled persons and their supporters ) of the rally marched ahead on the streets of Dharamshala waging through different government offices. The initiating point of the rally was Municipal Community Hall at Kotwali Bazaar in Dharamshala and the terminus was DC office at Kachahari Bazaar in Dharamshala. The rally was flagged off by Navin Bahl, a trustee of CORD. Chinmaya Umang has been organising such rallies since 2003 and every year the rally has focused on some issue, namely equal educational, occupational opportunities, issue of accessibility for the differently abled. This year the theme was Looking Back –Looking Ahead, 1996-2006-2016. The underlying thought behind the theme was that it has been nearly 10 years since the PWD (Person with disability) Act came into force in 1996. It is basically a reflection on the retrospect and an attempt to look forward at the prospects of the PWD Act, which broadly aims at equal opportunities, equal participation and protection of rights of the differently abled.

A street play was also staged near the premises of D C office, where the participants emphasized upon the issue of equal opportunities and accessibility for the disabled. Shiv Kumar, a visually challenged participant stressed on the need of a Braille Press in Himachal, further raised the issue elevated steps in public and private buses.

Bharat Khera, DC Dharamshala, while addressing the gathering at the DC Office appreciated the efforts of Chinmaya Umang, and emphasised that such events should not be restricted to single days like ‘World Disability Day’. He stressed on the need of imbibing differently abled with the mainstream and their economic empowerment. He assured the gathering about governmental efforts on issue of accessibility, as according to him ‘accessibility audits’ of many governmental institutions, offices and many public places like bus stands and temples have been undertaken, and in future efforts will be initiated to make public places and government institutions disable friendly.

Sadhbhavna booths
Sadhbhavna booths were organised at eight different locations in Kangra district by CORD. The locations include mini Secretariat at Dharamshala, bus stands of Dharamshala, Kangra, Nagrota and Palampur respectively, Agriculture University Palampur, colleges of Dharamshala and Palampur. The underlying idea behind the booths is to basically make the community aware of disability related issues in public places, and people are made to undertake a pledge and sign a pledge, that they will continue supporting the cause in the near future. It is a medium where a differently abled individual (accompanied by an abled person to represent equality) speaks for himself/herself.

Opinions of stakeholders
The idea behind organizing events like rallies, cultural events for the differently abled as Rinku (Pradhan of Chinmaya Umang) Rajni, Ajay, Praveen, Prabhat, Manju, Sanjeev …(the list goes endless all these individuals are stakeholders of ‘Chinmaya Umang’) and people involved with the Community based Rehabilitation program of CORD opine is to sensitize individuals on the issue of disability and enlarge the social vision. It is an attempt to deepen consciousness of community at large and above all redefine perceptions. Rally as representatives of ‘Chinmaya Umang’ elucidate is a medium for us to verbalize our perceptions and demands and problems which we are confronted with. Cultural events and programs enhance our self confidence, it is a medium to reinstate and bring to fore the capacities and potential that have often been undermined and undervalued. It is a clear statement that we reject the continued situation of unequal opportunities and the message is literal that we are not ciphers, but a part of this very society.

The backdrop

Chinmaya Organization for rural development (CORD) a NGO based in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh has been working in the sphere of rural development since mid 80’s. Along with other development endeavours this organization has given immense impetus to disability related issues. As a result a full-fledged Community based program for the differently abled was launched in 1995, and a forum for the differently abled called ‘Chinmaya Umang’ was floated in 2003. The stakeholders of the forum comprise of around 200 differently abled individuals, parents and friends of differently abled and others who support the cause of disability. The total strength of Chinmaya Umang amounts to approximately 1700 individuals, spread across different villages of Kangra district. Chinmaya Umang is a self help support and advocacy group and a platform for members to voice their existing concerns and develop future solutions as a team. Apart from this Chinmaya Umang is proactive in designing CBR (Community based rehabilitation programs) of CORD.