By: Surekha Dhaleta
V S Kokje, Governor of Himachal Pradesh, with differently-abled children after honouring them for their achievements in a programme organised by Society for Disability and Rehabilitation Studies (SDRS) in Shimla. H K Sharma, CMD of Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam and Ajai Srivastava, Chairman of SDRS, HP are also seen in the picture.
(Photo: D D Sharma)
Shimla: Fifteen differently-abled individuals, five mentally challenged and 10 visually challenged students were honoured by the Himachal chapter of Society for Disability and Rehabilitation Studies (SDRS), in a state level workshop organised here on March 10.
These students were honoured for their special achievements in the arena of sports as they had represented Himachal and won accolades in Special Olympics Bharat, and various national and international sports events respectively.
The honour included a cash award of Rs 1000 and a certificate of honour. This event was a unique and a rare occasion in the history of the state as such an endeavour to honour differently abled individuals has never taken place in the state. According to Ajai Srivastava, Chairman, SDRS, Himachal chapter, who has been running a crusade for the rights of disabled in Himachal “the cash amount is not a big thing, this is an attempt to encourage differently-abled individuals, and provide a social recognition for their achievements. This is about adopting a new perspective on defining the success of these individuals.”
Srivastava further elucidated that though Himachal has earned a reputation of being a high literate state, and has progressed in sectors of health, horticulture, and agriculture and is considered as one of the better off states, but the disability sector remains grossly neglected here. He lamented the lack of “an empowered disability movement and a momentum in Himachal” and in a very candid manner uncovered issues like government apathy in implementing the Persons with Disability (PWD) Act, in Himachal. He discerned that though there is provision for State Disability Policy, but concrete efforts are not being taken in this regard’
The workshop was organised by SDRS Himachal with support from Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI), ZCC North Zone on the issue of Human Development in Disability sector. V S Kokje, the governor of the state inaugurated the workshop. A souvenir of SDRS on the thematic issue was also released by Kokje to mark the occasion.
The governor expressed a need for awareness on the issue of disability, especially amongst the representatives of the people and highlighted the need of a state policy in context of disability. He further opined that Himachal Pradesh has a conducive and a very supportive environment for social justice related issues. However what is required is just a coordinated effort by the society itself as disability is a problem of society at large and needs to be solved at the grassroots level. There is a need to instil confidence amongst differently-abled individuals and provide basic training at the family levels of differently abled persons. Kokje congratulated all the students for their achievements.
Jamyang, a Buddhist monk was also honoured on this occasion for his efforts – he has been working towards betterment of deprived sections of society in Churan Khud of Dharamshala.
Speaking on the occasion, H K Sharma, Chairman and Managing Director of Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Ltd (SJVNL), in a very supportive gesture expressed his concern towards disability related issues. Sharma elucidated that SJVNL, has been successfully running big hydroelectric ventures like Nathpa Jhakri project in Himachal and they have been strictly following the norm of 3% reservation for disabled in the projects. He assured to continue to provide support and employment opportunities for the differently abled in Himachal.
Dr. Hemlata, Project Director, RCI; Sara Johnson, Chairperson, RCI , ZCC, North Zone, Ludhiana; representatives of various NGOs working in the disability and other sectors in Himachal, various government officials, parents of differently-abled persons, differently-abled individuals and scholars from different streams participated in the workshop. Dr. Hemlata and Sara Johnson appraised the gathering about the work of RCI, its numerous programs and about its activities in the northern zone respectively.
Different issues related to disability were discussed in the workshop. The issues that surfaced very prominently in the discusssions and to which all the participants agreed in unison were that there was a need for authentic database, extensive composite documents regarding disability in Himachal. While reflecting upon the status of disability in Himachal Pradesh, Srivastava highlighted that there was a huge variation in statistics on disability status, released by Census 2001 and surveys conducted by government of Himachal Pradesh.
A database needs to be created comprising district wise information about the age groups, employment status, the kinds of disability, of the disabled in Himachal for proper planning and implementation of disability related issues. The education facilities for disabled in Himachal remain grossly inadequate. There is wide hiatus between figures of literacy rates of the state i.e. 76.5% and literacy rates of the disabled in Himachal, which stands just 52%.
Other issues highlighted were that there has been a lack of discussion on issue of disability in legislative assembly of the state and there has been an utter lack of sensitivity amongst representatives of people on issues of disability. It was further proposed to hold workshops for various governments departments and for representatives of people to apprise and sensitize them about issues of disability in Himachal.
Shobhu Ram, a visually challenged individual who has been waging a long agitation in Himachal for the rights of visually challenged persons expressed his anguish at the gross indifference of the government departments related to disability issues.
It further discerned in the workshop that SDRS Himachal has instituted two awards in the centenary year of Satyagrah as a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi. These awards are Mahatma Gandhi Awards for empowering the disabled. One award will be given to an individual or an NGO for outstanding work in the field of disability. The other award will go to one media person for his/her outstanding contribution in creating awareness with respect to disability in the state. These awards would be an annual feature.