From ‘Disabled’ to an ‘Enabled’ India: Transforming towards inclusion…

Today, as India celebrates the International Day for Persons with Disabilities, there lies a stark reality in the form of an alarming statistical account which continues to haunt the country. According to the 2011 Census (2016 updated), 2.21% of India’s total population, that is, 21 million people are disabled, out of which 45 percent are illiterates. Despite the passage of Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Bill in the Rajya Sabha in 2012, the rate of exclusion is far away from improvement as 79% schools across the country still do not adhere to  inclusive education for the disabled children.  

While the disabled population of India already faces an immense degree of exclusion, being illiterate just adds to the pre-existing predicaments, resulting in increased dependency and barrred inclusion. Just as for any other human being, employment and education are correlatedly significant essentials for the disadvantaged section as well. Thankfully, there are stratum of people who do not depend on the state alone but do believe in bringing about the anticipated transformation at hand. 

ATULYAKALA- EMPLOYING THE DEAF COMMUNITY…  

Atulyakala is one such step towards  evolution. It is a Non-Profit Organization in the Indian capital of New Delhi which was founded in 2013. It is among the select few establishments which solely cater towards generating employment for the deaf community.  

 

(Pictures: Atulyakala)

“Employment opportunities for deaf are less because of lack of proper education, there is a lack of proper education because there are no inclusive schools. We at Atulyakala, focus on generating employment opportunities for the deaf community. Our organization produces lifestyle products all of which are designed by our deaf artists.”, says Oshin Dhawan, the Communication Head at Atulyakala. 

70% of employees at Atulyakala are deaf and within just 4 years of its foundation, the NPO has initiated a desire to create something different, with an extraordinary set of people. 

DISHA- GIVING DIRECTION TO THE MENTALLY DISABLED

Founded in 1994, ‘DISHA’ is a school of special education for mentally disabled children aged above 5 years. Based in a small city like Meerut, Disha is one of the first schools to have been set up in Uttar Pradesh, with a desire to take care of the mentally challenged children lest they are crushed by the juggernaut of the society. 

“Our son was born in 1983. For years we took him to Delhi for treatment and therapy but soon realised that we must usher something at a local level in  our very own city to help more like him”, says Poonam Bansal, wife of one of the founders at Disha. 

According to Dr. Anil Bansal, President  of the Management Committee at Disha, “One of the biggest and recurring hurdles which we face is that of making the disabled students commute to the school. For this, we have especially recruited staff which would support each child and patiently carry them from one doorstep to the other. We also have vans of our own because no transport companies are willing to collaborate with us”.

At present, Disha has over 120 students who, are given prevocational training in terms of increasing their employability. 

EXCLUSIONARY vs RESILIENT SOCIETY

While most of the existing special institutions and NPOs do not fall under the Ministry of Human Resource and Development, India needs broader initiatives with similar intentions like those of Atulyakala and Disha. This resilience will be an encouraging advancement  towards re-defiining the word ‘Disabled’as ‘Differently-Abled’, thereby adhering to the this year’s United Nations theme on International Day for Persons with Disabilities, that is, Transformation towards sustainable and resiliensociety for all.
Feature Picture Courtesy: Better India

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‘Alzheimer-free’ India: A must for Developed India

He begins his day with flipping the newspaper pages, going for fresh walks and  spending time with his grandchildren, only to forget all these memories by the next day. Mr. Narayan Mehta* , an 83 year old man who lives in CR Park, Delhi, not only forgets what he had in lunch but there is more to it as he quite often doesn’t recognize his children. He is an Alzheimer patient who caught the disorder 4 years ago post a brain surgery.

“I always accompanied my father to the bank. I had to because he would forget the way back home from the bank which was hardly at a straight stretch of a few yards”, says Amita Sharma, daughter of late Ramprakash Sharma*, an Alzheimer patient who died 3 years ago in Meerut.

“Quite often he complained of the caregiver not giving him food. He would also leave the house out of anger, irritation and protest. Altogether, it was extremely difficult to assess whether he was being troubled or abused by the caregiver because of his disease and the forgetfulness which comes with it“, she adds.

Research has indicated a huge lapse between the actual number of elder abuse cases and the legal help sought. When an elderly patient who is suffering from Alzheimer disease is abused, it is almost impossible to identify the source due to the forgetful tendencies of the patient who fails to communicate the same.

“Obviously caregivers are aware of the memory loss issues associated with elders suffering from Alzheimer. This is mostly why all the doctors treating Alzheimer patient advise their family members to be extra cautious while appointing caregivers. It is equally important to request investigation of nursing homes before making a selection”, says Dr. Sudeep, a practising doctor based in Delhi.

A report jointly brought out by United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and Help Age International says: India has around 100 million elderly at present and the number is expected to increase to 323 million, constituting 20 per cent of the total population, by 2050.

More than 20% of people across the globe suffer from mild dementia above the age of 80. India alone, is home to more than 3 million suffering from dementia in its different forms including Alzheimer. In 20 years alone, the number of the afflicted are believed to doubly multiply.  Of the 100 million elder people who live in India, more than 39% are abused in more ways than one. This World Elderly day, it is important to pay heed to the fact that India has the highest number of Alzheimers cases after US and China and hence there lies a pertinent need to battle it.

 

(*: names have been modified)

From Yogi’s Meals to Indira’s Kitchen: How necessary is politics on food?

In April, earlier this year, the Uttar Pradesh government introduced a scheme to provide subsidised nutritious breakfast, lunch and dinner is made available to the economically weak people in the state. The scheme had provisions to give breakfast for ₹3 and lunch for as little as ₹5.  The BJP-ruled state planned to emulate the scheme in the form of more than 200 subsidised meal canteens across the state.

Karnataka chosen by Congress- Election optics in mind?

Where on one hand, BJP introduced subsidised meals in a state where they recently won in elections, Congress, on the other hand chose Karnataka amongst the other more prominently hunger-ridden places in the country. This move by Congress has upped the ante in the entire poverty-food debate as Karnataka could prove to be a pivotal game changer in shaping party’s current status in national politics.

An App to Access Food Menu- Congress expects BPL to possess phones? 

Economists have clearly labelled this move as a politically motivated one rather than a poverty-alleviating project. The fact that Congress has come up with an app to provide the menu card of subsidised meals to the poor is a rhetoric in itself.  The question here is about how many poor would have a smartphone? And if at all they do, isn’t the government missing on the larger chunk of poverty ridden?

(Source: Indian Express, Hindustan Times) 
2 Errors in One Sentence- RaGa Reveals the Intent! 

To make the situation even trickier for Congress, its VP, Rahul Gandhi accidentally revealed the idea behind the sudden introduction of Indira Canteens in Bengaluru. At a rally in Bengaluru about 2 months ago, RaGa made 2 errors in one sentence.

One being, “All the cities in Bengaluru…” and the other one as well as the definitely more revealing one being., “…..That is the vision of the Amma…. umm.. Indira Canteens!“.

Citizen’s concerns- Canteens Encroached park area?

Like all the other public eatery stations, this one as well, has been swaying away from adhering to the cleanliness standards on the Bengaluru roads. The RWA of Jayanagar not only protested on the felling of trees to host a canteen but another locality residents who are unhappy with the fact that the canteen ward for their area has encroached upon the park premises as the ward is situated within the park itself. There are issues of improper disposal as well, but more than this, it is the unnecessary and unjustified politics over food which has become the question of the hour. In a country where there are plenty of hunger ridden states such as Bihar, Jharkhand, what Congress chose was Karnataka- just because it is this state which conducts elections next.

God Bless Indians (us).

 

 

 

 

Journalists on the radar, Democracy and Impunity Key Global Questions

As a journalist myself, the past one week has been uneasy one. 8 days and 4 brazen incidents of journalists getting killed have disturbed me and plenty others in more ways then one. Besides the political card blame game, the apprehension around the trajectory of the increasing number of murders and its aftermath is perhaps more worthy of contemplation.

Global Dilemma for Journalists, Threat to Accountability

From Sweden to Sudan and then to Bihar and Bangalore in India, terror seems to have permeated the global borders. It all started with the mysterious killing of the Swedish journalist, Kim Wall who died after getting hit by a hatch  on a homemade submarine. The police investigations have reveled that Wall’s body was deliberately weighed down purposefully with the intent to sink it on the submarine.  Then came the news of an American reporter having died in Sudan. Various reports and examinations have bewrayed that Christopher Allen, 26, had been deliberately killed by the government troops in South Sudan during a firefight between rebels and the government forces.

In India, the entire press and media underwent a shock when a renowned journalist named Gauri Lankesh was brutally shot at 7 times at her doorstep in Bangalore. It didn’t end here as the very next day another journalist was killed in Bihar, making it not just a metropolitan but a town problem as well.

Impunitized Investigation?

Not so surprisingly, the World Press Freedom ranking at Reporters Without Borders in its 2017 report put India at the 136th spot out of 192 countries across the world, making India a not so democratic or rather liberal country when it came to freedom exercised by the journalists.

Apart from this, India has been quite aptly placed as one of the countries on the Impunity Index where more than 50 deaths of journalists have taken place since 1992, out of which 25 plus went through impunity.

 

(Source: CPJ, Comittee To Protect Journalists)

India’s poor performance is not just limited to the impunity index, but the authorities continue to be indifferent towards the alarming issue as India fails to participate in something known as the UNESCO ‘Impunity Accountability Mechanism’. Quite conveniently, India, failed to respond to UNESCO when asked for a biennial report on the safety of journalists in the country. My country was joined by 2 other ‘troubled’ countries as well- countries which India would never wish to be compared to with regard to the governmental infrastructure and economic growth- South Sudan and Syria.

Statistical research reveals that out of the percentage of reporters who mysteriously or at times openly die, majority are the ones who deal with the coverage over corruption. In more then 40 % of the cases, victims tend to receive threatening calls, as was in Gauri Lankesh’s case. The recurring question, however is- why just 3% of the cases have full justice out of the total cases filed globally?

While impunity could be one angle, many would feel that such cases reach the public forum because of them being related to the media,  however it is the statistics mentioned above which may compel you to ponder the skeptical way.

(With inputs from PTI, Committee To Protect Journalists, UNESCO)

Tomatoes or Tacos for Rs. 100? Did I hear it right?

In a country where the life of a common man holds no value, it is tomatoes which have turned into the most precious point of discussion, as they are now being ‘guarded’ in the literal sense of the word.

Tomatoes- the new jewel to rob?

The news of tomato prices shooting up to Rs. 100 has been the talk of all the towns from Mumbai to Delhi but the latest progression involves how the fruit is being protected by armed guards in Madhya Pradesh. This happened after a recent robbery of 300 kg tomatoes at a wholesale market in Mumbai.

Bank for Tomatoes to Bank upon…

The opposition (Congress) has found a rather unique way to seize the opportunity and protest against the hike by establishing the State Bank of ‘Tomatoes’ in BJP led UP. Cashing upon the helplessness of the common man, the bank offers a 5x return on the deposit of the fruit within a period of six months along with lockers and loans.

Well, the rain seems to have washed off a lot more than crops and livelihood of people across the country. It has also washed off BJP’s efforts to continue pleasing people post the slashed fruit prices after demonetization. Though the government has given an assurance of the prices soon dropping down, but for now, the situation reminds us of the satirical dialogue from 3 idiots, “Paneer to beta, kuch dino mei itti itti thailiyo mei sunaar ki dukan pe bikega”- the only difference being the replacement of ‘paneer’ with ‘tamatar’ in this case. Indeed, as ironical as it may seem, one can afford Mexican chicken Tacos priced at Rs. 50 at a cost lesser than a kg of tomatoes.

‘Happy’ and ‘Independence’ Day, is it?

On the grand day when  the entire nation is enthralled with feelings of celebration, oozing with patriotism and enjoying a day off, there occurs an incident which questions the entire conceptual privilege around the feeling of being ‘free’ or ‘independent’ in India itself.

I am talking about the gruesome rape of a 12 year old girl in Chandigarh, on her way back home after having attended the Indian ‘Independence Day’ celebrations at her school. Not something new to have happened in our country, but on a day like this when social media, phone texts/ messages  are filled with talks of patriotism, of freedom struggle, there lies an under shadowed reality where the struggle continues. It was in Sector 23 where a man  stopped her, pulled her aside and raped her. He also held a knife to scare the little girl.
Sadly, being a multi-party country, what we are best at are talks, lengthy speeches, but no serious execution. The Union Home Ministry recently held a candle-light march to assert the right to safely access public spaces but where does this end? The march was preceded by nothing but a similar incident just days later.

“According to data compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) for 2015, 8,800 cases of rape on children were registered across the country under the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Act (POCSO). In 2,227 cases, or 25.3 per cent, the offenders were found to be employers or co-workers”- source: NCRB

These statistics  raise a few questions in mind about How free are we?

Are we free to stroll alone outside our homes?

Are we free to travel alone during the day, let alone night?

The answer is Yes, we are free- but sadly at our own risk! So, what use is this dreaded freedom’ of?

This news neither made me happy nor did it make me feel independent- 70 years down the line, even small children, let alone women, continue to face the same forms of sexual assault and plight which they faced during the British rule and partition.

We indeed are slaves unless freed from crime and the perpetrating criminals. We need to ponder and so do executive, legislature and judiciary- not just for formulations and implementations but also for severe deterrent measures of punishment. By the way, Happy India Independence Day?

 

This ‘Raksha Bandhan’, care beyond gender!

Happy Raksha Bandhan to all of you. And for all those who don’t have a brother, don’t be disheartened, your sister is your best guide, well wisher and protector for life. Today, I thought of coming up with something different. This blog is a thoughtful presentation of what and so much more which the festival can shower us with.

This Raksha Bandhan, let’s discover the emotional story of two sisters. While the younger one (Naina) always missed having a brother, especially as Rakhi came around the corner, the elder one ended up finding love, care and security in her younger sister.

Click here, to watch the video: 

‘Bandhan’- a short film on Raksha Bandhan

This short film is an attempt to convey that a sister can be a hero, a brother, a mother, she can be everything- because you don’t really need a brother to celebrate the feeling of being secure.
And hence, have  alook at this video which sends forth a warm Happy Raksha Bandhan message for all the sisters and brothers in the world. Thank you all,  for the feeling of doing ‘raksha’ or any ‘bandhan’ in the world doesn’t need a gender approval.

Do watch, comment, like or share if its relatable.