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)

Cab/ Taxi rides- Services or Jeopardised Convenience?

By Naina Sharma

GLOBAL PERIL OF CAB DRIVERS 

Incidents of cab drivers acting as assailants, raping or kidnapping passengers is not only common in India but on the foreign land as well. An Uber driver in the city of Florida was recently arrested for indulging in  rape and kidnapping of his female passenger. The driver, who was 57 had centrally locked the car doors even before the passenger tried to jump out.

In similar incidents in India, there have been multiple cases where women have been raped or sexually assaulted by cab drivers. If not that, cab drivers tend to tease passengers by saving their numbers in the contact list and then they end up calling or texting the passengers at odd hours.

The threat isn’t restricted to women alone, quite recently, on July 6, it was a 29-year-old doctor in Delhi who was kidnapped by an Ola driver and his accomplices. He was kept in hiding for a period of 2 weeks post which the police arrested the Ola driver along with other kidnappers.

ANALYSIS OF THE EXISTING PROCEDURES

Since I am a regular rider myself, the curiosity bug within me compelled me to question Ola/ Uber drivers daily about what exactly were the requirements which they had to meet in order to become an Ola/ Uber driver. Ola drivers mostly stated the presence of a driving license as an imperitive while the Uber drivers said it is quite simple to become a Uber driver in the Indian capital. They said that the only requirement essentials for them were their driver license and manageable english speaking skills. There were no background checks involved and a single ID proof along with a few passport sized photographs was more than enough to start driving the Uber cabs.

MANDATORILY STRICTER HIRING PROCESS

The fact that there are hardly any drivers’ licenses which get cancelled in India despite criminal records, there arises a requirement to have a peripheral check. Perhaps, the need of the hour lies in conducting a transparent and multi level hiring process of the cab drivers as a few pointers need to be freshly adhered to-

  • A proper medical checkup analysing the mental state of the applicant is a must as it would ensure minimization of mentally unstable drivers. This is essential since a considerable proportion of rape and molestation cases are triggered through a sick mindset.
  • Examining the habits of the applicant is also essential and if there are even the slightest of implications of him being a frequent drinker or stoner, then the job application must be rejected at the earliest possible instance.
  • A background check which refers to a family scan pertaining to a cross examination of members/ relatives and if there is a police case running against any of their names.

Meanwhile, as passenger safety continues to haunt customers as a key issue, the cab companies have waived off an assurance towards adopting more stringent processes while signing up new drivers as it could have an adversely reverse impact on their business in the longer run.

How the Elder India lives…a reality check

By Naina Sharma

AN INCIDENT FOLLOWED BY INVESTIGATION

“Always respect the elderly” – a constant reminder by my parents, flashed across my mind as I saw an abusive incident along the roadside. An old rickshaw-puller was slapped by a young boy for having hit his car by mistake. Before I could act and move out of the cab, signals hit the green light and police held the young lad. This incident not only shook me but also raised a plethora of questions in my mind. Why did a man as old as him need to work ? Can’t we avoid elder abuse since it continues to plague the our very own country?

Meanwhile, the visual of the man’s apologetic face and joined hands didn’t seem to leave my mind. As my cab dropped me to my flat, I decided to call one of the doctors I knew in the capital. I asked Dr. Sudeep about the total cases of continued physical elder abuse that he handled in the 4 years of his practice. His reply was a confused figure of 4 or 5. For a doctor who handles 50 patients in a day, this came to me as a shock. It indicated, how elders are prohibited from seeking medical help if harmed during abuse. “The cause of injuries are generally kept hidden by sons and daughter- in-laws, never letting the us know what the truth could be”, said the doctor. He also stated that the primary responsibility of the hospital is to treat the patient and the second step is to inform the police in case of an elder abuse suspect. Out of the 4 victims he treated, none agreed on filing a case against the abuser due to reasons such as dependence on children for money and shelter or simply because they still didn’t want their children to face legal trouble. The ratio of elder abuse victim to other patients (per annum) for Dr. Sudeep came out to be 1:18,000. Hence the ratio for an average of all doctors in India is only going to be worse. The analysis was quite contrary to the government research statistics of 34% elders being brutally abused in the country, indicating a clear gap between physical abuse and help sought.

The next day, I went to seek solutions and attended an interactive session at a Senior Citizen Forum, a welfare organization in the Indian capital. I spoke to its founder Mrs. Gaba as well as a few senior citizens. The forum catered to approximately 300 elders from Delhi NCR as its members. 70% of them had been abandoned by their children living abroad and the rest were females who were widows. Also, many worked despite being old since they got no money from children. Clearly, the reasons of neglect were distinct and forms of abuse complex- such as verbal, emotional, economic and physical. The welfare forum organized entertainment events along with health related and other interactive sessions to substitute care which the senior citizens never received from their children.

ELDER INDIA’S SAD REALITY? 

Let us go through some upsetting but true facts.  Out of a population of 100 million old people, 39% of them suffer from ill-treatment. And only 5% report the incidents. Also, most of the old women are misused in more ways than one. However, the sad fact remains that majority of the abuse comes from family members. Now, how shameful is that? Though, majority of the youth I am surrounded with today is willing to take direct action again elder abuse, we have a long way to go. Drastic changes are required on personal as well as social levels along with government investigations to bring smile to those who once taught us to laugh. 

 

(Image Courtesy: Asian Express Newspaper)

‘Garbage Mountain’ in the Indian Capital: What you must know!

What is being termed as a ‘Trash Mountain’ of Delhi by tourists who visit India, is a humongous Garbage Dump beside the highway connecting Ghaziabad to Delhi, around Anand Vihar and Kaushambi. This dump of a minimum of 10 million tonnes of waste is as tall as 40 feet approximately which is half as tall as the tiny valley hills in a few parts of the country. This hill of filth is a major cause of worry, not only for the image of the Swatch Bharat, but also a threat for the residents nearby.

CONCERNS AT THEIR ‘PEAK’

An investigation across the residents of the area had alarming revelations. Jagriti Sharma, a resident of Kaushambi since the year 2000 said, “The dump wasn’t as huge as it is today when I was a child. It was after 2005, that we saw a startling increase in the size of length and width of the dump. Gradually, it took the shape of a hill.”

Another teenager belonging to the Anand Vihar colony said, “It is embarrassing for me to call over my friends who belong to the UK. They have often made fun of this garbage dump landfill as they visit the country annually. They have often mocked at it and said that they would go back and tell their friends about the astonishing mountain which should come under one of the wonders of the world.” 

Garbage_Delhi_20160213_600_855

“Due to the garbage, whenever there is a wind from that direction, there is a very peculiar stink that we have to be subjected to, which forces us to shut our windows and doors. Also, the ground water cannot be trusted, mostly we go for Ganga water which is used for drinking as the ground water is salty.” Jagriti added.

A tea seller around the locality said, “Our children are dying as we breathe poison.” The list of most commonly attained diseases due to this mountain are respiratory disorders as well as skin allergies and infections. The dirt is also an inviting ground for the thousands of birds and eagles in the area which quite often spread diseases as well along with distracting the bikers on the road.

There have been efforts by the government to burn the landfill but it is just worsening the air quality of the area. For a country where 1 million people die every year due to Air Pollution and Delhi topping list of being the most polluted city, there needs to be a manual or mechanical shift of the trash to save people from further misery.