THEY DESERVE UTMOST ATTENTION

Jammu and Kashmir being home to about 4.5 lakh persons with disabilities, as such it becomes necessary for the government to deal the issues of this section of the society on top priority. However nothing substantial to the optimum level seems to have been achieved except the holding of seminars and functions that too on the day dedicated to the disabled. The persons with disabilities are faced with multiple problems and they have been approaching different authorities to get their grievances addressed but without any commendable results. Only today a delegation of the J&K Handicapped Association called on the Governor N. N. Vohra at the Raj Bhavan in Srinagar and projected their demands which include provision of an ambulance especially for physically handicapped people, expeditious transfer of land identified for establishment of a School and Training Centre for Physically Handicapped Persons by the Revenue Department; early action by the State Government on the decisions taken in a meeting chaired by the Chief Minister in February 2017, interalia included implementation of the Persons with Disability Act, 2016; provision of office accommodation in each District Headquarter with Central Offices at Jammu and Srinagar; providing benefits of the National Food Security Scheme to persons with disability; provision of electronic wheel chairs for persons with disabilities; reservation in professional colleges; setting up of an Advisory Board for economic and social development of physically challenged persons etc. The failure of the government to address the multiple problems faced by them can be well judged from the fact that last year on the ‘World Disabled Day’ the persons with disabilities organized protests in the state for the alleged apathy shown by the government towards their concerns. As per a survey disabled persons are mostly living in such areas where the services needed to assist them in overcoming their limitations are not available. To a large extent, disabled persons are exposed to physical, cultural and social barriers which handicap their lives even if rehabilitation assistance is available. This is a clear indicator of the failure on the part of the society, be it the government or other agencies to make any progress on the front of addressing the genuine problems of the persons with disability in the society. The reasons for failure are quite obvious. There is a dire need to understand each and every aspect of the problems of this segment of the society which seem to be multiplying with the passage of time and deserve priority attention. We need to realize that societal understandings of disability are currently in the process of transition in view of recent developments in official documents regarding definitions of disability and rehabilitation. The failure on this front can easily be ascribed to the ongoing tendency amongst politicians, policy makers, and academics to link disability to health only, thus propagating the misguided illusion that ‘poor health’ and the disadvantages experienced by people with ascribed impairments can be overcome with medical solutions only. While medical interventions and treatments are important, it is evident from the analysis of past happenings that public health and the problems encountered by disabled people are political issues that can only be resolved by strong structural and cultural change. To deal with the issues of this significant section of the society there is a need for massive participation of people as individuals as well as in groups in the form of NGOs. Not only this, even the persons with disabilities can play a vital role in ensuring that desired results are delivered. Now that the Governor has assured the handicapped delegation that he would have an early meeting with the Social Welfare Minister for securing the early settlement of all the issues raised by the delegation, it is the concerned men and machinery of the administration which will be immediately set in motion so that the grouse of this disabled lot against the alleged state government’s apathy towards them is addressed first and foremost and they don’t feel as neglected lot any more.