NEED FOR PARADIGM SHIFT

While different functions including seminars were held at the Government level to promote awareness with regard to multiple disability issues and the fundamental rights of persons with disabilities, on the ‘World Disabled Day’ today, the failure of the government to address the multiple problems faced by them was visible on ground when on this day dedicated to them, the persons with disabilities organized protests at various places for the alleged apathy shown by the government towards their concerns. The past experience reveals that days dedicated towards specific causes are observed only ritually to create paper records and the real idea and spirit behind such days stand forgotten on the very next day. ‘World Disabled Day’ being no exception has also met the same fate with the government observing the day as a ritual and leaving the deserving population with disabilities to fend for themselves. Hence there is a need for paradigm shift in the government’s approach towards the problems of the persons with disabilities. 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 change the attitude of the official machinery towards the significant ‘World Disability Day’ the observance of which has been reduced to a mere ritual. It is important to understand each and every aspect of this problem that is faced across the globe but the agonies of this section especially in the poor and developing nations continue to multiply 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. Although economic and demographic factors are increasingly relevant, it is evident that the driving force behind this phenomenon was the unprecedented politicisation of disability by disabled activists, their allies, and the growing demand for equity of opportunity for people with ascribed impairments. 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 heath’ and the disadvantages experienced by people with ascribed impairments can be overcome with medical rather than political solutions. As a result of this approach the rehabilitation philosophies and practices remain locked in person centred approaches. Whilst 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. In this regard the initiative in the cold desert Ladakh by PAGIR an NGO established by a person with disability should serve as a model for persons with disabilities across the nation. The founder of this NGO has been making relentless efforts to achieve the mission of involving every person with disability in the region in some fruitful work that could provide not only financial security but also ensure their rehabilitation in every respect. Even the government should pay due heed to the demands raised by this section of the society especially on this day dedicated to them. Let the state of Jammu and Kashmir which is the home to about 4.5 lakh handicapped persons take a lead role and address the issues raised by this section in the memorandum submitted to the government today. It is hoped that the grouse of this disabled lot against the alleged state government’s apathy towards them is addressed first and foremost so that they don’t feel as a neglected lot any more.