How sad that instead of celebrating the World Disabled Day with poise and poignancy, the J&K Handicapped Welfare Association (JKHWA) and J&K Handicapped Association (JKHA) had to lead a demonstration of its members by way of protest against the Department of Social Welfare which has failed to meet their long pending demands. This is a day on which we expected the Government to come out with some good news for disabled people to bring them relief and satisfaction that the society will not forget them or turn blind eye to their handicapped life. It hurts to imagine the disabled persons protesting for some facilities which they genuinely should have been provided without asking. The disappointment of these people is very genuine in the wake of promises made by the Chief Minister that the Government would be looking to their welfare in a befitting manner. Why the concerned authorities at the Social Welfare Department have chosen to turn Nelson’s eye to these demands merit sad commentary.
In 1995 Government of India passed an act in favour of person with disabilities. In 1998 it was ratified by State Government and the Act titled as “The Jammu & Kashmir Persons with Disabilities, Equal Opportunities and Full Participation Act of 1998” under which three percent reservation in Government jobs was kept intact and also emphasis was laid on the opening of special schools, at least one in each district for the deaf and dumb. In a memorandum to the authorities the handicapped persons said that it was hurting that the world’s largest minority that of disable people which is about 15 percent of total population of world do not have equal access to society or service, including education, employment, health care, transportation, political participation or justice.
From what has been learnt from the speakers on the occasion, it transpires that the Government has not taken any tangible step in the direction of implementing the recommendations made in the Act which has been adopted by the State. It is unjust and inhuman not to realize the severity of the state of physical handicap with which these people are suffering and yet not to do what would go some way in reducing their sense of deprivation. The Centre is poised not only to provide accessibility to the handicapped people but also to enable them to reach even the highest administrative cadres by giving space for flowering of their capability and merit. Though they are handicapped in certain ways, yet it is for the society to find how best their potential can be utilized in the service of society.
We have closely studied their demands reflected in the memorandum they have submitted to the State authorities. We find these demands are genuine and the Government should not have any strong reason to turn them down. Briefly reiterating, their demands are enhancement of reservation quota, advertisement of backlog posts from 1998 to date, free education to disabled children as well as children of disabled persons, concession in electricity and water taxes, implementation of various schemes like IAY, PMGSY, PMAY and MGNREGA, clear cut transfer policy for physically handicapped employees.
Their other burning demands are enhancement in pension quotas of all categories, allotment of funds for cases pending from 2009 to till date, implementation of bus fare concession order issued by the Government, issuance of multipurpose I-Card and provision of BPL ration card to disabled persons. There is no demand that may be called impossible or impracticable. Even these demands do not ask for any big financial commitment. Without elaborating the demands, we feel that the Government should have no hesitation to discuss the issues with the representatives of the two or three bodies of disabled people and find out a solution through peaceful negotiations. The Government should try to assuage their hurt feelings and not rub salt into their wounds.