Prof. V. S. Verma
It is nightmarish just to think how one feels with both legs tied and not being able to move, or doing day-to-day chores while blocking both eyes with a piece of cloth. It compels one to ponder about the forbearance of a person with one or both legs lost in an accident or with no eyes to see this beautiful world. May be a feeling of sympathy arouses in one’s conscience towards those with amputated legs or blind by both eyes. Do they really need our sympathy to overcome their paucity? Nay! Our fellow brethren, with one or the other natural scarcity, do not deserve a feeling of sympathy from us, but our concerted endeavours to provide them the facilities and lend them a hand to fight with the cruelties of nature having fallen heavily on them. We need to infuse in them a feeling of self-dependence and self-reliance to face the challenges of this world and lead a life full of fervour and passion like their relatives and any other common man around them without a pang of pain.
Being himself the father of a handicapped son and realizing the pangs of pain of a handicap person, Satya Pal Saraf of Akhnoor founded Viklang Chhatra Trust, on the wedding day of his son with the meagre sum of money he received as gift from his relatives and friends in the year 1980 with the sole aim to put in sincere and relentless efforts to alleviate the sufferings of naturally challenged persons by helping them stand on their own feet and lead a respectable social life. Mr. Saraf’s son, Joginder Pal Saraf, a graduate from Jammu University, has not only been a Dogri news reader in All India Radio, Jammu, but an eminent Dogri and Hindi writer and winner of National Award, is better known with the pen name of Chhatrapal. Since its inception, Viklang Chhatra Trust has come a long way in its commitment to help naturally challenged children by providing books and allied assistance to such students, fighting for them for any natural as well as social injustice meted out to them. Mr. Saraf and his team believe on the popular saying “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough” and is committed to the service of naturally challenged persons of the society, may it be visual or physical handicap.
Traversing on the track of helping the humanity, the Trust has successfully operated about 9000 poor cataract patients by organising 126 free eye camps in rural and backward areas of Jammu province with the services of eminent eye surgeons of the State. All this was accomplished without any financial assistance from the State or the Central government. With a view to declare Akhnoor a cataract-free zone, weekly cataract surgery with free intra-ocular lens is conducted in Sub District Hospital, Akhnoor and is the first NGO to initiate blindness control/prevention measures in Jammu province.
The Trust has not only been able to spread the awareness and hope among handicapped (amputees) that “the loss of limb is not the end of life and that the life could be lived again” with an artificial limb, but has come forward to provide free Jaipur Foot, limbs and callipers to amputees and polio victims with the cooperation of Bhagwan Mahavir Viklang Sahayata Samiti, Jaipur. The Trust has been able to provide 3000 limbs to the needy amputees, mostly victims of mine blasts belonging to areas in the near vicinity of Indo-Pak borders of the State by organizing nine world famous Free Jaipur Foot Limb Camps at Akhnoor/Jammu for the amputees of border areas from R. S. Pura to Poonch. By doing so, the trust has tried to be the limbs of the limbless and has left no stone unturned to see them walking/ploughing/running on their own feet, explicitly proving to their friends and relatives that they are as happy and independent as they are in their lives.
Addressing agonies of social challenge of the naturally challenged handicapped persons of Jammu and Kashmir State, the Trust filed public interest litigation (PIL) in the J&K High Court to seek justice for the non-payment of Disability Allowance to handicapped children of the State. The Ho’ble High Court not only directed the State government to pay arrears to the handicapped persons to the tune of nearly one crore rupees in 1984, but also directed the State government to constitute a high level committee for enhancement of the allowance, which the government later increased from Rs. 50/- to Rs. 75/- and Rs. 100/- per month. Old age is one of the biggest social challenges in the wake of the modern society of nuclear families. In spite of the existing Old Age Pension Rules (1976) for granting of old age pension to the eligible old people of the state, the government did not pay any heed to the repeated requests by the Trust. When the matter was taken to J&K High Court, it directed the Divisional Commissioner, Jammu/Kashmir to look into the matter and ensure that the rightful old persons get the sanctioned old age pension and disbursed to them before 10th of every month, thereby releasing lakhs of rupees to the eligible old persons of the State
Besides the naturally challenged persons, the Trust is striving to help those confronted by compulsive natural calamity. As such, when the State government denied financial assistance to the families of those drowned in the natural fury of flash flood in river Chenab at Akhnoor in 1984, the Trust knocked the doors of J&K High Court for justice to the affected families of those who lost their precious lives, and the government had to pay a compensation of Rs. 5000/- each to the families of the deceased.
The Trust also repeatedly requested the State government to erect a sarai in the near vicinity of Govt. Medical College (GMC), Bakshi Nagar, Jammu for providing temporary housing accommodation to the attendants of patients (admitted in GMC, Jammu) who come from far flung areas of the state for medical treatment, but in vain. The Trust filed a petition before the State Human Rights Commission, which directed the state government to construct lodging edifice (sarai) near GMC, Jammu. Consequently, a five storey Red Cross Sarai stands constructed in the near vicinity of GMC at Maheshpura Chowk, Jammu.
Keeping in view of the outstanding voluntary services to the less fortunate section of the society in the field of mass ophthalmology, the Trust has been conferred National Award by All India National Society for the Prevention of Blindness, State Award (Gold Medal) for excellent Social Service in J&K State, Award of Excellence for spreading the message of peace and harmony by Sonia Gandhi, UPA Chairperson.
The Trust has helped the disabled and strived to become limbs of the limbless, eyes of the blind and a support to the infirm and destitute for paving way for them to lead a happy and contented life and eke out their participation for contribution in building of the nation in the same manner as do their able counterparts. Such less fortunate persons feel blessed and believe that they would not have been so had they not been provided access to the facilities to overcome their shortcomings and would have succumbed to their miseries. Since “a single swallow does not make a summer”, may God bless the Trust to flourish and continue its social endeavours reaching the un-reached and pave way for many more such NGOs to come forward to serve the humanity for alleviating the sufferings of the less fortunate and naturally as well as socially challenged persons to be their legs, hands, eyes and other types of supports needed to various sections of the society so that they become a party to no nation building, rather than becoming a burden on the society.
Prof. V. S. Verma