SWD counts schemes, Physically Disabled persons say ‘All on Papers Only’

Sanjeev K. Sharma
JAMMU, Dec 19: Though the Social Welfare Department (SWD) of J&K Government claims numerous schemes to benefit the physically challenged population in the Union Territory (UT), yet, a large section of this society appears unaware about such schemes as there are claims from these people that “all is on papers and nothing exists on ground.”
The scenario is miserable for these people despite the fact that many Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and social workers are working since decades for this miserable section of the society.
Roshan Bhan, 77, running an NGO—J&K Samaj Kalyan Kendra—working for the deaf and dumb children since 1981, claimed that many schemes meant for physically challenged people have not been implemented in J&K even after it has been reorganized into an UT after the abrogation of Article 370 which granted special status to the erstwhile J&K State.
He said that physically challenged people in J&K have very few educational institutions and hostel facilities and hundreds of deaf and dumb children from Rajouri, Poonch, Doda and other remote areas can’t get proper education due to lack of required facilities for them.
A social worker working for physically challenged people in J&K claimed that even the Civil Secretariat of J&K has no ramp type facilities for these people and the scenario is same despite the abrogation of Article 370.
It is pertinent to mention here that unable to get proper guidance on how to avail help from SWD or NGOs, many physically disabled people start begging outside temples or at other places to eke out their livings.
Raman Kumar Sharma, 46, a tailor by profession was infected by polio in his early childhood which damaged his lower limbs while his wife Rajni, 37, who assists him in his tailoring work, can walk, though with some limp, as both her legs don’t function properly because she was also infected by polio in her childhood.
The couple claimed that though both of them get disability pension of Rs. 1,000 each from SWD but still they faced many problems during COVID-19 triggered lockdown as their tailoring work was badly affected bringing down their income to zero which created many problems for them.
“We have no idea of any scheme meant for us and condition of the house we live in is also dilapidated,” Raman told this reporter asking if there is any scheme under which he may give good education to his daughters—Shriya and Sanchi, studying in class eighth and fifth respectively.
Ajay Kumar Sharma, leader of J&K Welfare Association for Physically Handicapped Persons roughly put the number of physically challenged people in Jammu region to one lakh with majority of these living in border areas like R.S Pura, Chhamb etc.
He claimed that barring pension there is no help from the Government to this section of the society in practical though on papers there might be many schemes for them.
Ajay said that six months back SWD filled forms for artificial limbs to specially-abled persons during a camp and on the day of the camp, the limbs available were very few to cater the disabled persons who had gathered at the camp to get the same.
“Such disappointments are not new for us as even if there might be limbs in adequate number, then the doctor might have failed to reach the camp,” he claimed.
Sources informed that there are about 30 categories of physically challenged people prominent among which are deaf and dumb, blinds, mentally retarded, orthopedically handicapped etc.
They also informed that there is no school for any of these people except that for deaf and dumb and for blinds which was initially made for 25 students in 1962 and is now having 50 students at Roop Nagar in Jammu where free education is given to the blind students and it has also residential facility for these students.
District Social Welfare Officer Jammu, Ajay Salan when contacted said that ‘Half Way Home’ at Greater Kailash has been started by the SWD about a year back to accommodate mentally retarded people.
Director, Social Welfare Department, Vivek Sharma, when contacted said that she was on leave and out of station so was unable to comment.
Afshan Masood, Deputy Director SWD claimed that there are schools and homes for blinds and other physically challenged people in J&K.
“After J&K became UT, all the schemes meant for such people across the country are also here in J&K,” she informed.
On claims by certain NGOs that some schemes are still not there in J&K even after the abrogation of Article 370, Masood said, though all the schemes can’t be implemented in one go, but still the process to do that is on.
“This is such a section of the society that we can even go out of the way for their welfare,” she maintained.
Official sources informed that rules under Disability Act have also been framed now for J&K UT and such rules are different in other States.
“They have four per cent reservation in Government jobs and such reservation rules have also been framed for J&K now,” they maintained adding that SWD provides scholarships to physically challenged students along with help to them in the form of tricycles, prosthetic aids like artificial limbs to those having locomotory problems, hearing aid machines to deaf etc.
They said that apart from all this, NGOs working for the welfare of these people get registration certificate from SWD along with financial aid so that they may serve the disabled people in a better way.
“SWD also provides IT equipments to physically disabled students,” the official sources claimed.
When contacted, Assistant Director (Schemes) at SWD, Kailash Devi said: “We have taken initiative for Regional Composite Centre which will act as a training institute for all physically challenged people including mentally retarded, physically challenged and others like these under one roof and land for this has been identified.” “We are continuing our communication in this regard with Union Ministry of Social Justice so that they can immediately come and raise infrastructure here,” she further said.
Devi said that there are District Disability Rehabilitation Centers (DDRCs) in J&K for disabled people where these people can get counseling and physiotherapy facilities.
“Disabled persons from J&K can now avail benefits of schemes under National Trust Act (NTA) as after becoming UT, J&K is now under NTA in which four disabilities are recognized—mental retardation, multiple disability, autism and cerebral palsy,” the Assistant Director informed.
“J&K administration is now working on Disability Welfare Board and Disability Commission,” she said adding that post of Commissioner for Disability Commission has also been advertised”.
Insiders at SWD informed that about 84,000 disable get monthly pension in Jammu province while about 50 students got post-matric scholarship this year and prosthetic aids were given to 2,900 such persons this year while assessment camps for others are still going on.
On awareness about schemes, they said that wide publicity is being done in print and electronic media in that regard while at recently held different Block Divases counters to aware masses about such schemes were also installed.