Stressing the need for improving the career prospects of differently-abled persons, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram on Thursday said corporate houses should realise that recruiting physically challenged persons would not adversely affect their work efficiency.

After honouring winners of the 12th NCPEDP-Shell Helen Keller Awards, the Home Minister said the world of communication and Information Technology would help in sensitising more and more people about the rights of disabled, especially the disabled themselves.

“We must stress the fact that disabled are not a burden on society. They have a right to lead normal life and as citizens they are important to us. Crippled or hearing or visually impaired persons living in remote villages of Rajasthan or Andhra Pradesh must be told they have a major role to play.”

Acknowledging the importance of skill development institutes for differently-able persons, Mr. Chidambaram said a key problem was skill development. “Of the 70 million differently-abled people many are unskilled and unemployed. Though laws are being made, amended and implemented, the country’s capacity to address the concern of disabled has not kept pace with the growing expectations.”

Admitting that time to do something for the disabled was fast running out, the Home Minister said: “We cannot deal with the problem if we give up hope. If nothing had been done (on the sensitisation front) then we would not have had a packed auditorium during a winter morning in Delhi today. School and college students are concerned over the future of physically challenged. In this arid desert of indifference there is an oasis of humanity.”

Optimistic about the turnout of the differently-abled during the mammoth enumeration exercise next year, the Home Minister said since every disabled person must be identified, he will instruct the censors to ask questions very carefully and record their answers faithfully.

Describing Mr. Chidambaram as “friend of the disability movement”, NCPEDP honorary director Javed Abidi said earlier as the Finance Minister and now as the Home Minister he has been at the forefront to the cause of disability. “He also heads the Censors Department. 2011 will witness a serious attempt towards enumeration of people with disabilities in the census.”

Mr. Abidi urged the Home Minister to recognise sign language as a scheduled language. “Many civilized countries like the U. K., France and Canada are having sign language as the official language.”

In category of role model disabled persons – Dipti Bhatia, Mohammed Iqbal and S. P. Vishwanathan were the awardees. Anubhuti Bhattacharya, Meera Bhatia and Rama Chari were honoured in role model supporters category.

In companies/organisations/institutions category, representatives of Gitanjali Gems, Lemon Tree Hotels, Sinar Jernih and Yum! Restaurant (India) were felicitated.

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