The same panchayat official who harassed me years ago now supports me completely, says Anjana Devi, a wheelchair-bound woman from Ujire, Belthangady taluk. She was felicitated on Sunday at the 21st annual conference of the Dakshina Kannada and Udupi Disabled Persons’ Association for winning a national award for empowerment of persons to recognise outstanding employees with disabilities, from the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in 2012.

She worked as a vocational rehabilitation worker (VRW) in Ujire Gram Panchayat for three years, where she was not given a room and was questioned why she did not sign the attendance register. Despite the problems, she worked. Once, she hired an autorickshaw and took two other persons with disabilities (one visually-impaired and one with low sight), and spent the day in the field, gathering information about the problems of anganwadi workers. Her commitment to work was noticed and later, the national award followed. Now, the officials who discriminated against her then, acknowledged her and her work.

Ms. Devi said that all through her journey in the last few decades — following her determination to be financially independent — has been fraught with battles, many of them based in biases against the physically challenged. While she has been physically dependent on others around her, she said she told her family members, “I will not trouble any of you, I want to be financially independent.”

Before the panchayat job, determined to be self-reliant, she had opened a phone booth in Ujire Bus Stand where she worked for 20 years. That was not easy as people opposed the booth on various grounds, she said. Then mobile phones arrived and customers stopped coming to the booth. Now, the booth is open, and she visits occasionally to sell prepaid cards for mobile phones.

M.P. Shenoy, a retired professor of St. Aloysius College, was also felicitated.

The Dakshina Kannada and Udupi Disabled Persons’ Association said in a release that it had sought from the government tax exemption for houses, health insurance and monthly allowance without harassment for physically challenged people.

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