When Kuldeep Singh said “I am proud of Tamil Nadu. It is the only State that has been paying Rs. 1,000 a month as pension for the disabled,” it was quite a compliment for the State from a man who has campaigned tirelessly for their rights. “It took a lot of struggle before the Punjab government agreed to pay Rs. 1,000 as pension in 2011,” he says.
But the struggle has paid off, for the State has made gurudwaras accessible to people like him, he adds.
Kuldeep Singh, 50, has polio and has taken up a tour of the country by tricycle. He finished his schooling and college at Ahmedbad and then moved to Punjab where he tried his hand at various jobs. He wrote a book about his experiences. It also motivated him to take up the cause of persons with disability.
His resolve to embark on a journey across the country was strengthened by the encouragement of his well-wishers, he says. His wife, Kiran Kaur who also has polio, works as a school teacher.
On December 1, 2010, he began his journey from Ludhiana with the aim of raising awareness of disability.
He has met the Chief Minister and Governor of each of the 16 States he has covered so far and presented his appeal – increase the pension amount for persons with disability to Rs. 1,000 and include widows and the elderly in the scheme.
Most often, his shelter for the night is a petrol station. “The bunks have toilets that a disabled person can use. The people are friendly. There are a few dhabas nearby where I have food,” he says. Each day, come rain or shine, he covers around 40 km.
His trip to Tirupati was memorable as the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam made arrangements for special darshan on his arrival. He has so far covered 20,110 km and will leave on Sunday for Kerala. His journey will end when he reaches Kanyakumari from where he return home. by train. This will take two months, he says.
As patron of the Rashtriya Besahara Viklang Welfare Federation, he has appealed government heads to provide people with disabilities, widows and senior citizens the BPL card and a stipend of Rs. 2,500 to educated persons with disability.