Railway Ministry is still reluctant to grant licences to differently-abled persons to offer catering services

The move to form an association to protect the rights of persons with disability is gaining momentum.

A group of visually challenged persons living by selling food and other goods at Katpadi railway station and on trains met under the aegis of the Tamil Nadu Association for the Rights of All Types of Differently-Abled and Care-Givers (TARADAC) at Katpadi railway station on Wednesday and discussed their problems.

Karunakaran, State secretary of the Tamil Nadu Federation of the Associations of differently-abled Persons, who is visually challenged, said that though the Indian Railways is supposed to be the country's single largest employer, employing about 16 lakh persons, the Railway Ministry is still reluctant to grant licences to differently-abled persons to offer catering service in the railway stations and on trains.

He blamed the Department of Rehabilitation of the Disabled for its “apathy” in addressing the problems of the differently-abled, which has “forced most of the differently-abled, especially the visually challenged into beggary or to the business of selling fancy and utility articles in trains”. As against the statutory reservation of 3% of jobs in the State government for the differently-abled, they have got only 0.5% of the jobs in the State government.

Anbazhagan, another visually challenged person, accused non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working for the welfare of the differently-abled of insincerity in their functioning. This attitude was reflected in the fact that most NGOs stopped with arranging for vocational training to the differently-abled by utilising the grants given by the government, but did not care to do any follow-up and obtain suitable jobs to the trained persons.

“Even in the application for undergoing training, the NGOs mention that there is no guarantee of jobs on completion of training. We are left in the lurch after the training”, he said.

S. Namburajan, Tamil Nadu State vice-president of TARADAC, said that the Persons With Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act 1995, shortly known as the PWD Act, does not provide for action against the government department or official for failure to implement the rule of reservation of 3% of the jobs to the differently-abled. “The differently-abled persons alone should decide how the law for the differently-abled should be framed”.