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People with disabilities in State continue to fight for their rights

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Insensitive: Provisions of the Act providing quota for the disabled in jobs are observed more in the breach.
Insensitive: Provisions of the Act providing quota for the disabled in jobs are observed more in the breach.

Special Correspondent

BANGALORE: Even as the International Day of Persons with Disabilities comes as a wake up call for society to be more sensitive towards the needs of people with disabilities, the marginalised section continues its struggle for existence.

The State Government has admitted that the provisions of Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act 1995, which seeks to provide 3 per cent reservation in jobs and education, have been observed more in breach.

The words of a senior official from the Department of Welfare for the Disabled that the State Government has barely met 10 to 15 per cent of the objectives of the Act is a chilling reminder of society’s insensitivity to the lives of the estimated 10 lakh people living with different forms of disability in the State.

Though the 2001 Census has identified 9.4 lakh persons with disabilities of the total population of 5.27 crore in Karnataka, non-governmental organisations engaged in the welfare of the disabled prefer to believe the figure is at least three times higher as they feel that many of them have been left out during the Census.

Director of Department of Welfare for the Disabled Jayaram said employing persons with disabilities was a major challenge as a majority of them are unskilled or semi-skilled and a coordinated effort by the Government, the private sector and NGOs is essential to address the issue as majority of them belong to either socially or economically weaker sections.

The Government’s rules should be observed more in spirit than in letter, opined M.K. Sridhar, Reader in Canara Bank School for Management Studies, Bangalore University, who is himself a person with disability.

“Recently, I flew to New Delhi from Bengaluru International Airport at Devanahalli. Everything had changed from the earlier airport at HAL. Even the equipment to clean toilets are more sophisticated. The only item that remained the unchanged was the old wheelchair. This shows the attitude of society,” Mr Sridhar regretted.

R. Guru Rao, who is one the awardees at the International Day of Persons with Disabilities to be held at Bal Bhavan on Thursday, said the Government had not bothered to ensure that public offices, including BangaloreOne centres are “disabled-friendly”. Most of the BangaloreOne centres and the public libraries in the city are on the first floor or above, he regretted. Even the Family Court on Siddaiah Road is located on higher floors, he said.

Meanwhile, voluntary organisations working for the welfare of the disabled have taken exception to the Government’s discrimination in the cash award given to the awardees on International Day of Persons with Disabilities. “When they are paying Rs. 1 lakh to Rajyothsava awardees, why should people with disabilities be given only Rs. 10,000”, a representative wondered.

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