THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: He drives a car, has travelled to all States in India except Jammu and Kashmir and Assam, and works as a vocational instructor in a Central government institution.
He involves himself with cancer-care and self-help institutions. The fact that he has to move about on his knees hardly deters Y. Raju from leading a good life.
He expects society to deal with the physically challenged ‘normally.’ “We do not need charity or sympathy. Society should recognise our rights. Fellow human beings should have faith that we too can contribute productively to society,” Raju says.
Talking to The Hindu on the eve of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (observed on December 3), Raju said the reluctance of institutions and persons to employ physically challenged persons was an issue.
In spite of many government initiatives there is widespread belief that such persons would be a burden to an organisation. “Nothing could be further from the truth. My own life is proof enough for this,” Raju says.
Raju was diagnosed with polio when he was slightly above two years old. Till he completed his matriculation, his father took him to school on a bicycle. Refusing to let his disability define his life, Raju got himself trained in radio and television repairing and went to work at a private institution at Kollam. Subsequently he joined the Vocational Rehabilitation Centre (VRC), Thiruvananthapuram, as a workshop attendant after clearing a written examination and interview.
He soon rose to become the coordinator of the VRC’s self-help groups for the disabled in the State. After purchasing a gearless scooter with a sidecar in 1987, he trained 118 physically challenged persons to ride it. Many of them later received employment in various institutions. His services have also been utilised by the Directorate of Training and was designated as examiner for the electronics radio and television trades at industrial training institutes. In 1998 he received the State government award for the most efficient ‘orthopedically challenged’ employee.
In 2007, he personally modified a car the car he purchased.
Though he had to wait for two years to get government approval for the modified vehicle, he encouraged 13 others to get their vehicles similarly changed.
Raju firmly believes that marriage emotionally enriches the physically challenged. He is actively involved in organising meetings where physically challenged persons get help in choosing a spouse.
His avocations include gardening, reading, travelling and meeting people.