The Mission Ability beyond Disability, launched in 2005 by Anupama Singh, an accomplished painter, socialite and wife of former Army Chief General J. J. Singh, is being used by the armed forces to reach out to persons with disability (PwD) in far flung border districts of the country. As part of the mission, camps have been organised for distributing various devices to PwD in Kargil, the border regions of Jammu and Kashmir, Tamenglong in Manipur, and Tawang, Seppa and Zero in Arunachal Pradesh. The mission has also held a camp at the remote Little Andaman Island.
Col. Tapash Chatterjee, who has been closely associated with the mission since its inception and is its first Nodal Officer, said “knitting people and organisations together to promote a good cause not just helps the country’s PwD but also arouses a sense of belonging in the increasingly fragmented society.”
To reach out to more people in the target areas, the mission has roped in the Heritage Foundation, which was established in 1989 with the aim to promote India’s heritage of community consciousness. “It is a connecting agency linking people with the desired resources,” said Col. Chatterjee adding that the foundation today focuses on connecting community workers and rehabilitation professionals with those in need, particularly the most marginalised sections of PwD.
The mission has from this year also started using religious events to reach out to the PwDs. At the Durga Puja in Chackberia, a small town in south Bengal, a special distribution camp was organised in which mobility aids such as tricycles, wheel chairs, crutches and walking sticks were given away. Speaking about the innovative scheme, to which the Chackberia Durga Puja Samity also contributed, Col. Chatterjee said he got the idea of using the Durga Puja to reach out to the disabled in the locality after witnessing the extent of community participation at one of the mega Free Assistive Devices Camp in North Bengal.
The Chackberia puja event has since helped PwD from the lesser served regions of Kakdweep and Sunderbans in leading a better life. “There was a tendency to remove the disabled from social spaces,” said Col. Chatterjee , “but now we have started a new trend and helped make society more responsive and receptive to disabled persons”.
The Mission Ability beyond Disability is being conducted under a collaborative arrangement by ALIMCO (under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment), the Heritage Foundation, various State governments, non-governmental organisations and other institutions.