Differently abled long for a handshake with PM

A group of differently abled children at the Red Fort on Thursday.

A group of differently abled children at the Red Fort on Thursday.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Teachers say the children hope Modi will come to see them, but he never does

Around 9 a.m. on Thursday, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi stepped down from the podium at the Red Fort and started interacting with children and shaking hands with them, nine-year-old Riya Singh, a Class III student, who had come on a wheelchair accompanied by an attendant, was disappointed.

Mujhe accha laga jo bhi unhone nayi nayi cheezon ke baare main bataya, lekin wo humse milne nahin aaye [I loved what he said about new initiatives that have been taken by the government but he did not come to meet us],” she said.

The differently abled children, who had come to attend the Independence Day event at Red Fort, were seated in a separate area.

Differently abled children and the teachers, who accompanied them, told The Hindu that it was disappointing that every year, the Prime Minister does not meet them and only goes on to shake hands with “normal children”.

Thirteen-year-old Sunita did not sleep well on the night ahead of Independence Day and around 4 a.m., her father, a daily-wage worker, dropped her at her school in an autorickshaw. She reached Red Fort along with 10 of her schoolmates, all of whom are differently abled.

Sunita’s teacher, Lalita Maurya (45), said she had just one request on behalf of her students. “Modiji hamesha normal bachhon ke beech jaate hain. Hamare bachhon ke beech nahi aate. Hamare bachhe bahut ummeed karte hain ke woh aayenge, lekin woh abhi bhi wahin hai [Mr. Modi always goes to meet the ‘normal’ kids. He does not come to meet the differently abled children who come here with the hope that he would come. He is still with them [other children].”

Sporting a transparent plastic raincoat and her hair plaited in two, Sunita said she liked Mr. Modi’s speech. On being asked if she knew the speaker, she took the Prime Minister’s name. She said she felt amazing when the national song was being played. When asked as to when she woke up to come to the event, the teenager said she could hardly sleep at night as she was too excited.

“When the children go back and watch TV and see Mr. Modi was with other children, they ask why he did not come to meet them,” Maurya, who lives in Pitampura, said.

Ms. Maurya has been accompanying students to the Red Fort to the Independence Day event for the past four years. She said she has never seen the Prime Minister coming to meet them, even though he meets other children. “We had even requested officials to convey to authorities concerned that our children really wants Mr. Modi to meet them,” she said.

Several NGOs had come with differently abled students enrolled under the banner of Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya National Institute for Persons with Physical Disabilities (Divyangjan). An official of one such NGO, who did not wish to be named, said: “Students feel disheartened that Mr. Modi met children on the other side and not them.”

An official at Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya National Institute for Persons with Physical Disabilities (Divyangjan) said that 170 students who have visual, hearing or intellectual disability were to attend the Independence Day speech but only 123 came and the rest were absent. The one with hearing disability were provided with interpreters.

As mr. Modi wrapped up the interaction with children and was leaving, Ms. Maurya pointed to the convoy of black SUVs and told Sunita and others, “You see the vehicles, Modiji is leaving in that.” “We try to help them catch a glimpse of the Prime Minister, whenever he is close. That is all we can do” the teacher said.

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Printable version | Feb 22, 2020 7:32:00 PM |

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