Equal opportunities urged on Disability Day
New Delhi, Dec 3 (IANS) Carrying white flags and banners, around 5,000 disabled people gathered at the India Gate here Sunday on the occasion of World Disability Day to press for equal opportunities.
"We are not beggars. What we want is equal opportunities and not the allowance of Rs.150 given to us every month," said Kiran Devi.
Protesters shouted slogans and blocked traffic at the India Gate for nearly half an hour as a mark of anger even as children enacted plays depicting their difficulties and daily struggle.
"The government has failed to provide any benefits to the disabled. We are not beggars who want small grants from the government, we need equal opportunities in health, education and employment," said 31-year-old Vandana Kumari, who has not been able to get a job even after repeated efforts.
"We celebrate this day not only to honour and support our friends but also to remind the politicians that if they can work for reservation for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, then they should also strictly implement the three percent reservation made for the disabled people."
For 26-year old Anuj Mehta, his dream to join the Indian Administrative Services (IAS) was shattered after he lost his voice due to wrong medication at the age of six.
Even after completing his graduation in history from the University and qualifying the main IAS tests thrice, Anuj claimed he had not been given a fair chance to join the service.
"I have not received any interview call till now. I have managed to clear the mains test thrice. I feel let down. The officials tell me to compete with the rest of the students, how can I compete when I cannot speak?" he questioned in sign language.
According to the 2001 census, there are 22 million disabled people in India, but the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) puts the number over 60 million.
"We have been sidetracked by the government and our issues have not been addressed in the right spirit. People still struggle to get jobs even after reservations," said Javed Abidi, one of the organisers and executive director of NCPEDP.
"The celebrations this year are very special as we have completed 10 years since the enactment of the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995.
"There is anger against the government as the promises made by them have not been completed. How can we think of fair behaviour when we do not even have representation in the government," said Abidi.
"India is home to over five million deaf people but unfortunately the government never bothers about giving them proper education. No normal school is equipped to handle such kids," said Arun C. Roy, chief of the National Association of the Deaf.
"Our demand that sign language which is universally understood by the deaf community should be made a part of the constitution has been pending for long," Roy said.