By Brototi Roy:
The first thing that came into my mind after reading the topic was the movie Koi Mil Gaya, which I had gone to see as a 12 year old kid with my parents and a bunch of friends, and the scene where the so called ‘grown up’ boys bully Rohit (Hrithik Roshan) by taking turns to hit him with a basketball had all of us shedding tears at the injustice done to him.
The second thought was of this one story I had read in my middle school about a blind child whose parents were devastated to know their child was blind, since the only blind people they had seen where beggars on the street.
A quick search on the net yielded these predictable and grim results-
– About 8.4 per cent and 6.1 per cent of the total estimated households in rural and urban India respectively reported to have at least one disabled person.
– The number of disabled persons in the country was estimated1 to be 18.49 million during July to December, 2002. They formed about 1.8 per cent of the total population.
– About 10.63 per cent of the disabled persons suffered from more than one type of disabilities.
– For every 100000 people in India, there were 1755 who were either mentally or physically disabled. Among the rural residents, the prevalence of disability was 1.85 per cent and that among the urban, it was 1.50 per cent. The rate for males was 2.12 and 1.67 per cent while that for females was 1.56 and 1.31 per cent in rural and urban India, respectively.
– Among the different types of disabilities, the prevalence of locomotors disability was highest in the country — it was 1046 in the rural and 901 in the urban per 100000 persons. This was followed by visual disability and hearing disability.
– About 55 per cent of the disabled in India were illiterate and about 9 per cent completed ‘secondary and above’ level of education.
– Out of 1000 disabled persons, only 15 to 35 completed any vocational course and of them, 74 to 80 per cent in non-engineering stream.
– The current enrolment ratio per 1000 disabled persons of age 5-18 years in the ordinary school was higher in the rural than in the urban — 475 and 444, respectively for the two sectors.
– About 11 per cent of disabled persons of age 5 – 18 years were enrolled in the special schools in the urban as compared to even less than 1 per cent in the rural.
Source: NSS 58th round, National Sample Survey Organization
These figures just prove that India has always and is still neglecting the people with special needs. There aren’t enough schools for them, and the few that are have poor amenities and almost non-existent staff. Most important buildings are not handicap friendly and do not have elevated platform for wheelchairs. They are not provided their rights. Even though there are apparently a lot of laws made to ensure that they are given priority and provided with help in the government schools and government sector jobs, the reality is a lot different. They face discrimination in all walks of life from a very early age and unlike the developed countries, are not provided with the right kind of support and help that is required to help them grow physically, emotionally and socially.
In the last few years, however, a number of NGOs have come up to work diligently to ensure that people with special needs are not discriminated and treated with care and respect, but as long as everyone of us pledge to not just ignore them, but help them in their day to day life, the situation will not improve. Little acts of kindness, for example, by helping a blind man cross the road, or carrying the bag of a woman with polio who you see is walking the same way as you are would help them immensely and would be all it takes to usher in the spirit of compassion to help those who need it the most .