By Moumita Ghosh:
Well, the state of Goa is in the news again folks, and such expression of vikaas might also elude you like it did before, about a week ago. On Wednesday, social media platforms brimmed with the line – Some people are born with disabilities due to the “mistake” and “negligence” committed by God. The speaker was Laxmikant Parsekar, the knowledge bomb-er (if you will), who is the current and 11th Chief Minister of the state of Goa, and a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Speaking at the inauguration of ‘We Care Film Festival’, a festival on special needs and disability issues, organized by DRAG on Wednesday morning, he said, “There are some brothers and sisters in the society, who are born with certain disabilities. God forgets to give them certain things. That is negligence on the part of God and for that the child has to suffer for entire life.” Reflecting on the role of NGOs in such endeavours, he quipped – “Therefore, NGOs like Disability Rights Association of Goa (DRAG) have come into existence. The thing, which God could not do, they are doing. They are rectifying the mistake committed by God. I would say NGOs’ work is more than that of God.”
This news comes exactly 8 days after the Sports and Youth Affairs Minister of Goa, Ramesh Tawadkar, also a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party, went on record saying that the state will set up “centres” and “train” the members of the LGBT community, even administering “medicines” to them in order to make them “normal”. It was Laxmikant Parsekar himself who had stepped in at that point of time to provide a cover-up for his cabinet colleague’s comment, accrediting it to ignorance and reciting– “No, no. It is a natural thing”, when asked about the issue of sexual orientation. Alas, there was no-one to provide a cover-up for the CM’s comment on Wednesday though, which received widespread criticism. So the minister predictably retracted his statement as is and was fashionable among the politicians. It is ironical that the state ministers are more interested in “curing” and “rectifying” those who are afflicted with the ‘diseases’ and ‘mistakes’ of being homosexuals and differently-abled, when the same state was in the news in the recent past for having a suicide rate way above the national average; most of these suicides, among both adults and teenagers, being accredited to “emotional illness”, in the study, Sadness in Paradise: Mental Health in Goa by academics Namdev Gawas and Satish Sawal.
Nonetheless, it must be kept in mind that what happened in Goa on Wednesday is a micro-cosmic reflection of our society at large, which presents yet another instance of the constant formation of the ‘self’ and the ‘other’; a meta-narrative of small, everyday incidents like – stealing a strategically placed or shameless glance at a differently-abled person and the consequent discomfort faced by their parents, partner and/or siblings; calling them ‘handicapped” and then biting your tongue for the usage of a politically incorrect term; the RTE Act including such children to the fundamental right of receiving education not from its conception, but after an amendment; and finally the widespread lack of integrated schools where differently-abled children learn along with other children. I’m glad my city, Calcutta, has taken a step forward of sorts as far as the last point is concerned. I’m sharing a quite old article here, but it’s worth a read and a thought. Conclusions have seldom been so beautiful.