Feature

Volume 3 Issue 17 - September 01, 2005

Investing in future leaders of India’s disability movement

The Rajiv Gandhi Scholarship Scheme for Students with Disability, instituted by National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (N.C.P.E.D.P.), were awarded on 20 August by Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Parvinder Singh details how disabled Scholars are turning into successful professionals and votaries of disability rights through these Scholarships.

Picture of Rajiv Gandhi Scholarship awardee with Sonia Gandhi

Awareness is the key to empowerment and for Jijesh, a person with visual impairment, the first brush with a whole new awakening came through a newspaper piece that he had used to wrap his shoes with.

“My friend read out an advertisement of a Scholarship Scheme for disabled students pursuing technical and professional courses. Most importantly, for me, it talked about people with visual impairment among other forms of disabilities,” Jijesh, 19, recounted this at an orientation ceremony on 19 August for Scholars who were awarded Rajiv Gandhi Scholarship for Students with Disability for this year.

After his friend read out the advertisement by N.C.P.E.D.P, Jijesh applied for the Scholarship and not only did he get it, but this year he was awarded the Best Scholar title.

“Rajiv Gandhi Scholarships connected me to the disability sector and opened my eyes to issues and rights of disabled people,” Jijesh said.

“Before I came to Delhi to receive the Scholarship award last year, I was not aware of the disability movement that exists in this country, as very little information reaches disabled people and others in smaller cities and villages. But the Award Ceremony was an eye opener,” he added.

The Scholarships were instituted in 1998 in memory of Late Prime Minister Shri Rajiv Gandhi to address the issue of access to higher technical and professional education for disabled students. These students are unable to finish or even try for higher education primarily due to financial constraints, among a variety of other obstacles. Their financial needs are compounded by high expenditure on aids and appliances, human support systems, etc.

According to an estimate by the disability sector, of all disabled children in India only two per cent is getting any kind of education. Only 0.1 per cent disabled students are in mainstream educational institutions at the university level and 0.51 percent at the school level.

This year, 61 meritorious and promising disabled students were awarded The Rajiv Gandhi Scholarship to pursue higher professional education. The Scholarship has over the years brought to the fore true leaders among disabled youth. In fact, the disabled students, who have been shortlisted for the award of the Scholarship, have already had a commendable and difficult journey in reaching up to this level and are winners in their own unique struggles.

Of the Scholars selected this year, 30 are males and 31 are females. Of the 31 female scholars, 20 are from the South, 8 from the North, one from the West and two from the East. Of the total number of 30 male scholars, 25 are from the South; three are from the North, one from the West and one from the East.

Of all the male Scholars selected, 24 are persons with orthopaedic disability and six have visual impairment Of the total number of female Scholars selected, 25 are persons with orthopaedic disability, four have visual impairment, one has hearing impairment and one has burn injuries.

The selected Scholar is given an amount of Rs. 1200/- per month for the entire duration of his/her course. The Scholarships are awarded on 20 August each year to commemorate the birth anniversary of late Shri Rajiv Gandhi.

A day after the orientation ceremony, the awardees received Scholarship certificates from United Progressive Alliance Chairperson and N.C.P.E.D.P. Founder Chairperson Sonia Gandhi at her residence.

Picture of Jijesh being given Best Scholar award by Smt. Sonia Gandhi

The Scholarship Award Ceremony has already established itself as an important event not only for the disability sector but also for media to interact with true winners and future leaders in their fields.

This year organisations as well as individuals sponsored the Scholarship. Shell India Pvt. Ltd has supported a total of 30 Scholars pursuing higher education in management and engineering courses. Agilent Technologies International has also supported the Scholarship of 15 students pursuing engineering and management courses. Godrej Industries Pvt. Ltd and Transworks Information Services Limited support three Scholarships each, the R. C. Malhotra Foundation Trust and Tata AIG Life Insurance Co. Ltd. have supported two each, while Tata Infotech Ltd, and Systopic Laboratories have supported one scholarship each.

Individual sponsors who have supported scholarships are: namely Pradeep Gupta, Managing Director, Cybermedia India Limited; Abir Mullick, Director (Industrial Design), College of Architecture, Georgia Institute of Technology, U.S.A.; and Jani Nayar, Director, Society for Accessible Travel and Hospitality (SATH), New York, U.S.A..

According to an N.C.P.E.D.P. release, one of the aims espoused by the Scholarship Scheme is to turn these students not only into successful professionals but also representatives espousing disability rights. On the day of orientation ceremony, these Scholars could be seen giving bites to scribes and television crews making their first foray into public space voicing opinions and issues of disabled people.

Jijesh, a Bachelor of Computer Application student in Bangalore, said: “ I was very touched by Javed Abidi, Executive Director, N.C.P.E.D.P.. He inspired me to think of the larger picture and look at the rights of disabled people in my immediate surroundings.”

These Scholarships have also become a platform for disabled people to come to a national platform and express their aspiration and take back home voices of solidarity and new ideas to disabled members of their own community.

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