D.N.I.S. News Network - Life has its strange ways. Like the route from Dehradun to Mussorie, its paths are curvaceous, with too many steep twists and turns that throw surprises – some pleasant and some scary. One cannot anticipate or expect anything. One such surprising opportunity came my way when I was asked to give a lecture to more than 300 I.A.S. probationers on the “Issues of Differently Abled”, at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration in Mussorie.
While going up hill on those steep curves, I was introspecting and also doing some retrospection. When I was doing my under graduation, like a majority of Indian students, I too had a dream of getting into the Civil Services – to design, change and execute policies that impact and shape the lives of multitudes of Indians. The unexpected turns and twists that life took; I landed on the other side of the fence – advocating, designing, changing and effectively implementing policies in favour of people with disabilities. For me, it was quite an experience and honour to be at the Academy as a resource person on disability.
My presentation at the Academy started with definitions and understanding of disability identity, and went on for about half an hour to explore keys issues concerning data, employment, education, access, legal provisions, policy responses, case studies, bottlenecks in implementation and how those could be addressed. Before the presentation, I had attempted to find out the break-up of this diverse group from gender, region and disability perspective. My escort officer told me that at least three probationers were people with disabilities. It was surprising to notice that when I asked in the auditorium as to how many them identified themselves as disabled, none of them came out.
For one and a half hour, there was open house discussion, which threw many interesting insights as to how disability is viewed and understood by the future policy makers. A lot of questions that were asked pertained to inclusive education. There was apprehension that children with disabilities cannot study in mainstream schools for the usual assumptions like - a) lack of resources, b) they require special attention and a teacher in a government primary school cannot do that if she has 40 other children to teach, and c) children with developmental delays cannot be accommodated in regular settings and so on.
They were still looking at disability from a charity perspective and some of them felt that if we talk too much about their rights, we might end up antagonizing lot of people resulting in disabled people not even getting what they get otherwise. They were more interested in solutions as to how they could bring disability on their radar screen, how to address issues of employment, access, inclusion. They also wanted to know if there were any model practices vis-à-vis disability rehabilitation, especially, in the post Disability Act era that could be replicated elsewhere. There were questions about the role of disability movement and why it has failed to ensure presence of disability in other social movements.
The presentation ended with everyone agreeing to Amartya Sen’s call that, in a just society, everyone has a right to good living and for people with disabilities “some of the inputs of good living come not from personal income, but directly from social arrangements, such as institutions for public education and civic facilities.”
Contributed by: Dr. Meenu Bhambhani, Programme Officer with N.C.P.E.D.P.