TBI: What role does the education sector play for persons with disabilities?
RK: We have special schools for children with disabilities. Out of which, five schools are for the hearing impaired. One school is running for blind students. Another is meant for the mentally challenged. All the five schools are located in Delhi. We impart education to bring these children at par with the remaining population of children as far as their educational outcomes are concerned. On this front we do have number of limitations. We try to render substantial services. Many of our students have been outstanding in their performance. The problem of being understaffed plagues our system. But we’re trying our best to do a good job.
TBI: What challenges do you face while working for the old and destitute women?
RK: Presently, the entire system is undergoing digital transformation. Here comes the biggest challenge for us. The major challenge is to link up with the Aadhar number- the Unique Identification number. Many of them don’t have Aadhar number. On one hand, people who require it, don’t have them. On the other hand, some are very clever and get the aadhar number very quickly even if they don’t belong to our territory. So, at times, this kind of injustice happens like someone who has to get higher pension gets less attention, as the linkage doesn’t happen. But we are trying hard to resolve it with the banks. This is one of the major problems. The other problem is the very nature of the population which is deprived. So one feels very sorry for them and you are not able to do anything for them as the waiting spaces are not sufficient. Many a time old people are waiting in queue for long hours. We are trying to work on areas like improving the waiting areas, expedite the work and minimize the number of visits they have to make to the centre where they get their payment. We are trying to simplify the procedures for them. Currently, I am working on checklist which can be displayed on the website itself which are generally made public so that people know that these are the documents required. This can help them in coming to the centers well prepared so that they don’t have to keep running around. So my effort at the moment is to resolve this basic distance that is being created with the absence of the aadhar.
TBI: In India girls with disabilities are usually stigmatized. Are there any schemes for them?
RK: The awareness programs for the parents are yet to be implemented. The reason for girls with disabilities to be stigmatized has a lot to do with the mindset and the cultural orientation of people. In North India, cases of female feticide are high. There is an urgent call for cultural up gradation. It is necessary for people to get kinder and larger hearted. Parents should be less selfish. I fail to understand when parents don’t understand or accept their own children even if it’s a girl or a boy who is a special child, then how can you blame the society. Why anyone else will look after the child when they themselves can’t look after their own child. On one hand, we are surrounded by such beautiful examples where parents have sacrificed their lives for their child. On the other, there are very few in number who just want to get out of the situation of having to handle such a child. One of the main reasons behind this is also the economic condition of the family. In a well to do family, bringing up a special child may not be a burden. But if somebody is struggling for meal to meal existence or if he is a daily wage earner, a child with disabilities is difficult task to handle. So this ongoing current tragedy is a hard reality of our times. We have to stand up and deal with it. There is a need to work on this challenge. Life becomes easier when parents also give emotional strength to deal with this kind of situation.
TBI: Could you throw light about the hostel facilities for persons with disabilities.
RK: We have a hostel facility for the hearing –impaired. Besides, there is a hostel facility for the students of blind college. Ironically, the demand is high. One of the factors for the increasing demand is that the facilities in the other neighboring states are not so good in comparison to the hostel facility in Delhi. Thus there is a huge population that comes from South India, North eastern states. So the pressure that keeps generating is that of funds. The funding comes entirely from the Delhi Government. What is of prime importance is that there is a need for graduating to a better funding mechanism as we are hardly able to meet the economic requirement for this kind of task.
TBI: Is your department collaborating with the NGOs?
RK: A good number of NGOs have collaborated with us and we are proud that they are doing a great job.
TBI: What are the schemes available for Persons with Disabilities?
RK: There are a number of schemes for Persons with disabilities. There are few schemes in education sector. Under the schemes provision of pension is allotted to Persons with disabilities suffering from 40 percent disability. An amount of Rs 2,500 is provided to them on a monthly basis. This may not be a great amount but as of now the government is able to afford only this much.
TBI: What kind of challenges you come across?
RK: The challenges are huge. In spite of innumerable schemes for persons with disabilities, providing them merely with a pension is barely giving him means to survive as the amount is so less. On the other hand, if we had systems of employment generation like imparting them with skills that can be marketed or identifying their strengths so that they could develop into full blown individuals with life and career of their own, instead of waiting for the drop of merely Rs 2,500. These are some of the challenges and there is a long way to go in terms of development for persons with disabilities.
TBI: Are there any schemes for women?
RK: Yes, there are some schemes for women in distress. Widows are provided with pension. Pension is also provided to divorced women and also some income is allotted to women who don’t have any other source of income and for women who are working and doing well in life, there is a provision of working women’s hostels.
TBI: Do you have any rehabilitation facility for persons with disabilities?
RK : We don’t have any substantial rehabilitation facilities as yet.
TBI: Do you have any future plans for rehabilitation centre?
RK: We are trying to work out on this for the disabled. Rehabilitation means they would be able to work out their own livelihood. So we are planning some job fairs in near future. I am asking the department to work out a mechanism whereby people can register with us like in an employment exchange. It is all in the process and is in conceptual state, yet to take off.