From the desk of Editor-in-Chief

Celebrating the second milestone!

“The secret of change is to focus all your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new,” wrote former world champion athlete and noted American author Dan Mill man in his bestselling book ‘Way of the Peaceful Warrior.’

With this vision two years ago, The Bridge India took its maiden step to build a connect, based on the virtue of trust and cooperation, between the non-government organisations (NGOs), corporate houses, the government sector and enterprising individuals to help bring a social renaissance in the country.

It is a moment of great happiness as we complete two years of our journey, playing the role of a good facilitator amongst the stakeholders to make ‘New India’ a better place to live in. With consistent effort and dedication, The Bridge India has been able to strengthen the framework of social work in India.

From its humble beginning in December 2017, The Bridge India has grown significantly in last two years to become an authoritative voice, working in unison with social change makers, responsible business houses and the government sector to help bring transformative solutions to social and developmental issues.

This edition commemorates our second anniversary, which would not have been possible without the support of our management, advisers, readers, partners and most importantly The Bridge India team, whose hard work and fervent efforts has made the company one of the most sought-after social consulting firms in a short span of just two years.

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Over the past two years, we have conducted several panel discussions— participated by industry leaders and prominent social activists, organised training programmes for capacity building of the NGOs and also reached out to communities to understand their challenges. At the same time, we have been able to create a much needed platform to focus on the challenges of the NGOs and the corporate sector as well as the government in implementing their social development projects.

Our e-magazine – launched in May 2017 — has also grown in its reach from Delhi-NCR to several cities pan-India, including Jaipur, Chandigarh, Bhopal, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai, Kolkata and Mumbai. With its readership base over 5000 +, The Bridge India e-magazine is furthering its cause to address the issue of trust deficit between the NGOs and the corporate sector as well as to acknowledge the yeoman services being done by smaller organisations by highlighting their works and giving them a platform to scale up their services and reach to corporates and build their capacities.

We have dedicated this edition to the disability sector. This edition highlights how various NGOs and corporates have taken up the cudgels to empower specially-abled people to become a part of the India’s growth story.

We are proud to say that our efforts are being recognised and appreciated by people across sectors, including NGOs, Corporates and Government, as well as researchers and academicians.

Thank you all for helping make The Bridge India India a purposeful organisation now and for years to come.

Happy Reading!

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India is trying to bring people with disability into the mainstream: K Vikram Simha Rao, Director, DEPwD

With a significant law on disability, reservation policies, fresh initiatives like a dedicated sports complex and monetary boosts to private sector to enhance employment opportunities, India is finally paying much-needed attention to people with disability. K Vikram Simha Rao, Director, Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disability, tells Karan Bhardwaj there’s a long distance to cover but we are on the right track.

TBI: The current law, Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 (RPWD Act), has raised the expectations of persons with disabilities across India to get equal rights, reasonable accommodation and need-based interventions under 21 disabilities covered under the Act. How does the law promise to empower these people?

KVSR: Before this new law came into force, we already had one Act of 1995, even though it did not cover many areas of the present law. Many of the rights and entitlements were already covered under the Act, and people have had some knowledge about them. After the UN Convention was signed by the Indian government, attempts were made to translate them into the new law. Therefore, the RPWD Act is quite comprehensive, describing various rights and responsibilities concerning disability. It preaches Divyang individuals should not be left behind and must have lifestyle choices like the rest of the citizens so that they can actively participate in all walks of life. It is true that the new act has raised expectations. We are trying best to implement the Act systematically with the help of state governments, district officers and panchayat-level institutions.

TBI: How does the government plan to rehabilitate people with mental and multiple disabilities. As far as we know, under the aegis of govt, there is only one facility ie Deendayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme (DDRS), which runs residential schools where orphan children with disabilities can stay and pursue their education till the age of 18. What happens to the child after 18 years?

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KVSR: Yes, the DDRS covers children up to the age of 18. In fact, there is also a legal battle going on in Andhra Pradesh where the government is considering whether it can go beyond the age limit to ensure welfare of disabled people. There’s no confirmation yet though. But the 2016 Act gives a strong mandate to the central and state govts to ensure that individuals with disability are looked after beyond the age of 18 till the old age. I am sure the government will take the right decision.

TBI: Accessibility and inclusivity are still major challenges with person with disabilities. What are the government initiatives on this aspect?

KVSR: Presently access to various resources is limited to persons with disability. For us, inclusion is not just about having a physical accessibility by having a ramp or a lift in the building. It is also about receiving mainstream education, health services, employment opportunities, participation in decision-making processes across fields, excelling in arts and sports. That’s the real inclusion. We are making efforts to include disabled individuals in all spheres of life.
We are running Accessible India campaign wherein we provide funds to the state governments to make public space more disability-friendly. The states are entitled to allocate money to try to make all buildings accessible not only to the government employees but also to the general public who enter the premises. The grants are also given to private buildings like malls which are accessed by general public. They are also called public buildings as per the Act. It is the collective responsibility of all establishments to ensure that all public buildings are made accessible to people with disability.

TBI: Where do you see role of catalysts such as media and NGOs in mobilising and sensitising public towards disability?

KVSR: Media, including The Bridge India E-magazine, can play significant role in creating awareness about the disability. Many people, including government officials, still need to be sensitised about the new law and its provisions. Media can become vigilante in checking violations of the law in order to ensure justice.

TBI: How do you look at the role of the private and corporate sector?

KVSR: It is a joint responsibility to implement the 2016 Act. The UN convention clearly states that both public and private sectors must work together towards welfare of the disabled people. The 2006 Act also suggests provision of 5 per cent reservation in jobs in private sector though it is not mandatory. We are trying to help private sector through various schemes in insurance, provident fund etc to encourage them to employ more people with disability. So far, we have yielded good results but we are giving it a lot of publicity to create awareness. We want corporate sector to invest lot in the rehabilitation of the disabled people, especially in public spaces.

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Empowering divyangs to lead life with dignity

By Soma Chakraborty

As per an estimate, there are over 200 million disabled people in India. Most of them have little or no access to quality education, healthcare, therapy and job opportunities. Though the government has initiated several programmes for divyangs, there still remains a critical shortage of early intervention services, which can change outcomes for children positively. There is also a shortage of trained, experienced educators and therapists. However, overcoming these challenges, many NGOs with their constant effort and dedication are striving hard to make a better world for children with disabilities. The Bridge India takes a sneak peek at some of these crusaders.

Score Foundation

Established in 2002, Delhi-based Score Foundation provides a platform to visually impaired people to realise personal independence and economic self-reliance. With its motto ‘SCORE’ – Space, Contribution, Opportunity, Recognition and Equality for all with dignity – the NGO is working towards social inclusion for all visually impaired people in India.
Founded by George Abraham, who is visually impaired since childhood, the Score Foundation has taken up several projects to inform, inspire, and empower people with visual impairment and to realize equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities for them.
‘Cricket for the blind’ was the NGO’s first initiative. It organised the first national tournament in 1990, established the World Blind Cricket Council in 1996 and conceived the first World Cup at New Delhi in 1998.
In November 2005, the Score Foundation launched a weekly radio programme ‘Eyeway, Yeh Hai Roshni ka Karwan’. The programme comprised of interviews, profiles of achievers, news and information related to living life with blindness. The profiles were read out by celebrity voices like Harsha Bhogle, Nandita Das, Om Puri, Ameen Sayani and the like. People started calling with their personal challenges and queries. This prompted the launch of the Eyeway Helpdesk.
“We started receiving 70 to 80 calls a week. The calls pertained to queries regarding careers, education, assistive technology, government provisions and schemes, banking, violation of rights, discrimination and so on. We hired visually impaired youngsters and trained them as counselors and equipped them to handle the calls,” a spokesperson of the NGO told The Bridge India India.
Following the popularity of the programme, the NGO in December 2015 launched the Eyeway as a network of Helpdesks supported by a nationwide toll-free number driven by a cloud-based telephony technology.
“As of today, we receive nearly 20,000 calls per month from across India.
In 2008, an SMS alert service was launched. Nearly 3,000 visually impaired persons from across India signed up for updates via SMS. Daily alerts were sent out covering information related to jobs, technology, events, news, laws, etc. Over time, the SMS alerts were replaced by Whatsapp alerts.
“Today nearly 3,000 individuals are directly signed up with the service,” the spokesperson said.
Underlining the challenges being faced by the NGO in implementing its projects, he said, “Blindness is not the real problem but the challenge actually was the mindset of people. Every blind person has the potential to be a part of the human resource of the country, they need to be invested in rather than merely provided for.”

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Latika Roy Foundation

Based in Dehradun, Latika Roy Foundation (LRF) is a prominent NGO which provide specialised and localised services to children with disabilities and their families, and help others do the same.
LRF was inspired by a girl name Moy Moy, who was born with a form of cerebral palsy, due to which she was unable to move, speak or communicate in any way. Her mother founded the Foundation to provide world-class services to children like Moy in Dehradun, where none existed at that time. The organization is named after Latika Roy, a leading educationist and Montessori teacher, whose family gave the NGO a founding grant in her memory.
Since its inception 25 years ago, the LRF has grown into a force for inclusion in India, winning multiple awards by Indian and international organisations for its family-centred, rights-based disability services for 0-18 year olds and their families.
These include assessments, early intervention through multiple types of therapy, special education, vocational training and placement assistance, counseling, support groups, outreach and follow-up, resources, training and internships, advocacy and legal assistance.
“LRF also seeks to foster inclusion and accessibility through awareness raising and dialog with government officials, doctors, rural health workers, students, teachers and other disability organizations,” a spokesperson of the LRF told The Bridge India.
Highlighting a major achievement of the NGO, the spokesperson said in 2014, the LRF played an instrumental role in helping a 13-year-old girl to get justice after being raped by her brother’s tutor.
“The girl was intellectually disabled and finds it hard to speak. Our counselors, special educators and legal expert provided constant support to her and her family for the next four years, when they received a compensation of Rs 2 lakh. Our work had a multiplier effect: along with her compensation, compensation pending to 22 other survivors in Uttarakhand was also disbursed.
The LRF is currently running seven centres for children with developmental disabilities. It also conducts follow-up services for families in and around Dehradun.
“To meet the needs of the poorest of the poor, our team of therapist, special educator and social worker go to the homes of families who cannot come to our centers either because of financial constraints or because their children are too disabled to travel on public transport,” the spokesperson said.
However, it is not a smooth sail for the NGO in implementing its projects. Talking about the challenges being faced by the NGO in implementing its programmes, the spokesperson said the lack of fund is a major issue. Government apathy, the spokesperson said, is another challenge.
“While we’ve been fortunate to work with several visionary officials, we’ve also had to deal with officials who are either apathetic or raise deliberate impediments for various reasons. Working with the government also involves copious amounts of paperwork which calls for a dedicated team. For organizations that cannot afford these, it means assigning these tasks to existing staff in addition to their packed schedules,” he said.

Group Of Special People

The Group of Special People (GSP) is a Delhi-based cross-disability, non-profit organisation, which works as an interface between the government and the voluntary sector towards empowerment and encouraging persons with disabilities.
“The driving force behind the GSP is to improve the standard of living of person with disabilities,” a spokesperson of the NGO told The Bridge India. Listing the achievements of the GSP, the spokesperson said the NGO has organised various cultural and sports activities for divyangs. Noted among them is the world’s longest Accessible Awareness Ride on retrofitted scooty on the ‘Importance of Education for Differently-Abled’. The ride covered a distance of 3,500 km from India Gate in Delhi to Gateway of India in Mumbai and then back to the India Gate.
The NGO also conducted first Women Rider World’s Longest Ride by Retrofitted Scooty. Besides, the GSP has worked towards proving employment to physically disabled people.
The NGO has conducted awareness rides in various cities, including Delhi, Mumbai, Alwar, Mussoorie, Nainital and Agra.
“We created world’s first differently able riders group named ‘Eagle specially Able Rider’ with an aim to get disabled people out of their homes and to make them feel connected to the world,” the spokesperson said.
Commenting on the challenges being faced by the GSP while implementing their projects, he said lack of adequate resources and sustainability of the programmes are some of the stumbling blocks.

The Big Picture

There is not an iota of doubt that people with disability face a lot of challenges in every step of their life. However, it is heartening to know that there are individuals and organizations who are lending hand of support to divyangs and striving towards transforming India into a disabled friendly nation. The Bridge India salutes those organizations and individuals who are making sincere efforts to empower persons with disability and enabling them to live their life with dignity by providing them opportunities for education, employment, accessibility, awareness and communication.

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A dialogue on ‘Disability Inclusion’ marks second anniversary of The Bridge India

Eminent voices from the government, corporate sector, NGOs and activists got together to discuss future of disability in India, and honour and role models who have redefined physical abilities, reports Karan Bhardwaj
In a bid to commemorate its second anniversary, The Bridge India India organised a panel discussion highlighting various concerns in the area of disability and way forward. The intense discourse was followed by a felicitation of role models in the field of disability to celebrate life and work who turned their disabilities into strengths and are revered as heroes today.
“We play a key role as a social consulting firm and a catalyst between NGOs and the corporates. Our organization strives to transform the development sector strategies. So far, we have been successful in becoming a key platform that underlines, explores and highlights the finest works being done for society. In the past, we have organized various strategic dialogues and discussions involving different stakeholders comprising corporates, NGOs, Government and the communities and have made meaningful contributions impacting society at large,” said Ms Seema Jairath, founder, The Bridge India India, in her opening remarks.
Geeta Chaturvedi, an expert on Disability, Gender & Children, also the moderator of the panel discussion, brought out a melange of thoughts on ‘disability inclusion’ from all the participants, including Arman Ali (Executive Director, National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People), Ashutosh Chadha (VP, Public Policy and Government Affairs, Mastercard, South Asia), Rakesh Jinsi (President, SOS Children’s Villages of India), Amod Kanth (General Secretary, Prayas Juvenile Aid Centre (JAC) Society), Ira Singhal (Dy. Commissioner, MCD North), K Vikram Simha Rao (Director, Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment).

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Arman Ali lamented how the employment of persons with disability continues to be a CSR activity rather than a standard HR process. “Good thing is that you find disability in every document related to development but the real challenge is that there’s too much pressure on one department. Unless all government ministries and private sectors take employment mandate seriously, real inclusion won’t happen,” he said.
Ashutosh Chadha, who believed everybody has different abilities and disabilities, highlighted the significance of technology which provide solutions to empower each individual. “Advanced tech has become an enabler, it can help prevent issues, to a large extent rehabilitate and support education and employability. But the question is if we are building technology and solutions from inclusive perspective? For example, if we are building a software, can a person with visual or hearing impairment can use it? Are we providing such solutions?” he asked.
Celebrated bureaucrat Ira Singhal, who is India’s first differently abled woman to top the UPSC’s Civil Services Examination for the year 2014 in the general category, drew applause when she pointed out how she shattered attitudinal barriers of officials within her department by dint of her hard work and performance. “I don’t face any challenge now but I am quite aware of discrimination faced by disabled people within the government departments,” she mentioned adding that she doesn’t expect any improvement unless society decides to change its perspective collectively.
Rakesh Jinsi stated that NGOs for children and people with intellectual disability are in the toughest spot when it comes to inclusivity. “What happens to people when they don’t have first relation caregiver. Who provides security to a differently abled child when the parents pass away? I don’t think we have answers to such situations. Is there any Knowledge Centre in our country where we can go and learn about the latest interventions or newer practices being applied in the area of disability in the world so that the beneficiaries can actually benefit?” he asked.
Amod Kanth shared his view point that specially the children with disabilities need hand holding and there is a need to give them special treatment.
Vikram Simha Rao emphasized that the Indian government has shown its commitment by first signing the United Nations Convention on the rights of persons with disabilities and then introducing the 2016 Act (Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act) which is touted as a significant chapter in the empowerment and inclusivity of ‘divyang’ people. He said that though several policies are there on employment generation, health, education and other areas, it is important to create awareness to change mindsets of people. “We are developing a training module of in-service training at all levels, be it senior or junior functionaries at Central or State governments, district officers, grassroot workers, rehabilitation or health workers, to help them understand the contents of the 2016 Act. Unless we educate them how they should tackle issues related to disability, no real inclusivity can take place,” he said.
The event concluded with a felicitation cermony, bestowing honour upon achievers like Dr Akshansh Gupta (scholar), Dr Jagdish Chander (HOD Political Science, Hindu college).
Dr Anil Kumar (India’s first visually challenged acupuncturist), Sonu Bhola (activist & sportsman), Ritesh Singh Tomar (academician and folk artist), Mohini (para athlete, first national Gold medalist in Para Taekwondo) and Shabana ( painter)

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Salute to the Unsung Heroes!

As the Bridge India celebrated its second anniversary, the event was marked with the felicitation of role models in the field of disability who turned their disability into strength and are revered as heroes today. Dr. Akshansh Gupta, Dr. Jagdish Chander, Dr Anil Kumar, Sonu Bhola, Ritesh Singh Tomar, Mohini Chauhan and Shabana were felicitated for their grit and achievements.

Dr. Akshansh Gupta, is a scholar who defeated Cerebral Palsy, became a Computer Science engineer, and completed his doctorate in Brain and Computer Interface from Jawaharlal Nehru University. With numerous research publications, journals and certificates under his name, he wishes to develop a system that would help physically challenged individuals to operate computer by using links between natural neurons to artificial neurons.

Dr. Jagdish Chander, Associate Professor and the Head of the Department of Political Science at Hindu College, Delhi University, lost his sight at the age of six. He studied in a special school for the blind in Delhi, held second rank during BA and MA from Delhi University, and completed his Ph.D. degree in Disability Studies from Syracuse University, New York.

Dr Anil Kumar, is India’s first visually challenged acupuncturist, who lost vision in both eyes at the tender age of five in a bout of meningitis but insisted on going to a regular school and graduated the four-year degree program, with a gold medal, in acupuncture offered by the Indian Board of Alternative Medicine in Kolkata. Recipient of National Award for being a role model for PwDs, he is currently practicing in Apollo Millennium Hospital and Fortis Hospital; he has successfully treated patients of paralysis, hypertension, knee pain, arthritis, asthma, constipation and epilepsy.

Sonu Bhola, founder of Association of Disabled for Development (ADD), was affected by polio when he was barely six months old, but he completed his education with a bachelor’s degree in Commerce and dual masters’ degrees in HR, and Logistics and Supply Chain Management. He is currently working with Sarthak Educational Trust, has a passion for para table-tennis and 10-meter air pistol and has represented Delhi in many national events.

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Ritesh Singh Tomar, is a visually impaired doctoral fellow with Zakir Hussain Center for Educational Studies, JNU, and an assistant professor with Institute of Home Economics, Delhi University who has presented numerous research papers in more than four countries on various themes related to education. A trained Indian Classical Vocalist and Prabhakar in Indian Classical from the Prayag Sangeet Samiti, Allahabad, he is also pursuing Grade B in Western classical on guitar from Trinity School of London. He has emerged to be a popular folk singer in Uttarakhand and has released many folk albums.

Mohini Chauhan, is the first National Gold Medalist in Para Taekwondo, with 85% disability due to polio since the age of three. Currently, she is working in the capacity of Manager at Kilkari Rainbow Home, is pursuing master’s degree in social work, and is also a member of Delhi Network of Women with Disabilities. Her contribution has also been seen in several advocacy campaigns, protest, and rallies, leading to the realization of rights of persons with disabilities on several counts.

Shabana, lost her arms when she got accidentally electrocuted and started writing and painting with her feet. She wishes to be a designer and is currently doing BA from Delhi University.

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Development Happenings

By The Bridge India India

Vikalang Sahara Samiti Delhi celebrates silver jubilee

The 25th Anniversary (Silver Jubilee) of Vikalang Sahara Samiti Delhi was celebrated with aplomb. 1000 PwDs and 500 non-PwDs participated in the celebrations to commemorate the occasion. The organisation boosted their morale by distributing awards to the round table conference, volunteers and state institutes.Cultural programs and ramp Show was organized by the PwDs.
The institution released a book on its 25-year journey and telecasted a tele film on it. On this occasion, the institution invited PwDs from Delhi and other states of Delhi and graced the political and non-political dignitaries on the stage. The event was graced by Bajrang Lal Gupta, Vishnu Singhal, Kapil Kumar Aggarwal, Manoj Miglani, Bunty Solanki, Rameshwar Garg, Rinku Verma (Haryana), Gurunath Ramreddy (Karnataka), Rahul (Uttar Pradesh), Rita Aggarwal (Chhattisgarh), Hemant Bhai Goyal (Rajasthan), Rakesh Kumar Jain, Associate,Dinash Jain, Pradeep Raj, Sonu Bhola, Abhishek Mitra, Ravi Chauhan.
The organisation conferred awards, to Ashok Jain from Tarun Mitra Parishad, Radha Bhardwaj from DAV Education Society, from the Society Interpretation. Sumit, Dr. SK Tripathi, of Amliko. Mamta Sharma from Aditi College and to Kashish, Upasana and Chetna from special school. At the end of the program all together sang the national anthem and concluded the program.

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Vice President confers National Awards to empower persons with Disability

Vice President of India M. Venkiah Naidu conferred ‘National Awards for Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities 2019’ at a function organized by Dep of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD), Union Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment to celebrate ‘International Day of Persons with Disabilities’ on 3 December 2019 in Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi. Vice President was the Chief Guest of the function while Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Thaawarchand Gehlot presided over the function
The award was conferred on Institutions, Individuals, Organizations and State/District etc. for their outstanding achievements and work done every year towards empowerment of Persons with Disabilities or Divyangjan (PwDs).
Till 2017, the Scheme of Award was governed under National Awards Rules, 2013 which provided 7 categories of disabilities according to Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995. However, when Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 came into force w.e.f. 19 April 2017, the number of specified disabilities increased from 7 to 21 under new Law. Accordingly all 21 disabilities were included under National Award Guidelines.

Ability expo and job fair organised

A national job fair and ability expo was organized exclusively for specially-abled individuals from 2nd to 3rd December 2019 at Bhaskaracharya College of Applied Sciences, Sector 2 Dwarka, Delhi. The fair was organised by NSDC & IDEA. under Skill India, where recruiters, job seekers, government agencies, corporates, NGOs and CSR teams were invited. This expo displayed opportunities for self-employment, mentorship, loan, and other activities.

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