Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Widening Gap Between Rights and Practices Involving Disabled Persons

Javed describes how the latest State Budget ignores physically challenged people of J&K

(Mr. Javed Ahmad Tak, 35, was born in Bijbehara in the Anantnag district. He received his schooling from Government schools in Bijbehara, and his B.Sc. degree from the Government Degree College in Anantnag. Unfortunately, at the age of 21 he became a victim of a terrorist bullet which hit his spine and disabled him for the rest of his life. However, he overcome mental and physical odds to complete his Master's degree in Social Work from the University of Kashmir, and also completed certificate courses in Human Rights and Computers from the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). Although wheel-chair bound, Mr. Tak is recognized as a leader who has relentlessly and with extreme passion taken up the cause of disabled people in J&K, seeking full citizen rights guaranteed under the J&K Disability Act but never implemented in the past. He is a founder-member of numerous NGO's dealing with issues and sensitizing public about challenges faces by physically handicapped people in Kashmir. He has received numerous awards and citations for his selfless work and has attended numerous workshops on disability rights around the country.)

We the fortunate people without independence

When a physically challenged walks along a roadside physically fit people show greater concern to help him, show sympathies, give attention and sometimes provide extra helping hand to get satisfaction of doing appreciative job in this world. We are not given any heavy job and preferred to be seated with care. Thus making us more privileged without considering our Rights. We have not been given any place in the budget 2009. Neither railway minister nor finance minister said anything about us. All this shows that our leaders are no way considering us humans.

All this miserable conditions for the disable persons arise because of the cold shoulder from policy makers, planners and the concerned officials. The education policy includes the empowerment of persons with disabilities but the implementers don’t bother about it. The Example for this fact is that J&K state board of school Examination has passed a circular that there is a fee concession and concession in marks for the students with disabilities. But no disable student has so for taken the opportunity to avail such concession. The school heads are not aware of this concession. The examiners and assessors do not know who is eligible for said concession. Actually when a child with disability gets birth in a family, the negative feeling and social stigma comes in the way of development of the child.

Thus the child remains hidden inside the home and sympathies are shown in his favour. The Rights of the child are trampled under feet. The schools and other social institutions are not accessible. Therefore the persons with disabilities find it secure to remain inside their homes. When they reach such places they get humiliated. They are carried to a park to a school to a hospital instead of free mobility. A ramp and a lift can make most of the places barrier free at first instant but these things are beyond the concept of the architects who design our buildings. There are countless buildings under construction throughout the country and countless are going to be constructed in future. A simple decision with strong directions from planning commission of India can make whole India barrier free to attain the freedom of the persons with disabilities. No architectural design for a building to be constructed may be passes until it is made barrier free. The Public works and Urban development departments at the central and the state levels need to be very cautious about the infrastructure building. They can change the picture of the free India and thus can give a free access to all.

This is the 63rd time when the people of the independent India are celebrating the taste of Independence and freedom, sought after a lots of pains and bloodshed. The whole nation has got prosperity and happiness. But the big question that arises today is that “Are all of us free and independent after 63 years of the independence?”. The answer for this easy question seems obviously NO. This is because the under privileged classes are still living hand to mouth. Beggary and exploitation exist in our society. We couldn’t attain the 100% health surety, 100% literacy and 100% social security.

The marginalised class of the society is the persons with disabilities. Up to the year 2001 the class was not even counted to see the numbers and scale of severity in the disability sector. But in 2001 the disability activists put pressure on the government of India and a column was added in the census papers regarding the counting of the persons with disabilities. The overall scenario was at least 5% of Indian population is disable excluding old aged and the people caught in stress. But it was seen less than 2% persons with disabilities are educated and less than 1% is employed.
Education is important for all irrespective of cast, creed, colour, gender or disability. His Excellency the Ex. President of India Shri APJ Abdul Kalam set up 2020 programme that suggested India will be empowered with 100% LITERACY RATE and then Minister for HRD Shri Arjun Singh agreed to make whole India literate. But what has been done to literate persons with disabilities. The answer is obviously negative. Recently the Honourable union Minister for HRD presented Right to education Bill in the parliament. It was no doubt passed by the parliamentarians but for the persons with disabilities it contained nothing. The persons with disabilities protested in Delhi but nothing happened. So we have to sensitise the ministers first who are the law makers.

In J&K, according to census 2001 the population of the persons with disabilities is 306410 out of which 184000 are visually challenged (Blind). Here is no school where Braille technique can literate these special children. Then how can we be sure about the success of 100% literacy mission or Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. Only one parameter can prove it that is when an Act will be passed saying that persons with disabilities are no more humans. Then may be rest of the people are educated and the aim of educating all is sought. Otherwise if the real aim is taken in consideration then the school buildings need to be made barrier free so that children with disabilities feel free and secure go attend classes. The barriers like stairs and narrow doors need to be removed and ramps with railings, wide doors, Braille signage, tactile paths and special assistive devices need to be introduced in the schools. The special teachers that have enough knowledge to handle or deal the children with disabilities need to be appointed in schools. At least one special school at tehsil level need to be introduced, that can cater all children with disabilities like blind, Locomotors, deaf, dumb and other multiple disable.

There is special education subject already introduced in the syllabus of B.Ed and M.Ed programmes, which is meant to train teachers for teaching special children. But it an optional subject therefore no student opts for the special education subject. Manpower in disability sector is much less and what already exists in the field is idle or without work. Thus special teaching and special education is a myth.

Budget-2009 presented at state central level gave nothing special for persons with disabilities. After 63 years of independence we the persons with special needs are struggling to get our due in annual budget allocations and right to education and right to health.

When there is no tool to fight with, we are not secure to join the battle field. In the same way when the persons with disabilities are illiterate they prefer to beg or rely on sympathy than to earn with dignity. Because they are not in a position to attain the education with security, honour and decency. The reservation provided is not covering the professional courses. The zero concern towards disability has forced the disable persons to live idle life without any job. But whosoever fights the challenge shows he is the best. Thus the conclusion is that usable human resource is changed into a non usable stuff. Although little in numbers disabled educated youth have made their way in Indian leadership, Bureaucracy, official and working class. There they have proved themselves very dedicated, honest and reliable. But the ignorance from the Social justice ministry has stamped the disability as liability on the government.

There are success stories all around the world, Helen Keller, Christy Brown, John Milton and Stephen Hawking have proved it well that the disability is no way evil but a challenge saying can you? And the committed one reply Yes I can.

There are Acts existing in the favour of physically challenged. Indian Disability Act 1995 guarantees equal opportunities protection of Rights and full participation but still persons with disabilities are dependent on stipends and festival gifts. That clearly depicts that the Act has not been implemented in a concrete way. It is just on papers and the files are kept on shelves as food for moths. There are various activists’ organisations throughout India which have been struggling to keep the Act alive and persons with disabilities in good humour. Many organisations have proved govt. as non serious regarding disability issues. The organisations have made their infrastructure disable friendly thus giving clear indications everything is possible when the vision is clear and brain without handicaps. Freedom cannot be curbed at all.

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