From nursery to class 8th, Wasim Feroz Matoo's mother carried him to school in morning, waited for his classes to get over and then brought him back to the house, keeping aside all her daily chores and leisure. She sacrificed a lot to get her physically disabled son quality education.
Wasim, too, did not let her mother down. He qualified B.A. and B. Ed exams with flying colors. This was the moment when all their fears locked in the subconscious were on the verge of actual disappearance. The dreams of a happy life were sprouting in the hopeful eyes just then an awful step shattered all their happiness.
Wasim despite having the requisite education qualification was dropped from Budgam teacher list. His disability of lower limbs was the reason for the decision taken - a teacher on a wheelchair is not accepted in our society.
Wasim is a face that reflects the dilemma of several talented yet hapless disabled individuals at grass root level who today have no reason to celebrate world disability day.
A common notion that still exists in our society is the quick adoption of sympathetic attitude seeing a physically challenged person. For us, they are less fortunate and know nothing about the world. However, that is not the case. God's balancing act is beyond one's imagination reflected by the sharpest instinct he has blessed the "differently-abled" persons with. All required from our part is to "see" those traits in them and accept them with a little imperfection.
Persons with disabilities are facing intense discrimination at all levels - education, employment, accessibility and independent identity in the society. The social stigma related to severely disabled persons force them to live a dependant life. This discrimination at each phase is due to the adoption of the charity model by the stakeholders all across the country in pretext of empowerment of the disabled. If it would have been about empowering them, then why we still lack basic structures necessary for their growth?
Situation is worse in far-flung areas like Kashmir, where there are no schools for children with disabilities. One special school for several doesn't promise a hopeful future. On top of that, these schools lack appropriate infrastructure, teaching facilities, learning material and special teachers.
This "taken for granted" inclination of the healthy lot in the state towards the disabled persons is testified by the fact that individuals with less healthy lower or upper limbs are forced to match up the standards set by us. Why there is no feasible curriculum available with the state board and the university as compared to the other states of the country. The duration to finish an exam is similar for all of them - disability is not a hindrance then.
Many students like Wasim facing disability by birth are lifted by their parents to the classroom and taken back home on routine basis. Buildings are not disabled friendly, it lacks support system. In addition, there is neither a provision to accommodate students with loco-motor disabilities nor classes are organized for them at ground levels. They have to crawl, skid or limp indecently to reach the classrooms and exam centers.
But kudos to the strength and determination of the "differently-abled" students that despite all the bigotry they face, they survive - in the pool of big fishes, to make it big one day. They score good in academics at school, graduate and post graduate levels.
This phase of a disabled person's life represents the time when discrimination is at its zenith. In Jammu and Kashmir, Circular no. 62-SW of 2001, Dated: 23-03-2001 has made the disabled "Handicap" in real. Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment identifies, for example, teacher post for deaf, mute, blind and for other severe disabled individuals. But in this state, all thanks to the circular, severe disabled persons are dropped from the list with the only plea that the post of teacher has not been identified for them.
It is very unfortunate that Service Selection Board (SSRB) does not reckon persons with either upper or lower limb disabilities for any post. They have identified a long list of posts for "partially" disabled as a step for "all inclusive policy".
This sends out a message of discouragement to the disabled community to give up hopes on education. What is the need to walk on a road, which surely is blocked ahead?
But some souls are quite determined and never understood the word "Give-up". They fought and set examples for the entire community, not only in the state but at national level. Officials, like IAS and KAS, with severe disabilities (blind or have no upper or lower limbs) have proved themselves. Mr. Khursheed Malik, with 100 percent disability, is supported by a wheel chair. But this wheel chair never became an obstacle in his willingness to serve the state as a Secretary in different departments - Labor and Employment, PHE and Flood Control to name a few. His dedication and honesty placed him in the hearts of the public, thus leaving behind many healthy officials.
Despite their talent and special skills, government never misses a chance to prove its vindictiveness to them. In one such case, Syed Bashir, who was working as teacher in the Middle School Kanjinag Awantipora in Pulwama district under Rehbar e Taleem scheme was disengaged on the grounds that he is unable to use his "arms" for taking food and using blackboard.
Bashir did not accept the decision and decided to fight a case. In the year 2010, a historic decision was passed by the double Bench in Apex Court (the Honorable Supreme Court of India) in case of Syed Bashir ud din Qadri V/S State of J and K. The Honorable Supreme Court of India considered it as the severe case of discrimination under Article 22 of the JK persons with Disabilities Act 1998, guaranteeing equal opportunities, protection of Rights and full participation. Thus Orders were passed to reinstate Bashir who is presently working as a teacher in the Kanjinag School known for his extra inputs in the interest of school and students.
Persons with disabilities spend more on their education and maintenance of life. Wheel chairs, crutches and other aids required for mobility cost heavily on the budget of their families. The extreme climatic situations also play a vital role in the lives of disabled, which forces them to discontinue their education.
The Charkha Development Communication network feels that the disabled should be given access to their rights. They have challenged the "disabled" system with their special abilities; all we are doing is denying them the permission to carry out celebration at India Gate and that too on a day devoted to them - "World Disability Day" By Javed Ahmad Tak (ANI)