‘Doors were shut on us’
I want disabilities to be considered a cross-cutting issue, like gender, not a social justice issue," said Javed Abidi, director of National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) while in Bangalore recently.
Born with congenital developmental disorder, spina bifida, Abidi had a stint in journalism before he began campaigning for the rights of the disabled.
Although he was instrumental in ensuring that the 1995 Persons With Disabilities (PWD) Act was passed, Abidi has been fighting for a more comprehensive law 'that includes all rights of all disabled people'. "Many disabilities like hearing impairment, autism and cerebral palsy aren't included in PWD Act. Also, there is nothing in the law about making the private sector more disabled-friendly and no punitive measures are specified either. These apart, the new law should make all rights accessible at the grassroot level, the rural areas," Abidi said.
Abidi has striven to establish that disabled community too are Indian citizens.
"You cannot say that my rights are different from yours. So if you develop infrastructure, equipment or programmes for the disabled, do not feel that you have done me a favour," he declared.
Abidi added that the disabled were neglected in the first 10 five-year plans.
"People like us had to go to Montek Singh Ahluwalia. Doors were shut on us, we had to hold dharnas outside the planning commission and even face the police. Only then did the meetings begin," he said recalling his struggles, which were rewarded in the 11th and 12th plans, according to which three per cent of the resource allocation of every ministry should be dedicated to rights of the disabled.
Though he often talks against reservations, Abidi admitted that 'it would probably help'. However, he thinks demanding for them will not help in achieving his goal. "Why talk about reservations, when you know it's not going to get you anywhere? What matters is to ensure that my community gets employment. So far, our community has been overseen by NGOs, all of whom are making envelopes and Diwali cards. But we are much capable than that and we are trying to break the the stereotype," he further said.