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Lockdown comes as double bummer for differently-abled as they struggle to secure basics

As the large-scale humanitarian-scale unfolded amid lockdown with migrant workers staring at large-scale loss of employment, those with ailing or differently-abled family said the situation was grim.

Published: 12th June 2020 12:39 PM  |   Last Updated: 12th June 2020 12:39 PM   |  A+A-

Differently Abled

For representational purposes (File | EPS)

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: Since the lockdown, Reena Devi has been struggling to make ends meet. When money ran out, she returned from Gujarat’s Surat to her village Gohal in Jharkhand paying Rs 800 per ticket to a broker. 

Even though initially she tried her best to not compromise on her husband’s medicines who suffers from paralysis, she has lost hope of being able to fetch the monthly amount of Rs 6,000 required to support his health. The only aid she has received is in the form of rations which will last her a fortnight.

“I lost my elder son last year. I do not know how I will live if something happens to my husband. In Surat, I initially worked as a domestic help. Later, I started working in a saree factory. I have a younger son to support. But now, I am staring at no source of livelihood. There is no work in the village,” said Reena. 

“Bringing back my husband who is paralysed in the train was not easy either,” she added.

Lalit Kumar, founder of Evara Foundation said though while governments issued guidelines for differently-abled people, rights of workers or their family members who have disabilities were left largely unaddressed.

“Thousands of migrant workers were forced to walk back to their home states. People with disabilities were left with no other option either and were carried by their co-workers in some instances in the absence of transportation,” said Kumar.  

As the large-scale humanitarian-scale unfolded amid the lockdown with migrant workers staring at large-scale loss of employment, those with ailing or differently-abled family members said the situation was grim.     

Nizamuddin Ansari who worked as a daily wage labourer in Surat and returned to Giridih in Jharkhand in mid-May.

His wife worked as a domestic worker. Without a source of income they were forced to return home with their differently-abled daughter.

“She is different… We tried a lot of treatments but nothing worked. Now there is not enough for everyone to eat. We have received nothing from the government...Any help we get would be good in these circumstances,” said Ansari.     

According to Census 2011, around 2.68 crore persons were ‘differently-abled’ which is 2.21 per cent of India’s population. The national policy for persons with disabilities 2006 recognises that persons with disabilities are ‘valuable human resource for the country’.

The percentage of disabled population among males and females are 2.41 per cent and 2.01 per cent respectively. 

During 2001 – 2011, an increase in the number of disabled persons was observed both in rural and urban areas.  

J L Kaul, founder of the All India Conference of the Blind, pointed out incomes of visually-impaired workers who earn livelihood as small-scale shopkeepers or hawkers in their home states were put on hold during the lockdown. 

Rajesh Vishwakarma who is visually-challenged and runs a small shop which he set up with an NGO aid said his source of income dried up during the lockdown in Uttar Pradesh’s Jalaun.

“It is a small store... It is the only source of income for my parents and me. But there was no sale of items. Things have marginally improved in the last seven days... There is a monthly pension of Rs 500 for the differently-abled which I receive,” said Vishwakarma. 

“The heterogeneity of disability is often ignored in terms of governance and policymaking. Despite existing policies, there are loopholes in their implementation.  The political economy of disability needs to be understood. The attitude is governments are losing money if they are investing in infrastructure for differently-abled,” said Anita Ghai, academician and disability rights activist.  

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