Translate The Content in Your Local Language

Friday, 27 November 2015

I for inclusion, J for jobs

Even as everyone gets ready for shenanigans on the World Disability Day, on December 3, the community continues to be plagued by dependency. Prince Mathews Thomas reports

Marginalised In India, only 0.5 per cent of the disabled, like Azhar (above), pursue higher education, hampering their employment chances later in life ARINDAMBANERJEE/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
Marginalised In India, only 0.5 per cent of the disabled, like Azhar (above), pursue higher education, hampering their employment chances later in life

In October, a job fair was held that sounded like any other. Over 1,300 candidates were present from across the country, vying for 150 openings in 40 companies. The ‘air’ was full with hope and excitement. But it wasn’t just another job fair. Each of the candidates suffered from a disability, ranging from visual impairment to autism. And they were not gathered in an auditorium or a ground. This fair was held online.
The first online job fair for the disabled in the country included MBA and computer graduates. Of the total, 334 candidates were shortlisted. These candidates entered a ‘chat room’ with the recruiters, who conducted audio and video-aided interviews. By the end of the day, 11 candidates entered the last round of recruitment, and two were hired. The conversion rate might have been low, but a barrier had been broken.

“The companies said it was an eye-opening experience for them, especially seeing such as pool of talent in the PwD (persons with disability) category,” says Dipesh Sutariya, co-founder of Enable India that organised the fair. “While it is a convenient way for employers to post job descriptions, for the seekers, it means avoiding the inconvenience and cost of travelling,” he adds. Sutariya had founded the NGO in 1999, along with his wife Shanti Raghavan. The two software engineers had returned to India, to use the experience of rehabilitating Raghavan’s brother – who, despite being visually impaired, “is in a good position” at multinational Dell.

Though initiatives like these improve the inclusion quotient of India, this is just one side of the ground reality. In November, Indian Railways conducted a recruitment drive to hire disabled job seekers. The country’s biggest employer wanted to fill 450 seats for the disabled, as ordered by the Supreme Court. But in 10 of the 142 centres across the country, when the candidates arrived to write the test, they were left helpless.

They had to take the test on the second and third floors of buildings that didn’t have lifts, or ramps. In Bengaluru, 300 candidates couldn’t take the test.

In Delhi, Manish Bhardwaj, who suffers from polio, had to drag himself up the stairs to the second floor.

"The government wants us to beg. First, we have to fight the case till the Supreme Court to get vacancies in the disability quota filled. Then, we have to struggle to reach the examination centre," a leading publication quoted Bhardwaj as saying.

Macro issue

Though the 2011 Census says there are 2.68 crore PwDs in India, making up for 2.21 per cent of the population, experts say the actual number is much more.The world average is 15.3 per cent. “It (the under-reporting) is a cultural problem in India. We shy away from talking about disability as there is a social stigma attached to it,” says Meera Shenoy, founder of Youth4Jobs, which helps companies meet their inclusion mandate.

Shenoy, who was an advisor to S Ramadorai, Chairman of National Skill Development Agency, conducted a study for International Labour Organisation (ILO) last year. The study, quoting the World Bank, says that “there is growing evidence that persons with disability are around 40-80 million, which constitute between 4-8 per cent of India’s population.”

The ‘missing population’ problem complicates the core issue concerning the community – dependency. The ILO study says that 73.6 per cent of the PwDs are out of the labour force. More than half of them are illiterate and have almost no access to training. Despite the Supreme Court’s order in 2014 to reserve 3 per cent in jobs and promotions for the disabled, thousands of posts lay vacant. According to the government’s 2010 study, only 3.54 per cent of the seats marked for the PwDs in ministries and departments have been filled. Similarly in public sector companies, just 4.46 per cent of the seats are occupied.

“Some public sector organizations like NTPC and BHEL have taken a lead in recruiting disabled and in some cases, making the work place accessible. However, … in no case is the percentage of disabled to the total manpower more than 2 per cent,” says the ILO report.

“Landing a job is the first window of freedom for a PwD and her family. It is the first step from dependence to independence,” says Shenoy. But that is tougher in the rural areas where stigma is higher, and access to education and training for the disabled is a bigger challenge.

The private sector doesn’t fare much better. “Companies are opening up slowly and taking initiative to make workplace more inclusive. However, it is limited to multinationals and big corporate houses; and within them, very few are really doing in the right sprit. It shouldn’t be just seen as CSR (corporate social responsibility),” says Chirag Chauhan, a Mumbai-based chartered accountant. Chauhan, who is physically challenged, failed to get a job even after clearing the chartered accountant exams. “Later only through reference I was able to get a job!” adds Chauhan, who now runs a firm.

Strategy vs charity

“Awareness is the biggest problem,” says Sutariya. While parents, especially in the rural areas, are resigned to the belief that their disabled children don’t have a future beyond the four walls of the house, companies, on the other hand, are not sure if inclusion makes for a business case. “Many of the companies don’t even know what inclusion is,” says Shenoy.

But it is not all bad news. Call centres are among the biggest recruiters of the visually impaired. A call centre near Pune is completely managed by the blind. Similarly, a Costa Coffee store in south Delhi is run by ‘special’ employees. At many of the retail outlets, one comes across ‘silent’ waiter, brew-master or a sales person. For many of the retailers such as Max, Café Coffee Day and McDonald’s, employing PwDs makes business sense. Attrition is low among the special employees, and a heightened sense of smell and vision make them excellent at jobs such as brewing.

Lemon Tree Hotels is one of the few companies that have embraced inclusion as an integral part of their strategy. Patu Keswani, the company’s Chairman and Managing Director, admits that he didn’t have a ‘grand vision’ when the company first recruited a PwD to work in the kitchen of one of its properties. “We wanted to give jobs to people who otherwise wouldn’t have got a job,” says the hotelier in a company video. But now, that eight-year initiative is part of Lemon Tree’s brand equity. “They can be like normal people and there is no sense of charity. That is what kills somebody’s self-dignity,” says Keswani.

Another company that has found talent in the PwDs is the local unit of Valeo, the French automotive supplier. After recognising the opportunity, the company has now scaled up its recruitment and training of PwDs. Its parent in France has made the Indian experience a showcase for the rest of the units of the $13-billion group.

We take a look at what the two companies are doing right.

Source : The Hindu , 23rd Nov 2015

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Physically-challenged swimmer strikes gold

Paralympic swimmer Raghavendra R. Anvekar is a second division assistant at Rani Channamma University.
Raghavendra Rathnakar Anvekar, a physically challenged swimmer of Belagavi, won four gold medals at the Paralympic Swimming Meet organised by the State government at Bengaluru recently. A second division assistant at Rani Channamma University here, Raghavendra has been selected for the 15th National Level Paralympic Swimming Championship to be held at Belagavi from November 27 to 30. He won gold medals in 200 m Individual Medley, 100 m Butterfly Stroke, 100 m Back Stroke and 50 m Breast Stroke. RCU Vice-Chancellor Shivanand B. Hosamani congratulated him for his success and wished him success at the forthcoming event.

Source : The Hindu , 19th Nov 2015

Special counters for issuing identity cards to differently abled people - Tirunevelli

The Madurai Division of Southern Railways is operating special counters at Tirunelveli and Tenkasi railway stations for issuing photo identity cards to physically challenged persons, using which they can reserve their tickets.

An official statement said that the Indian Railway ntroduced the system of issuing photo identity card for differently abled people to enable them to book their tickets online through e-ticketing and also across the counter.

Hence, a ‘Fortnight Special Drive’ was being conducted across the Madurai railway division for the purpose from November 16 to 30.

Applicants could approach the special counters in Dindigul, Virudhunagar, Manamadurai, Tenkasi, Tirunelveli and Tuticorin stations between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.

The physically challenged persons — orthopedically handicapped, deaf, dumb, mentally challenged, visually challenged — must attach relevant documents such as one set of self- attested copies of concession certificate, photo ID proof, date of birth proof, address proof and two passport-size photographs with a covering letter addressed to the ‘Senior Divisional Commercial Manager,’ mentioning the applicants’ cell phone number.

The envelope containing the documents should be superscribed ‘Application for issue of Railway ID card for Physically Challenged Persons for Ticketing.’

After the receipt of the applications, verification of the documents and authenticity of the physical disability would be carried out with the hospital that issued the certificate and after ensuring the veracity, the photo identity card in the prescribed format, containing an Unique ID number, would be issued.

The process would take weeks to months from the date of the receipt of the application, depending upon the number of applications received. Once the photo ID card was ready, the applicant would be informed by phone to collect the card. The applicant or his / her representative (with proper authorisation letter) could collect the card after showing the original certificates.

Only concession certificate issued by the government hospital / institutions in the area under the jurisdiction of Madurai Division would be considered for issuing photo ID cards.

The passenger would have to carry the photo ID card in original during the journey and will be required to produce the same for verification during on board / off board while checking, the statement said.

Source: The Hindu , 17th Nov 2015

Allotment of berths under physically handicapped quota – Railway Board Order


New Delhi, dated 16.11.2015
Chief Commercial Managers,
All Zonal Railways
General Manager, PRS/CRIS, Chanakyapuri,
New Delhi.
(Commercial Circular No. 67 of 2015)

Sub: Allotment of berths under physically handicapped quota.

As per extant instructions, handicapped quota of 2 berths in sleeper class (one lower and one. middle) is earmarked for physically handicapped persons travelling on concession.

1.1 There are two types of handicapped persons who can book berth under this quota; one for whom it is compulsory to travel along With escort and the second for whom it is optional. Recently instances were brought to the notice of this office where the handicapped persons for whom it is optional to. take an escort were not allowed to book single berth against this quota by some Railways since the second berth will go vacant as middle berth cannot be allotted to physically handicapped persons. This issue was also raised in Court of Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities.

2. The matter has been accordingly examined and it has been decided. as under:-

(i) There will be two types of handicapped quota of two berths each (one lower and one middle) in the same cabin; one for physically handicapped persons who can utilize concession only when accompanied by an escort and the second for those handicapped persons for whom it is optional to take an escort with them.

(ii) As for the former category it is compulsory to be accompanied by an escort, these berths can be booked by such category of handicapped persons booking tickets on concession on first come first serve basis.
(iii) For the later, where. it is optional to be accompanied by an escort, if the first handicapped person intends to book berth along with escort, both the berths will be booked. However if the first handicapped person books without escort, the second berth will not be booked under handicapped quota and will be released to RAC/waitlisted passengers at the time of preparation of reservation charts.

(iv) Further, at the time of preparation of reservation charts, the unutilized lower berths under this quota can be released to physically handicapped passenger(of either category who were kept in general waiting list due to-exhaustion of their quota), single senior citizen travelling alone on priority and thereafter to waitlisted passengers as per priority. In case a single berth. i.e. middle berth is left vacant in this quota of second category it will be released to RAC/waitlisted passengers.

(v) It has also been decided that whenever a physically handicapped person books ticket on concession and if no berth is available in handicapped quota, the system will automatically try to allot he lower berth to him/her and middle berth to escort subject to availability of same at the time of booking
(vi) CRIS will make necessary modifications in the software at the earliest but not later than 22.12.2015 under intimation to all Zonal Railways as well as to this office.

3. Necessary instructions may be issued to all concerned. After provision of this facility by CRIS, wide publicity to above changes may be made for information of general public.

(Sanjay Manocha)
Dy. Director Traffic Commercial (G)-II
Railway Board

Source : CG Staff Portal , 17th Nov 2015

Struck by Terror, This 39-Year-Old Kashmir Teacher is Now Spreading Hope - SRINAGAR

A terror attack may have left Javid Ahmad Tak paraplegic but it could not break his willpower. Now, the 39-year-old Tak is transforming the lives of many differently abled children in Kashmir.

18 years after Javid sustained spinal cord injuries in a terrorist attack that left him disabled, he has set a mission for himself.
"After the incident I got an idea that everybody has an assignment in this world and my assignment is to do something different. I started free tuition for (differently abled) children" said Mr Tak, who runs Zeba Apa school at Bijbehara in south Kashmir.

There are at least 55 students in the school, which he opened 10 years ago with Rs. 75,000 - the money he had received from the government as compensation for terror victims.

"If I would not have that exgratia money utilised here, this school would never have existed. It was a time when I had no money," he said.
The transformation among Javid Tak's students is quite visible.

The transformation among Mr Tak's students is quite visible.

12-year-old Ifla Syed, who is hearing and speech impaired, aspires to become a teacher and Arif, 13, wants to become a doctor.

"She want to become teacher - become independent and help her parents," interpreted her teacher as Ufla says in sign language.

Javid was an undergraduate student when he was attacked by suspected terrorists at his uncle's house.

He remained bedridden for two years but once he was able to move on a wheelchair, Javid not only completed his masters in social work, he also learned sign language to teach differently abled children. Now his goal is bigger.

"We are advocating for the rights of physically disable people at state level. We are asking for education, employment and access to every service" Mr Tak said.

Javid Ahmad Tak, displaying a remarkable courage and commitment even after suffering permanent disability, took up the cause to improve the life of some. After years of hard work he has been able bring smiles on many faces.  

Source : ND TV , 21 Nov 2015

Udupi ZP distribute 3 Wheeler Scooters for physically challenged

For the first time Zilla Panchayath in coordination with Udupi Taluk, Kundapura Taluk and Karkala Taluk Panchayaths distributed three wheeler scooters for 33 physically challenged persons from the 3 per cent reservation grants. The distribution program was presided over by Zilla Panchayath president Savita Shivanand Kotian.

The three wheeler scooters were purchased for the 33 physically challenged beneficiaries with government approval calling tenders as per government guidelines from the 3 per cent amount from Zilla Panchayath under the 12 financial commission grants.
The beneficiaries who are more than 75 percent disables were selected. These persons will receive one week free special driving and professional training at Z set in Brahmavar. The vehicles were handed over to them on Tuesday.
In the program Udupi Taluk Panchayath president Sunita Naik, Karkala Taluk Panchayath president Vijaya Kumari and Kundapur Taluk Panchayath president Bhaskar Billava, former zilla panchayath president Mallika Balakrishna, Ganapati Shriyan, Suprita Deepak, Gopi Naik, Sunita Rajaram, Mamata Haddoor, CEO M. Kanagavalli, Women & Children Department Deputy Director Gracy Gonsalves, Physically Challenged Department Officer Niranjan Bhat were present.

Source: Udupi Today , 20th Nov 2015

Cabinet approves long-term care program - TAIWAN

A three-year, NT$30 billion (US$921 million) program to boost the development of long-term care services for the elderly and disabled in Taiwan was passed by the Cabinet Nov. 19.

Cabinet approves long-term care program

A three-year, NT$30 billion program to foster the development of long-term care services for elderly and disabled citizens was approved by the Cabinet Nov. 19.

Aiming to enhance the quality and productivity of the long-term care industry, the initiative will integrate public and private resources, Premier Mao Chi-kuo said, adding he expects to see a healthy business environment in place when related insurance and service bills take effect in 2017.

“Services targeting the needs of society’s elderly members are projected to see exponential growth going forward,” he said. “Building on the raft of measures scheduled for implementation, the government is working to create a sustainable ecosystem with a sufficient workforce and active participation from enterprises.”

Mao made the remarks after being briefed on the program by the Ministry of Health and Welfare during a Cabinet meeting in Taipei City.

Under the initiative, NT$30 billion will be spent over the next three years to upgrade the sector’s human resources by expanding employment opportunities, improving working conditions and strengthening professional certification. In total, the MOHW plans to increase the number of caregivers and medical personnel in the industry by 30,000 and 8,000, respectively, within three years.

Special attention will be given to the country’s outlying islands and remote regions, with adult day care services projected to be available in all townships by the end of 2016.

In addition, the ministry plans to bolster Taiwan’s long-term care services by adding a moderate level of corporate investment to the mix, with the private sector expected to help facilitate development primarily in the areas of assistive devices, community and household-based services, senior housing facilities and transportation.

“As of year-end 2014, roughly 11.9 percent of Taiwan’s population, or 2.8 million people, was already aged 65 or over,” MOHW Minister Chiang Been-huang said.

“Among these seniors, approximately 460,000 were disabled and required professional assistance. The situation serves as a salient reminder of the need for enhanced measures to promote the sustainable development of the long-term care sector.”

Chiang said he expects the three-year program to substantively expand Taiwan’s long-term care capacity, which will ensure that services are extended to not just seniors but all mentally and physically challenged citizens by 2018. (YHC-CM)

Source: Taiwan Today , 20 Nov 2015

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis inaugurated Nitrro gym in Mumbai


On eve of Diwali, south Mumbaikars witnessed the inauguration of Nitrro, which is spread over a sprawling 20,000 sq ft along with the felicitation of physically challenged bodybuilders at the hands of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and Sports and Education Minister Vinod Tawde.

The owner of the gym, Prabodh Davkhare sponsored the athletes with protein supplements and free member ship of his gyms. Other politicians present at the event were Sachin Ahir and

The owner of the gym, Prabodh Davkhare sponsored the athletes with protein supplements and free member ship of his gyms. Other politicians present at the event were Sachin Ahir and Mangal Prabhat Lodha, who praised the gym's state-of-theart equipment and other topnotch facilities, while expressing their desire to also come and work out at the gym.

Fadnavis and Tawde told the media present at the event that they have an agenda of promoting fitness for all and plan to have a Fitness Day for Maharashtra with Nitrro as the fitness partner. Tawde added that he wants to see Prabodh open more than 50 other fitness centres such as this one, which can cater to citizens of all ages and income groups. At the same time, Prabodh announced his plans to open his next gym outlets at Bandra and Dubai on a larger format. He added that the gym will soon get a Bollywood star, who inaugurated his Thane gym, for a charity event at his new centre.

Source: TOI , 20th Nov 2015

Need for toilets for transgenders stressed - Mysuru

The first-ever toilet for transgenders was inaugurated here on Thursday by Pranathi Prakash, a transgender, at the city bus stand.

After inaugurating the toilet, Pranathi said there were toilets for men, women and the physically challenged in most public places. “Unfortunately we are neglected by the government and nowhere have such toilets been constructed so far,” she said.

Pranathi hoped at least now the government would set up exclusive toilets for transgenders and “treat them as human beings”.

Pankaja and Sarika, transgenders, urged the government to provide certain percentage of reservation in government jobs, financial assistance to set up small shops or self employment, and facilitate educational opportunities for them.

Pushpavathi Amaranath, president of the zilla panchayat who was present, said the transgenders had come to her about six months ago requesting to set up separate toilets for them. She pursued the matter with the Divisional Controller of the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) and the Deputy Commissioner.

Ramamurthy, KSRTC Divisional Controller, said many Divisional Controllers of other KSRTC divisions had evinced interest in setting up such toilets. Separate toilets would be set up at the suburban bus stand soon, he said.

Nirmala, Inspector, Women Development Corporation, said the corporation had appealed to the government to set up similar toilets in all the districts in the State.

Source : The Hindu , 20th Nov 2015

Disabled panel chief helps candidates

The timely intervention of the state commissioner for the disabled came to the rescue of over 300 disabled candidates, who took the Railway Recruitment Board (RRB) exams, after high drama on Thursday. The commission has written to the railway ministry and the railway recruitment board to conduct exams again for the candidates, who were left in the lurch, not being able to appear for online tests.
The physically challenged candidates, including ones with severe disabilities, were asked to take RRB exams on the third floor of an exam centre in Vidyaranyapura. With no lifts, they were left in the lurch. The computers too failed uring the online exams. After the commission's intervention, RRB agreed to conduct the exams again, the commissioner, KS Rajanna, told Bangalore Mirror.

The exams were organised to fill up backlog vacancies under the physically challenged quota, said officials. Of the eight centres in the state, Bengaluru had six centres .

"We got a complaint over phone around 11 am from candidates who were made to undergo hardship. The exam centre was to carry out the online tests in three sessions at 9 am, 1 pm and 5 pm. The test centre was on the third floor. We rushed to the place, to find that there was no lift facility. Candidates with severe disabilities were not able to climb. Witnessing their plight, RRB officials agreed to postpone the exams," said Rajanna.

The commission sought that exams be conducted afresh across the state. However, RRB brass maintained that it could be done with respect to the test centre alone, the commission said.

Source: Bangalore Mirror, 20th Nov 2015

World Toilet Day: Maruti Suzuki to build 1000 toilets at cost of Rs 7.4 crore in Haryana, Gujarat

Maruti Suzuki, country's largest car maker, is building lavatories in some villages of Haryana and Gujarat under its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and sanitation initiative to eliminate open defecation.


maruti suzuki

As the United Nations observes World Toilet Day on Thursday, Maruti Suzuki, country’s largest car maker, is  building lavatories in some villages of Haryana and Gujarat under its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and sanitation initiative to eliminate open defecation.

In recent years, Maruti Suzuki has scaled up efforts to cover over 16 villages across Gurgaon, Manesar and Rohatak in Haryana and Hansalpur in Gujarat. The automobile manufacturer has tied up with the Sulabh International for the construction of individual household toilets.

Maruti Suzuki has successfully built 106 individual household toilets in 2014-15 at a cost of Rs 1.6 crore which helped three villages of Manesar to become open defecation free and targets to make at least seven more villages open defecation free in FY 2015-16, claims the company. For this, Maruti plans to construct 1000 individual toilets, 13 public toilets and 19 toilets in 10 schools at a total cost of Rs 7.4 crore.

But only building toilet is not a solution to open defecation as many people, even having a household toilets, feel going out is more wholesome and this mindset is a hindrance to the goal of an open defecation free society.

To counter this, Maruti even work towards creating awareness. Ranjit Singh, General Manager CSR and Sustainability, Maruti Suzuki, said, “To increase awareness among beneficiaries, we use various communication tools like Nukkad Nataks, Mahila Sangathan, education and communication materials etc. Even while constructing the toilets, the company ensures that the quality and designs are such that villagers use these toilets instead of storing grains, cow dung etc into it.”

Krishna, one of the beneficiaries of the project said, “The household toilet has changed our lives. I no longer have to plead with the girls to accompany each other every time they have to go for toilet, finding a private place, a kilometer away.”

On asked about Swachh Bharat Cess and its effect on Maruti Suzuki’s vehicle pricing strategy, Singh said, “Swachh Bharat Cess is a good move by the government and if the funds so collected are utilized efficiently for creating sanitation facilities, maintaining them and on public awareness, then such efforts will definitely help in curbing sanitation issues.”

He added, “With the introduction of Swachh Bharat Cess, there has been an increase in the price of the cars but it is very minimal. The prices have increased to the tune of just Rs 3 to Rs 5 per vehicle.”

Maruti Suzuki has also upgraded 14 government schools in which 24 toilets blocks – separate for girls, boys and physically challenged student-have been constructed in recent years.

Source: Financial Express , 19th Nov 2015

Haryana to have universal ID cards for disabled: Krishan Pal Gurjar

We are aiming at issuing the first universal disability ID cards soon and Haryana will be the first state where identified persons would be allotted these cards,” Krishan Pal Gurjar said.

The Union government has decided to roll out universal identity cards for persons with disabilities from Haryana.

Union minister of state for social justice and empowerment Krishan Pal Gurjar said here on Thursday that the card would have a unique number with which their details can be accessed by the click of a button.

He said the initiative would help in ensuring the authenticity of disability certificates and eliminate hassles of having to carry the certificates for different purposes, as various details, including the type of disabilities, would be made available online.

“We are aiming at issuing the first universal disability ID cards soon and Haryana will be the first state where identified persons would be allotted these cards,” he said at a function for distribution of assistive devices to 3,210 differently-abled persons of the district.

On the occasion, tricycles, wheelchairs, calliper, hearing aids, Braille kits and slates, assistive daily living (ADL) kits for lepers etc worth Rs 2.9 crore were distributed.

The minister said the scheme would directly benefit 2.68 crore differently-abled population of the country.

According to official sources, universal ID card would contain complete details of a differently-abled person including personal, bank, disability certificate, employment, education and income status which could be accessed using their number.

“One of the major advantages of these ID cards is that migrant persons with disabilities need not have to travel to their home states for authorisations, as details would be available online. Further, the cards will resolve problems of duplicate and fraudulent disability certificates that are being issued, causing issues in the delivery of benefits,” said an official.

Separate department for disabled

“Haryana has a population of 5.5 lakh persons with disabilities and they deserve to have a separate administrative wing to redress their grievances,” Gurjar added

Gurjar urged chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar to form an independent department for the disabled in Haryana.

“Haryana has a population of 5.5 lakh persons with disabilities and they deserve to have a separate administrative wing to redress their grievances. The Union ministry had first adopted similar department in 2006 and it had proved beneficial to work in the direction” he said.

Gurjar also made an appeal to the corporate houses to join hands with the Union government in rehabilitating children with speech and hearing disabilities.

“According to official estimations, 30,000 children are born every year with speech and hearing disability. It takes around Rs 7 lakh for equipment, surgery and imparting speech therapy for each patient and only a handful of families can afford it for their children. The Union government has decided to offer assistance to 500 children every year, corporate sector should come forward to take this noble job,” he said.

Special motorised vehicles

On the occasion, Gurjar also urged the Haryana government to identify persons for special motorised vehicles. “An automated tricycle costs Rs 37,000 and the Centre gives a subsidy of Rs 25,000 for the same.

Funds could be generated from the MPLAD fund, corporate houses or other welfare schemes. People with special needs are able to perform better if ample assistance and chance is given to them,” he said.

The minister said Gurgaon and Faridabad were among 48 cities across India where all public places and buildings would be made accessible for the physically challenged persons.

Source: Hindustan Times , 20th Nov 2015

Govt reducing common people to beggars, says new political party in MP

Members of the newly launched Bhikhari Party address a press conference on Wednesday

A group of citizens in Madhya Pradesh have come together to launch a political party named ‘Bhikhari Party’ (BP) in an attempt to draw attention to and improve the condition of common people, who they say are ‘living the life of beggars’.

“The government does not provide essential commodities to common people at reasonable rates, therefore, we feel that the government is turning a common man into a beggar. This has forced us to launch this party,” said Ramesh Chandra Bakoria, general secretary of BP, addressing a press conference on Wednesday.
The group is now in the process of getting the party registered through the Election Commission of India (ECI).

“All political parties, including the newly launched Aam Aadmi Party, are not focusing on problems of the common man and poor people. Our nation has a rich history from Krishna to Akbar, where poor people were treated as god. A poor man used to live his life with self-respect, but now things have changed,” Bakoria added.

Sunny Uchchhal, the president of the party claimed that Bhikhari Party would fight the 2018 assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh with the motto of ‘Right to Equality’.

Uchchhal said, “I run a beggars’ ashram and thus understand their pain. In the past few years, I have come to realize that the condition of common citizens in India is not very different than that of beggars. Most of the members of our party are farmers who are facing a difficult time due to the policies and ignorance of the government.”

However, when contacted, some beggars felt that the members of the party were making fun of them and attempting to snatch their identity by starting a party in their name.

Sonu Kumar, a physically challenged beggar at Roshanpura Square, said, “They (BP) are making a fun of beggars by launching such a party. However, I hope that the party improves the condition of poor people.”

Source: Hindustan Times , 19th Nov 2015

Farhan Akhtar launches ‘Wazir’ film trailer with cast

In a never-before collaboration, Bollywood fans will now witness some of the finest stars sharing screen space this January.

Farhan Akhtar, Amitabh Bachchan, John Abraham, Aditi Rao Hydari and Neil Nitin Mukesh have joined hands for Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s upcoming venture “Wazir”.

On 18th November 2015, the stars of the film launched it’s trailer in Mumbai.

Farhan who’s been active on social networking site Twitter, has been posting about it all day. He stated, “Morning all.. #WazirTrailer breaks today.. are you ready for the next move?

“Khel Khel Mein.. #WazirTrailer .. Enjoy.”

The trailer that attained over 3 lakh views online, is packed with action. Neil Nitin Mukesh will continue with his stint as an antagonist in “Wazir” after “Prem rattan Dhan Payo”.

Directed by Bejoy Nambiar, the film will see Farhan and John as commando officers, while Big B essays the role of a physically challenged man. Aditi will be playing Farhan's muse in the film.

“Wazir” is slated for a January 8, 2016 release.

Source : Planet Radio City , 19th Nov 2015

Disabled to enter Jagannath Temple in wheelchairs in Odisha

The authorities of the Jagannath Temple in Puri has decided to open the doors of the famous shrine to physically challenged persons in wheelchairs on Thursday.

There was no written rule on allowing or disallowing wheelchairs in the 12th century temple.

A team of 140 physically challenged people coming from Gujarat would enter the 12th century shrine on Thursday.

Sources said the temple administration has taken all possible measures to entertain the devotees at the shrine.

As per reports, the physically challenged people would enter the temple through Uttar Dwar (North gate) and the wheelchair would be kept at Kirtan Chakada from where it will be taken to the Nata Mandap.

Source: Prameyanews7, 19th Nov 2015

Soon, the disabled to get reserved parking slots

Differently abled people will no longer have to wait in long queues to park their vehicles as the South Delhi Municipal Corporation has cleared the decks to reserve three per cent slots in each of its parking lots.

So far, there are no designated slots at the municipal parking sites. 

The spots, outlined in yellow paint, will be demarcated by the end of the week. The south civic agency will sport signages next to the identified slots saying – “Parking reserved for handicapped only”.

The South Corporation, having a total of 78 parking lots with a capacity to accommodate around 1,200 vehicles, is in the middle of demarcating the slots for the disabled people. “The civic agency is in the process of outlining the identified spots in its parking sites.

It is also busy setting up signages which will not only help differently-abled people to locate the reserved slots but also inform general public not to park vehicles at these spots,” said a senior official with South Corporation.

“The civic agency started demarcating the spots in November. It seems the work of outlining parking slots will be finished first at the sites in the West Zone as work at half the sites is already being completed,” he added.

Activists have welcomed the new initiative by the civic agency. “We are happy to know that physically handicapped people will have reserved parking slots. Now differently abled people can access more areas with greater ease,” said A S Narayanan, Secretary, National Association of the Deaf (NAD).

Some of them say that this new step should be enforced with precision as the preferential parking for the physically challenged at the Delhi Airport needs vast improvement.

“The authorities should set up a disability cell at the Airport.”

Source: Deccan Herald , 19th Nov 2015

Sunday, 8 November 2015

विकलांग को भागते देख खेल मंत्री यशोधरा राजे सिंधिया भी दौड़ पड़ीं

मप्र के स्थापना दिवस पर महिलाओं को मजबूत बनाने के लिए एक दौड़ का आयोजन था। इस दौड़ की शुरुआत होते एक विकलांग महिला अपनी बैसाखी के सहारे दौडऩे के लिए आ गई। जैसे ही हरी झंडी दिखाई, वह महिला बैसाखी के सहारे ही सड़क पर दौडऩे लगी। यह देखकर दौड़ को हरी झंडी दिखाने वाली खेल मंत्री यशोधरा राजे पहले तो कुछ समझ नहीं पाई, लेकिन बाद में वे उस महिला का हौंसला बढ़ाने के लिए हल्की स्पीड से दौडऩे लगीं।

खेल मंत्री को दौड़ता देखकर उनके साथ चल रहीं महिला एवं बाल विकास मंत्री माया सिंह सहित दूसरी भाजपा नेत्रियां भी सड़क पर दौड़ती नजर आई। अचानक मंत्रियों को इस प्रकार दौड़ते देखकर साथ चल पुलिस के जवान भी हरकत में आ गए और तुरंत सड़क पर रास्ता बनाने लगे। वैसे शुरुआत में सभी मंत्री हरी झंडी दिखाकर दौड़ की औपचारिकता निभाने तक सीमित थे, लेकिन जिस प्रकार से एक विकलांग धावक ने दौडऩे की हिम्मत दिखाई तो मंत्री पीछे नहीं रहीं। वैसे भी इस मिनी मैराथन का उद्देश्य ही बेटी बचाओ, पर आधारित था।

Source: Mahamedia News , 1st Nov 2015

Trivandrum Marathon sets off on Sunday

A Sports Authority of India-certified race, the Trivandrum Marathon has entered the international and national calendars of marathons. This is the first full Marathon with timed races in full marathon (42.5 km), half marathon (21.25 km), 10-km adult, 10-km kid smile, family fun run of 4 km, race for differently-abled children, and corporate relay challenge. It is being organised by the Trivandrum Runners Club. Event expected to herald sports tourism to StateThe maiden six-hour Trivandrum Marathon, scheduled to commence from the University Stadium here at 4 a.m. on November 8, is expected to herald sports tourism in the State capital. Event-based initiatives like the marathon bring in thousands of runners from within the country and abroad to experience a new running route.

Event expected to herald sports tourism to State The maiden six-hour Trivandrum Marathon, scheduled to commence from the University Stadium here at 4 a.m. on November 8, is expected to herald sports tourism in the State capital. Runners from Africa — Isaac Kemboi, Titus Githu, Hanna Wabera and Ruth Njeri Mbogo — have already landed here for the event. European and American runners are also expected to take part. A Sports Authority of India-certified race, the Trivandrum Marathon has entered the international and national calendars of marathons. The first edition will see 5,000 runners, a large number of them foreigners and those from other States, taking part in various categories. This is the first full Marathon with timed races in full marathon (42.5 km), half marathon (21.25 km), 10-km adult, 10-km kid smile, family fun run of 4 km, race for differently-abled children, and corporate relay challenge.

The full marathon will be in four loops, commencing from the University Stadium and touching RR Lamp, Museum, Kanakakunnu Palace, Vellayambalam, SMC, Museum, Martyrs’ Column, Statue and Ayurveda College. In addition to cash prizes, the winners will also get six gold medals instituted by the royal family of erstwhile Travancore in the name of G.V. Raja. It is being organised by the Trivandrum Runners Club. The attempt is to make use of the good sporting facilities created in the capital for the National Games and it can pave way for promoting Sports Tourism, says Varghese Oommen, honorary general secretary, Trivandrum Marathon. Event-based initiatives like the marathon bring in thousands of runners from within the country and abroad to experience a new running route. This translates to thousands of room nights, sight-seeing, transport and shopping for the venue destination.

Ayurveda can also benefit as it is a natural way to tackle injuries sportspersons, he says. There will be global standard hydration, medical assistance and entertainment for runners and spectators. The first edition will see 5,000 runners, many of them foreigners and those from other States.. . . .

Source : Nyoooz , 6th Nov 2015

University to make presentation for upgrade - MADURAI

The Centre for Women’s Studies at Alagappa University is all set for upgrade as it has received invitation from the University Grants Commission (UGC) to make a presentation for the same.

Disclosing this to reporters here on Friday, Vice-Chancellor S. Subbiah said that the UGC had invited the Centre to make the presentation on November 24 for the upgrade from phase II to phase III to entitle an annual funding of Rs. 64 lakh.

The women’s studies wing in collaboration with Department of Economics and Rural Development and Special Education Wing proposed to apply for the status of Centre for Potential Excellence in Particular Areas (CPEPA), he said.

He said that the university, which offered special education courses, started a Resource School this academic year to serve differently abled and special children. The university produced 126 students with B.Ed. Special Education (Visual Impairment) and they were trained in Braille language, orientation and mobility, abacus and Taylor frame.

The university organised orientation programme for primary school teachers who taught children with disabilities. It also organised enrichment programme for primary school teachers who taught special children, he said.

He said that the university proposed to make its website accessible for students with special needs and prepare teaching and learning materials for children with special needs. The university would organise training programmes in December for the special educators in the district in collaboration with National Institute of Visually Handicapped, he said.
“We also proposed to start certificate and diploma courses in the field of special education, especially in speech therapy,” Mr. Subbiah said. The university would soon come out with Braille books of State board syllabus and produce audio books for children with visual impairment.

Source : The Hindu , 7th Nov 2015

Sai Bakery: A Mother’s Sweet Gift to Her Autistic Son and His Differently Abled Friends

Visit Sai Bakery in Thiruvanmiyur, Chennai, and you will find more than just the wonderful aroma of freshly baked goods wafting out of it. You’ll sense the pride with which it is run and the confidence and self-esteem it provides to many of its employees who are adults with special needs.

The bakery has inspired four more such bakeries across India.
The bakery has inspired four more such bakeries across India

The bakery helps the adults spend their time in productive activities.
The team at SAI bakery does much more than just making amazing products

Adults with special needs are also engaged in terrace gardening.

                                           Adults with special needs are also engaged in terrace gardening.

Pista muffins, mango blondies, cheese wraps, and wheat bread are just some of the mouth-watering treats being produced at this neighbourhood initiative that gives adults with special needs an opportunity to harness their skills, socialise with each other and the community at large, and feel like they are productive members of society.

When we talk about people with special needs, there are many organizations that provide early intervention and cater to the needs of learning-disabled children. But what happens after these children are grown adults?

This is where Sai Bakery comes into the picture. It is not just a regular bakery but it’s a place where adults with learning disabilities can come, work, learn, and spend a respectable and productive day.

The team at SAI bakery does much more than just making amazing products.

Sai Bakery employs adults with developmental disabilities (cerebal palsy, mental retardation, autism and multiple disabilities). Each special person’s skills are assessed and the jobs distributed accordingly. Training is provided in the areas of baking and packaging and marketing.

“As a child with special needs grows, his or her family too is growing old. The parents have less stamina to take care of the growing child/adult. There are very few organisations that are working with adults with special needs,” says Sumithra Prasad, founder of Sai Bakery.

The idea about starting a bakery came from Sumithra’s son Srinivasan who has Asperger’s syndrome. After he finished Class 12, he just went to Sumithra and said, “I want to bake. I want to start a bakery. I will get my friends and we’ll do it together.”

Sumithra welcomed her son’s idea and enthusiasm to do something. She helped him get some training to learn the basics of running a bakery. And, in September 2013, Sai Bakery opened its doors.

Adults with special needs are also engaged in terrace gardening.

Sai Bakery, which works with the support of the DORAI (Development Opportunities Resources Access Insight) Foundation, not only engages adults in baking but also provides them access to various activities like music, yoga, terrace gardening, etc. The products from the bakery are also delivered to corporate events in bulk.

“We are not a regular bakery. We make products when we get orders and deliver them fresh. Our aim is not to earn profits but to empower and give a sense of respect and individuality to these adults who have been often ignored even by their own families,” says Sumithra.

Sumithra has personally witnessed the impact on some of the lives of these adults with special needs working at the bakery.

Earlier, Shameena would not even go to the toilet alone; she was always accompanied by her mother. Today, she travels all by herself from her house to the bakery everyday, an incredible and positive achievement. She has taken over the packing of pastries in their boxes.

Once a shy boy, Anand would barely speak to anyone. But today, he sings and dances with his friends from the bakery. Similarly, there is Srinivasan who has become good at mixing and blending the dough.

The bakery helps the adults spend their time in productive activities.

Though a monthly stipend is given to these adults for coming to the bakery, it is the emotional and psychological support they get that matters.

“Many times, even families don’t take these adults seriously. Someone once said about their disabled daughter, ‘What will happen even if we teach her? She is not going to work anyway.’ This attitude needs to be changed. Respect and individuality are very important,” says Sumithra.

Sumithra adds that the attitude of parents towards their own children with disabilities has been the biggest challenge she has had to overcome. Sometimes, the families are not even ready to pay for the transport of their children, even though all the other facilities at Sai Bakery are free.

But thanks to Sumithra’s determination, she has been able to create ripples of change in the lives of many such adults. She has also inspired four to five similar bakery initiatives in different parts of the country.

In the future, Sumithra wants to reach out to more people who are willing to start similar initiatives and enable more people with learning disabilities to become empowered. Even if there are three people with disabilities who need help, she says, Sai Bakery will help them set up the entire system.

Here is a heart-touching video on the unique bakery produced by The Better India Talkies:

Source : The Better India , 6th Nov 2015

Jaipur Foot to be manufactured in Afghanistan too

The famous Jaipur Foot, a rubber-based prosthetic leg for people with below-knee amputations, will soon be manufactured at Kabul in Afghanistan too.

Afghanistan's deputy minister for labour, martyrs, social affairs and disabled Jamila Afghan inaugurated the Jaipur Foot artificial limb centre in Kabul at the National Institute of Disabled (NID) on Tuesday

, a release by Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahayata Samiti (BMVSS), the maker of the artificial limb said.

"Jamila Afghan said the opening of the artificial limb centre at Kabul with the assistance of BMVSS will help a large number of the Afghan amputees who would be able to walk with dignity now," it stated.

The low-cost, high-quality Jaipur Foot, which is used in 28 countries in the world, has so far rehabilitated 15 lakh disabled persons in India and abroad, D R Mehta, the founder and Chief patron of Jaipur Foot maker Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahayata Samiti said.

He also signed an MoU with the Afghanistan government on technical and humanitarian collaboration under which, the BMVSS would provide 1,000 artificial limbs in the first year and later on would supply 3,000 foot pieces every year, the release stated.

It would also provide the NID various material required for making the artificial limb and also train doctors and technicians free of cost.

BMVSS has so far conducted five artificial limb fitments centres in Afghanistan benefiting 4,000 amputees with the last camp in June last year where 817 persons were provided with artificial limbs.

Source: PTI , 7th Nov 2015

Geeta fails to recognise 3 claimants asserting to be her parents

Geeta, a 23-year-old girl who returned to India after living 15 years in Pakistan, declined the 3 claimants maintaining to be her parents on Friday. She has expressed confidence that ‘Bajrangi Bhaijaan’ Salman Khan can search out her parents. However, the deaf and mute girl is learning sign language, computer, Hindi and English quite fast.

After arriving in New Delhi from Pakistan after 15 years on October 26, Geeta arrived in the city on October 27 and since then she is staying at Indore Deaf Bilingual Academy run by ISO certified Mook Badhir Sangathan Scheme at no. 71 in a separate room. In a press conference organised by the district administration she confidently replied to the many questions put forth by the media through one of her teachers and director of Sign Language Department of the Academy, Monika Punjabi Verma. Collector P Narahari was also present in the press conference and acted as a moderator too.

Geeta went missing when she was just 8-years-old and subsequently went to Pakistan. When asked about her memories of her family and home, she replied that they are 4 brothers and sisters and their home was close to a paddy and sugarcane field. But she did not know the name of the town and State. She drew a map on a note book showing her home. Recalling old memories she said that her original name is ‘Guddi’.

When Free Press asked if she recognized any one of the 3 claimants claiming to be her parents, she replied in the negative. She said Ramjan, a Pakistani boy, who came to India unknowingly, should also be sent back to his nation.

Quite a cheerful looking Geeta said that now she is very happy in India. Though, she is fervently awaiting the arrival of her parents, she is happy in the school. She said that she never celebrated Diwali in Pakistan, but did celebrate Holi there. After returning to India, for the first time she is going to celebrate Diwali here in the city. With joyful gestures she wished Happy Diwali to her fellow countrymen.

Swaraj to arrive in the city on Nov 23 to meet Geeta

Collector P Narahari informed the media that Minister of External Affaris Sushma Swaraj is coming to the city to meet Geeta. CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan is also planning to meet Geeta in the coming days. Collector told Free Press that she is not going to participate in the celebrity show hosted by Amitabh Bachchan, though he received requests from some agencies. About the claimants of her alleged parents, he said that we are showing photographs to her whenever we receive them.

Source : Free press Journal , 7th Nov 2015

Why students with disabilities are cheering a new IIT scheme

The decision to waive fees could provide a model for increasing enrolment of persons with disabilities in other educational institutions too.

On October 7, Union human resource development minister Smriti Irani announced that the Indian Institute of Technology Council had waived the fees for students with disabilities admitted to IITs. This followed a decision to extend a complete waiver on hostel fees to students in the "persons with disability" category at Hindu College in Delhi University.

These two progressive decisions ought to be recognised as more than mere good gestures. They should be replicated across all institutions of higher education in India.

Numbers tell the story

Students with disabilities are highly underrepresented at the higher education level. According to the 2011 census, India is home to an estimated 2.68 crore disabled persons – 2.1% of the population. However, according to the latest annual survey –  conducted by the National Centre for Promotion of Employment of Disabled People published earlier this year – on the Status of Disability in Higher Education, out of 15,21,438 students in 150 institutions of higher education across the country, a meagre 0.56% are persons with disabilities.

The survey mentioned that 5.8% of the respondent universities said that they do not admit students with disabilities. The enrolment of persons with disabilities has actually fallen by 0.07% from 2014.

Such underrepresentation at the higher education level percolates to the level of employment as well. According to the NCPEDP’s baseline report on Employment of Disabled people in India, released in February 2009, persons with disabilities filled up only 0.37% of all the posts available in various government ministries and departments, and only 0.44% of all posts available in public sector enterprises. This, despite 10.2% of all posts being identified as suitable for persons with disabilities. Corresponding data for the private sector is not available.

Inadequate support

In a country like India with such a sizeable population of persons with disabilities, spread across all states, castes, sexes and both rural and urban areas, why is it that these persons are almost invisible in higher education and employment? This is in spite of the mandatory 3% reservation for persons with disability in all government educational institutions and other educational institutions receiving aid from the government as well as in employment to all government departments and public sector enterprises, as per the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995.

While the Union social justice and empowerment ministry does have a Scheme of National Scholarships for Persons with Disabilities, it is unfortunately ridden with several shortcomings. A maximum of only 500 scholarship awards are given across the country a year. In a country with 2.68 crore disabled persons, this number is shockingly low. Secondly, the scholarship offered per month is a paltry Rs 400-Rs 1,000, along with course fee reimbursement subject to a ceiling of Rs 10,000 per year. Given the sky-rocketing fees charged by state-run universities, this sum is clearly inadequate. In addition, The scholarship is only available to students whose monthly family income is below Rs 15,000. This ceiling, which has neither been revised recently nor adjusted for inflation, ends up excluding most students with disabilities.

Examples abroad

The education system in the United Kingdom and the United States of America is far more accommodating to students with disabilities. In the UK, all persons with disabilities admitted into any undergraduate or postgraduate course in any institution of higher education are eligible to receive, irrespective of their financial status, a rather generous Disabled Students’ Allowance to cover all extra disability-related costs or expenses that will arise.

In addition, persons with disabilities in undergraduate courses are eligible to receive a host of other monetary benefits such as Disability Living Allowance, Personal Independence Payment, Income-Related Employment and Support Allowance, Housing Benefit, Tax Credits and Universal Credit.

Similarly, in the US, while almost all top universities provide need-based financial aid to all students, a lot of them also offer voluntary generous fee waivers to students with disabilities. In both countries, the focus is on empowering students with disabilities to ensure a level playing field.

Sustained intervention

In India, there are many factors that have been identified as the root causes of the deplorable lack of access of persons with disabilities to equitable outcomes in higher education and employment. These include non-accessibility for persons with disabilities to books and other educational material, absence of disabled-friendly infrastructure in colleges and workplaces, lack of focus of the education policy and schemes on persons with disability, presence of common misconceptions and prejudices in the minds of professors, employers and society at large about people with disabilities.

There is also the absence of an appropriate curriculum, teaching methodologies and equipment for persons with disabilities. This is accompanied by state's complete apathy to the cause of persons with disabilities, as demonstrated recently by the Supreme Court’s recent frustration over several states not showing any progress in the implementation of various provisions of the Persons With Disabilities Act.

The need of the hour is sustained, well-thought out and comprehensive interventions at the policy level that seek to empower persons with disabilities, and integrate them into the mainstream. A good starting point for such a detailed intervention could be fee waivers by all institutes of higher education to all eligible students with disabilities. Such fee waivers, like the one announced for IITs, will open up more institutions to persons with disabilities, who will have one less financial burden to worry about. More importantly, this will serve as a much-needed signal of positive intent towards all persons with disabilities.

Vineet Bhalla is Assistant Director, Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access to Legal Education. Ashwini Vaidialingam is a student of National Law School of India, Bangalore, and leads the IDIA Research and Policy Team.

Source: Scroll , 3rd Nov 2015

Battery operated vehicles for old, physically challenged - Bhubaneshwar

In its bid to assist elderly and physically challenged passengers, East Coast Railway today introduced a battery operated four wheeler from the platform in Bhubaneswar station till the trains.

Initially, the facility will be available in platform number one of Bhubaneswar railway station here. The elderly and physically challanged persons will be taken in the four wheeler from the entrace of the station building, ECoR said in a statement.

The ECoR also suggested such passengers to contact the authorities (phone number 9937099911) well in advance of their arrival at the station.

"Once advance information is given, such passEngers can avail the facility at the desired place at proper time," the statement added.

Source: Business Standard Via PTI , 7th Nov 2015

Food- on-Wheels faces a bevy of detractors - Thiruvanthapuram

Cultural organisations are against converting Manaveeyam Veedhi, which was declared a cultural street in 2001, into an eat street.— Photo: S. Mahinsha
Cultural organisations are against converting Manaveeyam Veedhi, which was declared a cultural street in 2001, into an eat street.

Activists say project will change the very character of the venue

The plans of the Gender Park and the Department of Social Justice to allow food trucks by women entrepreneurs on the Manaveeyam Veedhi have drawn strong protests.

Under Food-on-Wheels, mobile food courts will come up on the 200-metre stretch from 7 p.m. to 2 p.m. at night to tempt people’s palates and make it a gourmet street.

However, the initiative has been criticised for undermining the very concept of the Veedhi, which was declared a cultural street way back in 2001.

D. Reghoothaman, co-founder of the Abhinaya theatre group, says a number of programmes, including plays, folk songs, and film screenings, are held on the Veedhi by like-minded organisations under the aegis of the Manaveeyam Theruvora Koottam.

“We are not against a gourmet street. But it should be separate from a cultural street. Alternative venues should be found for allowing food trucks,” he says.

J. Devika, Associate Professor at the Centre for Development Studies, says little space will be left for cultural programmes if food trucks are allowed to park all through the stretch. There are plans to hold musical nights and cultural programmes, but these will cater to those who essentially come to eat, she says.

Prakash P. Gopinath of the Indus Cycling Embassy too avers that the trucks will take up a lot of space. “It will become an eat street,” he says.

He also says that though the idea was to hold cultural programmes at night, no fund allocation has been made for it. “Fourteen years of cultural interaction will disappear,” he says.

Denying food to those who come to the Veedhi is not the idea, they say. Mr. Reghoothaman says the initial proposal was to rope in Kudumbasree women but it has been amended. “Allowing organisations such as those of the physically challenged or the marginalised would also have been fine, as the aim is not just profit.”
“A limited number of trucks run by all-women catering groups such as Kudumbasree on either end of the Veedhi are not a problem. But if it’s women entrepreneurs, the question that arises is will they be present that late at night, and if these will actually be run by women,” says Ms. Devika.

Safety aspect

Mr. Reghoothaman also says that most programmes extend till 10 at night. But if the trucks reach by 7 p.m., they will be forced to vacate the space early.

Now, women are present on the Veedhi till the programmes conclude. But if it takes on a commercial character, it will not remain safe for women, they say.

They also say they haven’t been called for talks or discussions on the issue.

Source : The Hindu , 7th Nov 2015

An equal music

  • music

It’s a story that regulars at the Rajasthan International Folk Festival (RIFF), the annual music festival held at the picturesque Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur, love to narrate. It’s the story, going back some years, of a woman dressed in traditional Rajputi poshak — skirt and blouse, long scarf draped around the body and head — on the Zenana Courtyard stage. She had her veil pulled low down over her face and that’s where it remained throughout her performance, microphome drawn inside the veil. But any expectation the audience may have had of the performance reflecting her demure on-stage demeanour was completely belied when she began singing — such was the raw, stirring power of her voice.

Today, Bhanwari Devi is a star, her powerhouse vocals, so wonderfully evident in the song Kattey that Bollywood and indie music director Ram Sampath had her sing in Coke Studio some years ago, feted by one and all. She’s travelled the country and world, most notably to the Edinburgh International Festival where she was invited to sing. Even the face, so completely covered earlier, is more visible, the veil raised to the forehead instead of being pulled down to the chest!
Bhanwari Devi’s story, the name she’s made for herself is testimony to the talent of Rajasthani folk musicians, to how (thanks in large part to RIFF) their music has found wide appeal around the globe, transcending geography, language and taste. Her journey is akin to that of many other Rajasthani folk musicians who’ve played at festivals all over the world and collaborated with highly regarded musicians from diverse folk and mainstream traditions. Many of them are globetrotters with fat passports running into several books!
But Bhanwari Devi is also an exception — she’s the only one among them who’s a woman. In a conservative society like Rajasthan, especially among these poor, rural and marginalised musical communities, where child marriage remains common, where girls’ education is given low priority and they have little say in their life decisions, women performers are rare. Bhanwari Devi too was married in her early teens and has nine children — she’s accompanied in all her performances by her elder son, who also interacts mostly with the media on her behalf.
But then Bhanwari Devi is a Bhopi, from the Bhopa-Bhopi community, the only one of the state’s many musician communities where women perform in public. Unlike the better-known Manganiyars or Langas who sing in praise of a jajman or patron — traditionally, a member of royalty or a rich land-owner — the music of the Bhopa-Bhopis has a ritual, liturgical function. The Bhopa-Bhopi repertoire, called Pabuji ka Phad, is an oral epic, sung in front of a phad or painted scroll that celebrates the exploits of Pabuji, a folk deity/war hero, and is narrated to ward off evils or illness, and bring good fortune. It’s a “performance” by a male-female — husband and wife — pair, where the male Bhopa provides the melodic accompaniment on the ravanhatta and cavorts rhythmically in ghungroos, while the veiled Bhopi stands rigidly next to him, singing. To look at a Pabuji ka Phad performance, it seems the Bhopa is in the lead, initiating the performance and pointing with a stick to the “phad”. But, as scholars and folklorists, who’ve studied the Pabuji tradition, have noted, it’s the Bhopi who dominates — she sings the bulk of the epic, and even “designs and moulds the narrative through her vocal power and emotional force”, to quote Elizabeth Wickett’s monograph published by Cambridge University’s World Oral Literature Project.
Contrast this with the Langas and Manganiyars, where the womenfolk are not allowed to perform in public, or before a male audience. It’s not that they don’t or can’t sing — the Langa-Manganiyar’s traditional performative practices had an important role for the women who would sing indoors, for the women of the jajman’s family, while the men held forth outdoors. What the proscription on public singing has done is to effectively exclude women from the tourist, or festival-concert circuit, where the males are increasingly finding an audience and a livelihood, given the decline in their traditional modes of patronage. Ironically, many of the male musicians acknowledge that it is from their mothers that they first heard and learnt the traditional songs that form their hereditary repertoire, that it is they who trained their ears in sur-taal.

But the wings of change are blowing. And the woman credited with setting them off was a polio-afflicted, physically challenged singer called Rukma Bai Manganiyar who died some years ago, from lack of access to health care, according to her sister Akla who used to accompany her and has now begun performing with a few other Manganiyar women. Rukma, says Akla, was a fighter. Faced with stiff opposition from her family, in-laws and the community, and abandoned because of her affliction, she began singing devotional songs in temples, which brought her to the attention of outsiders, and set her off on the path to fame and acclaim. This is a story that’s near identical to what every one of the handful of women performers who sing regularly today at concerts in RIFF and elsewhere will tell you — Dariya Manganiyar, for instance, who’s now a widow with grown sons and has battled a lifetime of opposition, or Sumitra Devi, a jaagran singer, one of the few who was supported by the men of her immediate family, her father and now her husband, though the “samaaj” all but ostracised her.
But the demands of the professional concert stage are very different from those of the folk musicians’ traditional patrons. It requires a degree of preparedness — of training and practice, even among a community that claims an inborn heritage and spontaneous talent — that passes the test of microphones and expensive acoustic systems that pick up and amplify even the smallest of off-notes. Akla, Dariya and the other female Manganiyar singers who now are making it to concerts and claiming their share of the acclaim that’s been hogged thus far by their menfolk have a long way to go here, to smoothen out the rough edges of their talent. But will their society allow them the space and time for it ?
The author is features editor at DNA 

Source : DNA , 6th Nov 2015