Sunday, December 5, 2010

Disabled people in India mount hunger strike as protest against lack of employment opportunities

From The Telegraph in India:

JORHAT, India -- The members of the Upper Assam Visually Handicapped Surakshya Parishad have been staging a relay hunger strike since past week alleging apathy by the state government in providing employment avenues.

The general secretary of the Parishad, Rupak Bora, said Dispur had been turning a blind eye to the plight of visually handicapped persons since not a single member of the organisation had been recruited in government posts in the past five years.

“In 2005, interviews were conducted for 672 posts in three handicapped categories — blind, deaf and dumb and orthopaedic — and 430 people were absorbed, but the rest have not been appointed till date. We want the chief minister to look into the matter and allow us to discuss it with the social welfare minister and health minister,” Bora said.

He said of late, many posts had been created in hospitals under the public health department, but hardly any handicapped person had been appointed.

Another demand of the Parishad is for payment of unemployed pension under the Indira Gandhi National Unemployed Pension Scheme to handicapped people of the state through public functions on December 3 — the International Day for Disabled Persons. The members also alleged that they have been deprived of their dues and benefits, despite being issued identity cards by the social welfare department, and asked the government to immediately initiate steps to correct this.

Bora said the handicapped should be given training in various crafts by the government so that they could be self-reliant. “Formal education is fine, but in the absence of government jobs, we can at least seek other avenues of income if trained in something,” he said. Political empowerment through reservation in panchayat and Assembly seats, housing for handicapped people residing in remote areas and a permanent office building in Jorhat are some of the other demands of the Parishad.

Although the members of the Parishad had taken to the streets five times since 2006, they had always withdrawn their strike after being assured by the administration that their problems would be solved. This time though they have resolved to continue the strike still their grievances are addressed at the ministerial level.