Covid-19 has affected the vulnerable section particularly the disables badly, rest all other sections including middle class will come into the fold, while the measures for handicaps from the authorities is too little to succour.

Coronavirus has posed an unprecedented challenge to the world health organisation, governments and more importantly to the individuals across the globe without any viable treatment, the only present option left is precautions as suggested by health specialists. And under these precautionary measures most of the world is under partial or complete lockdown for containing the spread of the Covid-19 virus while, health experts are in endeavour to bring out feasible treatment at their earliest. Though this pandemic has affected the most of the humanity but more terribly impacted are vulnerable sections of the society as we witness how in India, labourers from hinterland are stranded in big cities without any proper and sufficient resources to deal with in this present inhumane situation.

Governments both at Centre and States failed miserably to ensure adequate humanitarian assistance badly needed, painfully it appears that vulnerable sections are left to their ill fate. Finance Minister announced the ex-gratia amount of Rs 1000 which is very meagre and utterly inadequate for the disables amidst the 21-day lockdown due to coronavirus, which was further extended till May 3 and which again extended for two weeks with some relaxations. To utter dismay when I met with disability commissioner in New Delhi (Bhagwan Dass Road) about three years ago, he informed that most of the disables are even devoid of their disability certificates hence, not eligible for any pension benefits. It is fairly apprehended that in near times to come even middle class and upper-middle class will also feel the burnt of this crisis in several forms and already Hon’ble Prime Minister Modi has requested for donations to his newly created PM-Care. Decisions are already made to cut the salaries of legislatures at the centre and states levels. Further, more worryingly many experts started talking of possibility of financial emergency for this extra-ordinary condition.

To quote Amartya Sen, disabled people are not only the very deprived human beings in the third world, but they are also the utmost neglected. Universally, 15 per cent of the world’s population lives with some form of disability, as per WHO. Provided this PwDs are more disposed to viruses like Covid-19 comparative to others. For instance, hand-washing is a normal precaution, but PwDs face serious limitations to follow this practice frequently. In addition, there is a lack of public toilets for them. Thereafter is social-distancing, but a good number of PwDs depend on others due to physiological constraints. Many disabled have to frequently visit hospitals and rehabilitation centres now tough to access.

Social Problems of PwDs  

In India, persons with disabilities are the most broken category of the community who confront with grave economic, educational and social difficulties. The different and insolent conduct on the part of the community with disabilities, poverty and joblessness are their foremost problems. The persons with disabilities regrettably are viewed as the second category of people in the community and negative and branding words/slur such as cracked, blind/ andha, deaf/behra , lame/langda are used against them, even colloquially they are called na kaam ka na kaaj kaj ka, dushman anaaj ka ( useless and only for food consumption). Even many families consider the presence of disabled as an embarrassment in their family and the specialists consider this type of conduct of their community against the disabled arising from lack of required awareness concerning the factors of disability and shapes of disability. The mental problems that most of them arising from different behaviour of the community against them and this causes abstraction and seclusion of disables from the community and under present lockdown more likely to worsen.

Further, most of the PwDs are largely dependent on the caregivers in the form of family, relatives and professionals and all are under severe constraints owing to ongoing pandemic. Many caregivers possibly will be hesitant to provide their assistances as the coronavirus is highly contagious. Another category of persons with intellectual impairment cannot be likely to follow or deal with self-isolation. As per estimation, roughly two-third of the PwDs are unemployed, and those who are employed, they are in the unorganised sector without any proper social security measures. A huge number of PwDs are homeless, contractual labourers, migrant workers, shopkeepers and beggars. These guidelines by the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD) fails to address their concerns as per dire need. In addition, the centre has told states to provide medical aid to disabled at their home, and ensure their caregivers provide them uninterrupted services but practically speaking to care for handicaps is not in the priority list, major focus is to ensure that people do not violate lockdown. Police brutality is a well-known fact. Another sub-category is people with visual impairment/blindness depends upon touch for most of their daily activities. They need to hold the hand of an escort to move around; they cannot inspect the communications that the rest of the population can see; they cannot observe social distancing without innovative methods like keeping a safe distance using a white cane. And for the hearing-impaired category, specifically those who are not well-read, they cannot hear the message or read it. Then many depend on lip-reading, they are compromised when the person giving a message is wearing a mask which is imperative to wear to contain spread of coronavirus.

India is home to nearly 150 million people with some extent of disability speaking conservatively. Almost 20-30 million have stern disability. Most of them live as part of their families and depend on a carer. Provide this, under lockdown handicaps are under severe constraints and to at least minimise governments both at the centre and states must show generosity in the form of cash to them and ration through Public Distribution System. Else life for poor handicaps is second to hell in this complete lockdown where everyone is worried about their own present and more importantly future. Complete lockdown do not appears to be a solution in a country like ours it needs to be relooked.

In conclusion

In present, much talked ‘welfare state’ development of any country is measured by its social support and inclusive policies. Disables are extremely vulnerable section of our society without any proper education and technical skills owing to this they are highly unemployed and worryingly many resorts to begging at streets which presently due to complete lockdown no more available. As PM Modi provided them with the new word Divyang as Ghandhiji referred Dalits as ‘Harijan’, but what presently desperately needed is all sort of support to ensure physiological existence in this unprecedented deadliest pandemic situation. It apparently appears that nobody is tackling the specific needs of PwDs and crafting efforts at reaching out to them adequately. We would fail as a human being if we don’t show a caring response in a reasonable manner with affirmative action for people with disabilities in this exceptionally materialistic world.

Dr. Amir Hussain, (siswarkalan@gmail.com) Guest Faculty, MSW Programme, DSB Campus Kumaun University, Nainital U.K.


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