Many benefits and schemes available for persons with various disabilities cannot reach them, particularly in more remote villages, as much effort is needed for linking persons with disabilities (PwDs) with the various schemes meant for providing relief and benefits to them . Due to past neglect the number of PwDs can be not only surprisingly high in several remote areas but in addition their problems can be more due to higher levels of social apathy and stigma.

The experiences of Nav Bharat Jagriti Kendra (NBJK), a leading social organization of Jharkhand and Bihar, as well as its sister organizations has revealed that sincere efforts for some years in these difficult conditions can go a long way in improving access to existing schemes and benefits as well as in reducing stigma and apathy.

Earlier neglect of problems of PwDs led to denial of basic facilities and rights already existing for them. Access to any benefits with certification is possible only with certification, but even certification for disability or the first requirement, had earlier existed only for 30% of PwDs in the work area of NBJK and its associate organizations in Jharkhand and Bihar. As a result of their efforts this certification could increase to around 65%, an increase of more than 35% or doubling of the percentage of PwDs having access to certification.

Another effort led to access to pensions for thousands of PwDs (around Rs. 600 per month). Similarly efforts of NBJK and partner organizations helped nearly 1500 PwDs to access appliances like wheel chair, tri-cycle and walking cane.

The ability to provide proper care at the appropriate time, at an early age, has helped in the recovery of several disability affected children. Providing physiotherapy to some children with club foot or speech and oral therapy to deaf children helped them in significant ways. The fact that such help could reach them in their remote villages was very significant for these children and their parents. The linking of such efforts to strongly established self-help groups (SHGs) in villages also helped.

This was also helpful in ensuring livelihood support, particularly when specific efforts were made to ensure that some of the livelihood support provided by SHGs could reach PwDs.

Education and livelihood support for PwDs has been emphasized as a part of the larger efforts of community based rehabilitation. Capacity of several smaller organizations to take up disability related issues was improved and they were encouraged to work on this issue. Livelihood support for PwDs was also linked to poverty-reduction projects.

A State Learning Centre on Deafblindness and SPARSH services for persons with deafblindness and MSI (Multi Sensory Impairment) have been started to provide comprehensive home and center-based services, including early intervention, education and vocational training to children/youths with deafblindness and MIS.

Campaigns, including those involving cultural groups and village yatras, helped to improve the overall social attitudes in this context. There has been a campaign also to improve the recognition of care-givers and to organize them.

A specific programme ‘Disability Rights in Bihar and Jharkhand’ is aimed at supporting the rights of PwDs with need based rehabilitation services, linkage to government facilities, and support of livelihood opportunities. This has reached up to 32366 PwDs accross 2274 villages, according to latest available data. Help was extended for 12201 PwDs to get disability certificates, 90% such households were helped for coverage under right to feed schemes. 230 PwDs were helped to get housing facilities while 8084 PwDs were helped to receive disability pension/allowance as per the latest available data on NBJK activities. Sign language and ADL therapy was accessed by 813 persons. 3272 sensitisation events have been organised in schools.

Another programme concerning poverty reduction and community based inclusive development of PwDs has been implemented in Dumka district by NBJK, covering 5177 PwD beneficiaries. It has been found that 79% of the PwDs are suffering from loco motor, hearing impairment and visual impairment, while the remaining are affected by cerebral palsy, low vision, mental illness, mental retardation, after-effects of leprosy and other ailments. Disability certification for 2606 persons and pension to 1743 persons could be arranged while therapy and rehabilitation were provided to 1505 persons, assistive devices were provided to 330 persons and linkage with livelihood was arranged for 290 persons. 137 self-help groups were formed and 244 members availed credit for micro-enterprises.

One more programme ‘Mission Sahyog’ is aimed at enabling PwDs to access education, livelihood, housing and rehabilitation services. This is operational in 18 blocks of Ranchi district and Ranchi city where 11030 PwDs have been identified and 3000 PwDs in age-group 18-35 age group with employment needs have been identified. This programme helped to establish Enabling Units (EUs) or Divyang Suvidha Evam Sahayta Kendra at single window servers in each of the blocks. These EUs linked 2624 PwDs with disability certificate, pension, schemes for housing and railway pass etc. Several training initiatives and centres were identified where 242 PwDs have been enrolled for vocational/technical training.

There is another programme specifically for services to persons with deafblindness. This programme aims to mainstream deafblind children/people through their personal all-round and academic development, by their training on ADL for self-dependence and carers’ training to family members with livelihood support for financial strengthening and entitlement realisation. According to latest available data, this has benefited 43 deafblind persons from 26 villages and urban areas.

The Saksham Services for PwDs programme aims to facilitation PwDs of 10 selected slum areas in Patna with realisation of their certification and entitlement needs.

Firdaus Naaz (17 years) is a resident of Mohammadpur Kasim colony, a slum pocket in Patna. In her early childhood she became a victim of polio and lost control over both of her legs. Firdaus is unable to move. She belongs to a poor family and her father Mohammad Ekram is a daily wage laborer. Due to poverty and lack of time, he couldn’t take proper care of Firdaus and neglected her education. Team Saksham met her during a survey to identify PwDs in selected slum areas. She was offered physiotherapy support but initially her family members were reluctant to send her. After counseling and follow up,  her family became ready to send her for physiotherapy class. She joined there and soon she was offered a tricycle to facilitate her movement. This is a big relief for her and she wants to do much more now. Physiotherapy and tricycle have contributed  significantly to her life.

Babli Kumari (20 years) belongs to Teliya Chowk Bazar in Kathikund block of Dumka district. Her father  Alok Kumar  is a daily wage labourer. Babli is  suffering from locomotor disability as she was attacked by polio during her childhood. NBJK contacted her in the year 2015 and she was an active member of the block level DPO in Kathikund. Despite her disability, Babli didn’t stop her study and joined B.Sc. Maths Hons. To attend college and coaching classes, she lives with a relative’s family at Dumka town. Some time back she was called by NBJK  to join Aids and Appliances Camp at Dumka and received a tricycle. “This is of much use for me; I will go to college and tuitions on tricycle”, Babli says. She wants to become a teacher in future.

Babli Kumari and Firdaus Naaz are only two examples from among thousands who could get help and hope from the many –sided efforts of NBJK and its sister organizations. These efforts have underlined the importance of continuing efforts among poor families in particular and in remote areas for taking various schemes and benefits to the doorsteps of persons affected with disabilities.

 Bharat Dogra is a journalist who has been close to several social movements.