In America 12% of its population is counted as disabled, the percentage in England is 18, and Germany 9. In India, the official government statists claim it is 2%.
Mr Javed Abidi, of National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People, has a very poignant question with regard to the above statistics.
What is so amazing about the Indian environment or climate or gene pool, that we have 1/10 or 1/5 the number of persons with disabilities as compared to other countries? Or is it that there is something wrong with our counting?
Until the year 2000, which is 53 years after Independence, the census report of India did not record a single disabled person!In other words, in the minds of people making policy, taking decisions, allocating funds etc. the disabled did not exist. And if they did not exist, obviously we did not do much for them.
So in the first 53 years of Independence, while we were building the infrastructure of our country, we have done little or nothing to include them in our thoughts and actions. Therefore, a bulk of our infrastructure is not disabled friendly, leaving them further marginalized, and disabling them further.
How we behave with the disabled amongst us, tells us what kind of a people we are.
Mr Ketan Kothari, another expert on our show, explained to us that by and large we have two kinds of reaction to our disabled.
One, they must have done something wrong in their previous birth, because of which they are born disabled and therefore deserve what they have got.
And two, let us use them as a ticket to heaven. Give some donation to an organization doing work for the disabled, or give some money to some disabled person asking for alms, and score some brownie points with God. If this is how a bulk of us, behave with our disabled, then it is a sorry picture we see of ourselves in the mirror.
Time to change guys. So where and how should this change begin?
Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and Right to Education say that every child in India is guaranteed Education. Despite that, most regular schools in India deny admissions to children with disabilities. They site reasons of lack of infrastructure and lack of trained special educators.
hey are probably right. But what has stopped so many schools across India to be inclusive and disabled friendly? Who was putting a gun to their heads, not allowing them to do this? I'm afraid it was our own lack of thought, and application of mind, and maybe heart.
So lets change that. If we start today, individually each school (if it really wants to) can become a truly integrated school within a period of two at the most three years. Let each school make this their target.
Currently an alarmingly low percentage of children with disabilities are educated. Without the foundation of a strong education, no child can reach his or her potential in life. By denying to children with disabilities admission in regular schools, we are denying them their right to education and therefore their right to make their lives productive.
By denying admission to children with disabilities in regular schools, we are also denying regular children the right to intermingle with, learn from, and grow up with their friends with disabilities and vice versa. With education for our persons with disabilities, we can lay the foundation for them to be productive, look after themselves, and their families.
The government says 2% of our population is disabled. Various experts and NGOs say it is 6%. I think it is safe to assume that the number of persons with disabilities in our country would be anywhere between 6 - 10%. Lets say 8%. 8% of 1.2 billion is 96 million.
That is more than the population of England (51 Million), France (65 million) and Germany (80 million).
As Mr Javed Abidi put it, what we as a society need to decide is, do we want 96 million of our population to be uneducated, unemployed, unproductive and left with no choice but to be a weight that the rest of us carry?
Or do we want this huge section of our society to be educated, employed, productive, able to look after themselves and their families, contributing to the growth and wealth of our nation?
If we want the latter then we simply cannot achieve that without including them in our mainstream education system. That's the bottom line.
Jai Hind. Satyamev Jayate.