Visually-impaired Purnima Jain, 29, is one of many who got through the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) exams in 2008 but still hasn't got a government posting. When she and a group met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh earlier this week, he assured action.
Like other differently-abled people like her, Jain faced discrimination in employment before, but it hasn't deterred her from choosing the life she wants to lead.
“People think we cannot work as well as them. It’s a prejudice we cannot work around,” says Jain, who, when asked what her hobby was at the UPSC interview, said it was learning something new all the time.
A law graduate, Jain made it to the UPSC by studying course material recorded for her by her siblings. But many others fail simply because they do not have the basic aides needed to make it through.
The United Nations convention on Rights of Person with Disabilities, which India ratified in 2007, mandates assisted-technologies for the employees with disability working in government.
Those who get the opportunity do well in the private sector. Baldev Gulati, is a 40 years old entrepreneur committed to create employment opportunities for people with disabilities and even for people who have little or no education/ technical training. He has set-up a spice-processing factory based in Vasant Kunj, where 7 of his 11 employees are disabled.
It’s no small achievement, given that Gulati has 100% visual impairment. "When I have orders, I work 18 hours a day," he says.
He is second of five siblings, all blind. “I lost my father at the age of five and my mother raised all five of us with great difficulty, ensuring we all got an education,” he recalls. He graduated did political science at Hindu College, Delhi University, and a Masters in Social Work from Delhi School of Social Work, Delhi University. “One of my sisters died but the other three are teaching in government schools in Delhi at senior secondary level,” he says proudly. Baldev married a ‘normal’ person for love, and has a teenage daughter.
“The day country starts adding disabled to the list that includes women, Dalits and minorities on the priority index, the problem will be solved,” says Javed Abidi of National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People. “It’s not a rocket science, just a question of political will.”
UN estimate put India's disabled population at 120 million. Though 3% seats are reserved for employment of disabled in government sector, there are no such provisions in private sector. "Sure, a lot more needs to be done, but if the differently-abled want to make a difference, they can," says Gulati. He should know, his work speaks for itself.