People with disabilities suffer hardships
Abhishek Annica, a research scholar, who is suffering from scoliosis (abnormal curvature of the spinal cord), is now dependent on his friends for helping him for buying groceries, after his help and cook stopped coming to work due to the lockdown. Due to his condition, he finds it difficult even to pick up the milk packet from the main gate of his building.
Since the lockdown was announced, people with disabilities have been facing an array of problems, as their helpers and caregivers stopped attending to them. While some are finding it difficult to manage the day-to-day chores, others are struggling to get the basic groceries from the store.
Annica, who lives independently in east Delhi, says he has been facing problems even to get essential items from the market, a task, which, his help would have done. Due to scoliosis, Annica finds it difficult to carry heavy things and walk with them.
Varun Khullar, a resident of Dwarka, who is disabled from the waist down due to a spinal cord injury, was suffering from bed sores and could not be taken care of for at least a day, till help from a clinic in the vicinity for a few days. He says that currently, the physiotherapist from the clinic has also stopped visiting while his mother is taking care of him.
“I have been told by my doctor to take physiotherapy sessions every day, failing which my legs would become numb. However, due to the lockdown, he could not come. Even though we got a pass for him, he could not visit due to lack of public transport. Finally, I managed to get help from a local clinic,” Khullar, a DJ and music producer, said.
Nipun Malhotra, a disability activist who stays in Gurugram, who suffers from arthrogryposis, said he is facing similar problems as his caretaker has stopped work due to the lockdown. Malhotra says that he had applied for a curfew pass twice, but his request was rejected both times.
It was only after he wrote to the higher authorities that a curfew pass was allowed. The Delhi government had revised its initial list, on April 6, to include caretakers for issuing curfew passes. Malhotra says that he wrote to several authorities including the ministry of social justice and empowerment stating that how both his attendants, who live in Delhi, are not being able to travel to Gurgaon to his residence due to the curfew.
“I had applied for passes at two instances but both the time it was rejected. I live in Gurugram and my caretaker lives in Delhi. It was only after I wrote a letter to the commissioner of Delhi Police and the Delhi government, did I get passes. Initially, the disabled category was not even included in the category for issuing passes,” he said.
A senior government official said that at the onset of the lockdown, they were receiving 50-60 calls from persons with disabilities per day. However, after the caretakers were added to the list of allowed workers, the calls have become negligible. “Most of the calls that we got was for the caretakers and attendants. However, then on the directions of the authorities, the passes for caretakers was also added to the list, “ the official said, adding that they have been regularly addressing the concerns with the help of the Delhi Police and NGOs.
After the initial hardships an initiative — #ProjectDelhi — was started in south Delhi by Malhotra and other volunteers, who are now helping the disabled procure essential items.
“Through the initiative, the volunteers sign up online and deliver it to any disabled person in need of groceries at the MRP. We have had similar projects in other cities also, but in Delhi, we have started only in the south. We intend to start it in other parts of the city too,” Malhotra said.
Annica says that this period is not just physically straining but also mentally exhausting for people with disabilities, as they try to juggle work and health. Malhotra says that the government should have thought about the persons with disabilities before imposing the lockdown.
Khullar has now signed a petition on Change.org, a private initiative, demanding that the government make provisions for the disabled, if the lockdown is extended.