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Crippling quotas

Whether employment or marriage, persons with disabilities are more than merely ?marginalised?. In spite of the plethora of ?initiatives?, the society is still at a loss about what to do with the physically challenged or visually impaired.

india Updated: Apr 11, 2006 00:00 IST

Whether it is employment or marriage, persons with disabilities are more than merely ‘marginalised’. In spite of the plethora of ‘initiatives’, society at large is still at a loss about what to do with the physically challenged or visually impaired. ‘Mainstreaming’ may be the buzzword, but it’s clear that the onus lies on the disabled to create paradigm-changing realities.

With technology and increased awareness of avenues available, the number of educated disabled persons is steadily on the rise. But those who avail of the 3 per cent reservation in government jobs, are employed in Class III and Class IV jobs, irrespective of calibre. Then, is reservation the answer to integrating the vast numbers of disabled with the ‘mainstream’? There has to be something very seriously wrong with the image of disabled persons because a physical disability does not mean lack of intelligence or capability.

In corporates and NGOs, persons with disabilities work successfully at various levels. They may be few and far between but they’re there. One comes across employees who are visually impaired or physically disabled, in organisations which work for these issues. This is because these organisations have a degree of understanding of the capabilities of the persons with disability. There are disabled persons who are successfully in the corporate sector too. Such a person has clearly proven his/her capabilities.

The key is the display of capabilities. Disabled persons must exhibit their abilities. But from childhood, it is the disability that defines what a child grows up to feel capable of doing, his disability notwithstanding. The way we see ourselves will mark the way the world sees us. When a ‘normal’ person walking on the streets bumps into another, it is ignored. But if it’s a blind person who bumps into a passerby then immediately, there is sympathy. Why?

I did not choose to be blind. But I am, and I have to find a way around it. What law states that I should be trained to be handicapped? And for a place in the mainstream, why should I be expected to be perfect? Are all able-bodied persons perfect? The blind must prove themselves even in the act of walking.

As an employer, it is not the disability that one must look at, but the skills and capability of the person. At this juncture, I am amazed that IIMs and IITs have quotas for normal students and basket and chair-weaving centres are started for the blind!

Blind students have to go to court to fight their way into being allowed to sit for competitive exams. Yet, we don’t want reservations. We only want rights as any regular citizen. If only those basking in caste quotas realised that over-protection can be as crippling as neglect.