World Disability Day: Their silent shrieks fall on deaf ears
Sitting amid a heap of old clothes and some neatly racked jackets at Nixon market in Lucknow’s busy Maqbool Ganj area, Mohammad Shariq, 32, tries to woo passersby through gestures urging them to buy clothes.
Most of the times his attempts to draw the attention of customers go unheeded.
Shariq, who is hearing and speech impaired by birth, may appear to be like any other person suffering from the problem, but he has a different story.
Born to normal parents, Shariq has three brothers and four sisters and all of them also suffer from similar impairment.
“It is all Allah’s will. Even doctors don’t have any answer to our query as to why all our children suffer from similar problem. Doctors say it may be a hereditary disorder or due to some disease but no one has been able to give us a satisfactory explanation,” said Shariq’s father Mohammed Ali.
Assistant teacher at Government Sanket School at Mohaan Road Suyash Kumar Shukla, who is well-versed with sign language, accompanied this correspondent to interact with Shariq and other persons with similar disabilities.
“Life is a struggle for people like me. We are left to struggle every moment and subjected to harassment and torture. People often ignore us. They do not have time to understand our gestures,” Shariq, who earns about Rs 300 a day, said.
“There are not many dedicated schools for people like me and things are even worse for girls,” he added.
Shariq is not alone to live with the pain of not being understood.
According to Census 2011— the only data available to assess the population of hearing and speech impaired people – UP tops the list of states with the highest number of disabled people.
Of the total population of disabled people of 2.68 crore (2.21per cent of the total population) in the country, 41,57,514 is from UP. There are around 10,27,835 people, including 5,45,179 male and 482656 female, who suffer from hearing and speech impairment.
There are at least 2,66,586 people (1,51,170 male and 1,15,416 female) who suffer from speech impairment.
According to a household survey (2017-18) carried out by basic education department, out of the total population of hearing and speech impaired people in UP, 33,087 are school-goers (3-14 years) including 19,535 boys and 13,552 girls.
Lakhimpur Kheri tops the list with 1,278 hearing and speech impaired school-going children followed by Allahabad with 1,180 such kids. Maharajganj stands on the third spot with 1,050 school-goers with hearing and speech impairment.
The ‘Education for All’ (Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan) programme claims to provide all amenities to students with hearing and speech impairment.
Officials of basic education department said they organised accelerated learning camps for the overall development of children with disability.
They added that the department ensured distribution of hearing aid and other equipment through ALIMCO, Kanpur, for children.
Finance controller and additional project director (ADP), UP Education for All project board, Devesh Singh said: “We are running residential accelerated learning camps in over 60 districts. In 2018-19, our target is to run around 78 such camps to benefit children with hearing and speech disability. An amount of over Rs 7.6 crore has been proposed for hearing aid and other equipment for coming years.”
The department of empowerment of persons with disabilities, which ensures welfare of the people with disabilities in UP, also claims to run schemes to benefit people with hearing and speech impairment.
However, many claim they are not getting enough help from the government and are losing hope.
According to Mohammed Imtiyaz, who has hearing and speech disability since birth and is engaged in book-binding work in Aminabad, they don’t need help but at least there should be schools for such children.
UP has five government schools for children with hearing and speech impairment. While schools in Lucknow, Bareilly and Farrukhabad impart education up to class 10 those in Agra and Gorakhpur are up to class 8 only.
The school in Bareilly has the student capacity of 220 (non-residential) and 120 (residential), Farrukhabad has 60 non-residential and 40 residential seats, Lucknow has 127 non-residential and 100 residential seats, and Agra has 100 non-residential and 50 residential seats.
Gorakhpur has no hostel facility and has the capacity of 100 students (non-residential).
None of the schools has accommodation facility for girls. This is the major reason why they are subjected to sexual harassment and are victimised.
Additional chief secretary, department of empowerment of persons with disabilities, Mahesh Kumar Gupta said, “The government is aware of the problem. We are planning to open more schools, may be around 10, to cater to the need of differently-abled people.”
A person with hearing and speech impairment, not willing to be named, told Suyash Shukla: “There is no one to guide people like us. We are left to fend for ourselves.”
“We are considered no less than a pain for the society. Communication is considered to be the most basic thing for survival. And we lack it, people don’t understand us. We are left alone to struggle. Is it our fault that we are born like this,” he asked.
Anjana Shukla, who runs NGO Vani Prada near Aliganj post office, said for the last 26 years there was a dire need of referral centres in every district where such students could get proper counselling.
“A lot more needs to be done for such people,” she said.