As the country continues to be engrossed in the politics of demonetisation that nearly washed out all activities in the winter session of the Parliament, a historic legislation was passed quietly on the last day of the session without having attracted much of Indian media’s attention which was too preoccupied with the demonetisation move.
Passed on December 16, 2016, this bill will go down in history as one of the landmarks in the Disability Rights Movement in India, whereafter years of discussions, deliberations, debates, and dissent over replacing the Persons with Disability Act 1995 with a new one, the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill 2016 was passed by the Lok Sabha on that day.
The bill had been much awaited, as it had been pending in Parliament since 2014 and will directly affect at least 80 million differently-abled persons in the country, as suggested by the World Bank. India being a country with one of the largest disabled populations in the world, this bill has provided some relief to all the disability rights groups fighting for the cause.
On the occasion of the passing of such a historic legislation, My City Links meets some differently abled individuals who have refrained from drawing societal sympathy, instead they have tried to lead a normal and dignified life with extraordinary courage, notwithstanding all their disabilities.
For the 33-year-old polio afflicted Basanti Rana, her weakened legs were never a deterrent in her path to becoming a successful entrepreneur. When everybody expected her to be at home on the plea of physical disability, she ventured out to pursue her aspirations of education. She completed her graduation and enrolled for a training programme in tailoring.
But before she could tread further on her ambitions, her family got her married and her aspirations were confined to the household chores at her in-laws’ family. But since Basanti was not one to let her dreams rest within the domestic confines, she tried looking at opportunities to start her own tailoring training centre. Accomplishing what she wished for was certainly not going to be a cake walk for her. Financial condition of her family and the society’s deep set prejudice regarding physical disability proved to be her major setbacks.
Basanti recollects her tough moments saying, “Although, a problem, but polio had become part of my life since childhood. Initial years were difficult yet, I could not have let that dampen my determination. My family was always supportive of my efforts. Also marriage made my dreams take a back seat for a while, but then I tried convincing my in-laws. My husband too has been a pillar of strength for me throughout. When so many things are in my favour, why should I step back because of physical disability?”
She did, finally, set up a tailoring training centre with the help of the government. When she came to know about the Bharatiya Yuva Shakti Trust from one of the field officers conducting an Awareness Generation Programme, Basanti had expressed her interest to become an entrepreneur. After a session of counseling and STEP Training, the finance officers had found her proposal viable and thus helped her avail a loan of Rs.1 lakh. As soon as her loan was disbursed, she went through a post loan training in which she came to know about production management, marketing, and quality management, which have helped her run her business smoothly.
Today, Basanti successfully runs her own garment manufacturing unit, Maa Durga Ladies Tailor and Stitching, at Jaraka. She has employed 10 girls from the nearby area besides working herself. As she is doing good business through work orders from nearby areas and also working with reputed brands like J.P.Handlooms, she is aiming at expanding the unit soon and employ more people.
Harihar from Ganjam, considers himself lucky to have escaped discrimination at the hands of family or society despite being born with weak hands. Being the youngest and born as a son after seven sisters, his disability didn’t matter much to his parents. He even went to normal school as per his mother’s wishes. But it wasn’t long before Harihar expressed disinterest in studies and discontinued his education after his 12th standard. His interest lay in dancing and performing.
He later moved to Bhubaneswar in 2004 for VRC training, and it was here in the capital that he met social activist, Sneha Mishra, who was working in the disability sector. It was through her that he met Dr. Shruti Mohaptra who gave him an opportunity to perform at the Anjali Children’s Festival.
Harihar’s performance during the Anjali festival brought recognition to his talent and in 2009, he performed in a reality show on national television. Though, he did not win the show, he received an award at the President’s House in the same year. Since then, there has been no looking back for him.
All of 29, Harihar is now a popular dancer and also runs the ‘Harihar Art and Culture Academy’ and also a dance training centre. That apart, he also works actively as a social activist and had contested for the MLA seat of his ward.
Sharing an experience that provoked his passion for dance, Harihar says, “When I was in the 7th standard, I requested my teachers to allow me for a dance performance at a Red Cross Camp. They denied stating my disability as a reason. Only after my sisters requested them that they allowed me to perform and I won the first prize, only to be selected for the state level competition. Nevertheless, that initial denial will always remain a scarring experience of my life.”
Bhaskar Chandra Swain
Despite being challenged by polio, Bhaskar Chandra Swain has proved himself to be the perfect example for persons with disability in the society. With his hard work and determination, he has transformed himself into a successful entrepreneur.
Bhaskar grew up in an underprivileged family in Andhari village under Korei block of Jajpur district. His father is a farmer and the entire family including his five brothers and two sisters besides him, live out of his income today. However, it hasn’t been easy for Bhaskar, whose right leg weakened due to polio. He could not even complete his formal education because of poverty. So he passed a course in ITI in welding with the hope of getting a job.
During his apprenticeship, he was acknowledged as the “Trade Best” given the fact that he was a quick learner. Though, he got a job in the same trade, being ambitious with a wish to become an entrepreneur instigated him to leave the job and start his own enterprise. All that he needed was some financial assistance. Although he had to knock at the doors of several banks, all his efforts went in vain as he was unable to convince the bankers about his idea due to lack of experience and his poor economical background. He tried to start his business by taking loan from local moneylenders but the higher interest rate and much collateral liabilities restricted him from doing so.
Finally, he got some financial support from the trust that he is now working with to support entrepreneurship. Later with some additional training, he started his business with an initial amount of Rs. 3.95 lakh from a bank. Now Bhaskar is successfully running his own fabrication unit M/s. Tarini Fabrication at Andhari where he has engaged eight persons besides himself. His annual turnover amounts to around Rs.15 lakh.
While disability was never a roadblock for Bhaskar, he believes that to become an entrepreneur, it is important to fine tune your decision making abilities. He proudly claims, “In my case as an entrepreneur, I have learned to take risk and be comfortable taking decisions. When people in my situation become a burden on the family and society, I have proved myself as an entrepreneur.”
For the strong willed Dinabandhu Sahu, life became tough at the young age of 24, when his legs stopped working after an injury to his spinal cord in a terrible accident. Although health-wise, he recovered after being under treatment continuously for one and a half years, his legs were far from regaining the same strength. As he suddenly became physically handicapped, life became almost traumatic for Dinabandhu.
His handicap, however, could not stop him from leading a self-reliant and dignified life. So, he began studying and applying for various government jobs. After two years of consistent trying, he bagged a job with the Reserve Bank of India, Bhubaneswar. He now, provides vocational training to disabled persons through his organisation, ‘All Odisha Orthopedically Handicapped Association.’
By equipping them with proper training, the organisation helps these people with physical disabilities get employment. That apart, Sahu has also founded another trust by the name ‘Swapna Trust’, that works for rehabilitating such individuals along with providing training in tailoring and computer skills education.
If helping some hundreds of disabled people become self-sufficient through both these organisations wasn’t enough, Sahu has also opened a care home for the destitute disabled persons. The care home currently has around 25 people residing there.
Sharing his sentiments with us, Sahu tells us, “During the first few days after my injury, I had to be dependent on many people to help me with almost everything. That was when I realised the mental and physical pain that a person with a disability has to undergo. So as I tried to lift myself from there and tried to build myself as an independent individual in every way, with the support of my family and will power, I also decided I would work towards lessening the sufferings of individuals similar to me. For people like me, self-confidence is the greatest weapon as we have to deal with whatever life throws at us.”