Bilal A. Khan | Jan 24, 2021 | 5 min read
Mumbai, Maharashtra: Even though Maharashtra has 11% of the country’s differently-abled population, the administration has failed to extend services and schemes to the community, say representative bodies.
In the absence of support from the government, survival for the differently abled becomes difficult as a majority of them are unemployed. Experts point out that the differently abled are usually underpaid by the companies. They add that a majority of them are also unable to access welfare schemes of the government.
Arun Mayavan, founder of Ashish Foundation, a Mumbai-based non-governmental organisation (NGO) working for the empowerment of the differently abled, stated that private companies tend not to give jobs to the differently abled on terms previously agreed upon. He alleged that many companies underpay them for working the same as anybody else. He claimed that even he was underpaid at his former job, prompting him to quit.
Arun Mayavan, founder of Ashish Foundation. Credits: Bilal A khan
Mayavan added that the political parties don’t deliver on their promises after getting elected. “The private companies belittle us by paying less salary and making differently abled people do different work from they were promised,” he commented.
Struggle with the system
Apart from the social stigma and isolation, the community members state that they are frustrated with the system. From getting disability certificates to acquiring self-employment (livelihood) facilities through government funds to pensions and other facilities by the government can be quite harrowing, they claim.
Junaid Ansari, 23, a resident of Govandi, stated that even after completing his 12th examinations and industrial training, he has been trying to get a scooter, under a state government scheme, for over two years now.
“I submitted every document but I am always sent home saying I will receive a call once the scooter is assigned. It’s been two years now. How long should I wait now,” asked Junaid.
He also pointed out that despite having the required qualifications, many companies reject him because he can only type with one hand. “Based on my experience and people I know, I don't think I’ll ever be able to find a job based on knowledge,” added Junaid.
However, even beneficiaries of the schemes claim that the quality of products, be it a photocopier or scooter, is sub-par.
Nadeem Shaikh, 40, a resident of Mumbai's Mankhurd area, stated that he received a photocopier from the state government but it stopped working within three months. When he brought it up with the concerned municipal ward office, they ignored his requests, he added. He said he tried to get it repaired multiple times, but it would break down again soon after.
Speaking to 101Reporters, Bhaskar Jadhav, community development officer, Municipal Corporation Of Greater Mumbai (MCGM), mentioned that there was a limited budget, Rs 3 crore for photocopiers and Rs 4 crore for scooters, in the current fiscal year.
He informed that though there were 896 eligible beneficiaries for the scooter scheme, they have been able to provide it to 400 people so far. For the photocopier scheme, they were only able to distribute the machines to 263 people out of the 600 eligible people.
He stated that the COVID-19 pandemic affected the scheme, and owing to the lack of funds, they are not able to meet their targets.
He pointed out that according to the 2015 survey by MCGM's health department, there are more than 57,800 differently abled people across Mumbai, but he believes the data is not precise. To correct this, the MCGM is going to conduct another survey which will give them a better understanding, he added.
Irfan Ali Khan, a member of Apnalaya, an NGO working to empower the urban poor, stated that many differently abled people have been forced to visit government offices multiple times for their hearing machines, pensions and other welfare schemes, but end up returning home without anything.
Khan, who himself is differently abled, stated that he feels frustrated when he is forced to visit government offices multiple times and has to return empty-handed. Nadeem echoed similar concerns. He stated that he had to run around a lot to get a photocopier. “Despite having all the documents, which include disability certificate, PAN card and Aadhaar card, we are asked to visit corporators, then collector and different municipal officials for stamps. They don’t understand that we are handicapped. We can’t run from pillar to post,” he added.
In 2018, the Maharashtra government digitised the process of applying for disability certificates. One needs to have address proof, identity proof and details of employment. Many people allege that they had to wait for more than six months to get their disability certificates.
Sandesh Durguli, a resident of Sion area, stated that he received his disability certificate after seven months during which time he had to visit several municipal officials multiple times.
Ashish Foundation’s Mayavan stated that he has seen many people who have had to wait for a year to get their disability certificates. Instead of easing the process, the online system has made the procedure more time-consuming, he claimed.
However, MCGM’s Jadhav stated that the delay is because of the time they need to verify the applications. Even in case of schemes, he said they process the application and distribute the benefits after due process is followed.
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