Sunday, June 10, 2007

Disabled mindsets

To fight for the disabled, lets treat our disabled mindsets first

To write about the disabled is always contentious. They are in endless numbers in and around us, at the receiving end of being continuously neglected and marginalised in the most de-humanised manner in almost every sphere of life. Accompanying it is a conspiracy of silence. It is bound to be so, as the disabled do not belong to any specific caste, community or religion to attract the benign attention of our politicians. Thus, successive governments over the years have completely neglected them. Incidentally, it is not as if our government and everyone else has turned a blind eye towards them. There are scores of individuals and NGOs who have been working for/with them day in and day out. Even the most pro-active activists despite their best efforts, have not been able to come up with solutions which can ensure a tangible change in the livelihood of the disabled. Be it education, employment or any other form of empowerment, the disabled by and large have remained disengaged from all forms of economic prosperity.

The reality is that howsoever hard we try, in the given environment of the process that most NGOs are pursuing, it is difficult to make things change. I say so because the moment we chose the model of a market economy, we had written an obituary for our disabled brothers and sisters. As in any form of a market driven economic environment, where competition rules the roost, it is only the ‘first’ and the ‘fast’ that sustain and succeed. Therefore, there remains no scope for them to progress. It means that eventually almost 70 million disabled have been completely left out of the economic process. That’s one part. The process adopted by the NGOs are also not doing any good for them. The various attempts made by our NGOs to propel the disabled toward employment in the industrial sector have been repressive. This is because when they are introduced to a fiercely competitive and demanding environment, the disabled feel even more vulnerable and miserable. They get isolated and marginalised in some petty job.

What I fail to understand as to why do we want them to be a part of this big bad competitive world, which is devoid of morality? Why is it that we can’t create a meaningful life for the them by completely redefining their economics? Why can’t we define new markets, competition and products exclusively for them? To top it all, a completely new price, as it would get them the much needed respect. It is a pity that when a blind child makes a beautiful candle or a beautiful painting, rather than treating it as a piece of wonder, we sell it in some obscure exhibition or on footpaths for a pittance. Why can’t the same candle or drawing be marketed in such a manner so that it can fetch them much more?

Without a radical shift in our conventional mindset, they won’t get a dignified opportunity for whatsoever they do. Our failure to do so is proof of our mental disability, which is worse than physical disability.


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