Thursday, 13 April 2017

Give me a break, Pradhan Mantriji!

Our Hon’ble Prime Minister has urged all citizens to avoid usage of Petrol/Diesel for one day in a week. He has said that if 125 crore Indians pledge to do this, the dream of a ‘New India’ can be achieved.

I have a query for our honourable PM: how can I do this, given these facts:

  • I am a wheel-chair user;
  • I live in a society which is completely non-inclusive;
  • cities are designed for cars, cars and more cars; 
  • I can only cross a main road by either (i) climbing some forty steps to use a pedestrian overbridge, then climb down those 40 steps after having crossed the width of the road, or (b) taking my life in my hands and dashing across the road along with other hapless pedestrians, even as cars are crossing the intersection because no allowance is made for pedestrians to cross the street; 
  • most roads do not have pedestrian overbridges and the pedestrian crossings are few and far between; and I will have to travel miles on my wheelchair, assuming this is possible, before I can find a traffic light with an invisible pedestrian crossing;
  • metros, train stations and bus stands are designed in such a mindless fashion as to ensure that I have no access to public transport of any kind.


Before you come up with another of your brainwaves (your demonetisation gag forced me to make multiple trips to inaccessible ATMs and banks to get crumbs of my hard-earned money, for every rupee of which I have paid tax, now this), please come to my city of Chennai with its many dark-skinned people who know no Hindi and are yet citizens of the country you `rule'. You can stay in my house and tell me how I can possibly live my life and do my work without recourse to a petrol-using car; while I give you a blow-by-blow description of the barriers/hurdles that would impede the progress of my wheelchair from our flat to my institute barely 3 km away!

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Get up, Stand up, Stand up for your right

I just read this heart rending plea http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/toi-edit-page/when-compassion-isnt-enough/ from a quadriplegic that our society make it possible for her to get out of her room, cross the street to join her friends for a meal in a restaurant, use her qualifications and earn a reasonable living, ... I tell you ; I am getting sick of this society where one has to beg for what is considered common courtesy, nay a fundamental human right, and of a government which continues to do nothing, but nevertheless keeps passing toothless laws and empty promises. How many countries will have the gall to sentence a wheelchair-using professor for having been a Maoist sympathiser without producing anything remotely like serious evidence? Maybe it is time for all of us to emulate his example and stop begging for scraps from a plate that should be our right, and start demanding it more aggressively.

And with the recent `de-monetisation' exercise, you have to keep withdrawing money from the ATMs or cash counters of banks which are all equally inaccessible for a wheelchair user. People like Satendra Singh keep fighting for empathy and accessibility, in spite of repeatedly being fed lies when they file RTIs, and still keep up the fight!

In my fury, I thought of Bob Marley, and  turned on a video of his classic song `Get up, Stand up, Stand up for your right, Don't give up the fight'. The energy and conviction he puts into what could well be `our song', is all the motivation `our warriors' might need in their ongoing fight with an unyielding establishment. Though it is still time away, I would like to propose the following strategy. I learnt during a discussion with friends on our contentious RPD Bill of 2016 that all public buildings have been given time till Dec. 28th, 2018 to render themselves accessible. Let us give due warning to our `Divyangjan' ministries that we shall send them photographs (with a timeline of Dec. 28, 2018) of such notoriously inaccessible places as Vigyan Sadan and New Delhi Railway Station and promptly institute legal action. Had my late mother been around then, that would have been her 99th birthday. She had always ben a great source of encouragement, even actively encouraging me to get myself a motorised wheelchair (hard as it must have been for a mother to see her youngest son's reduced state of mobility). I promise to take this battle right up to our mantri-log.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

For the times, they are a-changing

Once upon a time, the `elders' taught their children to be compasssionate and inclusive towards others less fortunate than they. The four links below (all to articles in The Guardian) are a telling commentary of our times. They show that, today, the governments of four of the more powerful countries of the `West' (USA, Australia, New Zealand, UK) are kicking people out of their borders. The mammoth slide, from Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., to Narendra Modi and Donald Trump, seems to suggest a sort of inevitability of this very sorry state of current affairs.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/feb/25/australian-childrens-author-mem-fox-detained-by-us-border-control-i-sobbed-like-a-baby?CMP=share_btn_fb

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2017/feb/23/outcry-after-sydney-doctor-faced-with-deportation-over-autistic-child

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/16/prestigious-academic-to-quit-new-zealand-after-autistic-son-refused-residency

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2015/dec/22/widow-faces-deportation-from-uk-despite-being-92-and-frail

Hey Mr. Trump; take a leaf out of Ms. Mem Fox's book, and have your Homeland Security check out stories floating around about your wife not having been entirely truthful in filling forms in the past, and kick her out of America. That will be consistent with the four stories featured above.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Telling it like it is

This is the reality.

They will give us a divine name

Dole out wheelchairs and other aids and appliances at any given opportunity
to further their political career and to be seen as a great messiah.

Be patronising

Try to ruffle our hair (which we hate abominably)



BUT

Do they really care for us?

Do we exist for them?



Reality Check

*No mention of Disability in the Manifestos of the Political Parties (all)*

Is this something new?

Was there ever mention of DISABILITY in any political party’s Manifesto?


*Why*

For them

We are no vote Bank

We don’t exist



*Ponder, React, Act *


(My reaction to the writer of this email is:

You forgot you are such an inspiration to all of us after the comment about `ruffling our hair'.)

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Why not just shoot all of us and show respect to our national anthem?

Our country is one of glorious contradictions.

On the one hand, we are one of the first countries to be signatory to the UNCRPD. This Convention states among other things that:

 “Discrimination on the basis of disability” means any distinction, exclusion or restriction on the basis of disability which has the purpose or effect of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal basis with others, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other field. It includes all forms of discrimination, including denial of reasonable accommodation; 

On the other hand, our Home Ministry demands, in spite of whatever the Supreme Court has decreed, that differently abled people should not move about when the national anthem is played in movie halls and should, instead, stay alert. So people with Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy or Autism can either not see any movies or be prepared to face the wrath of nation bhakths.

Shri Rajnath-ji, can you please explain away the contradicting demands of the last two paragraphs?
(See http://www.firstpost.com/politics/national-anthem-guidelines-for-physically-challenged-are-regressive-setback-for-disability-rights-3218032.html for all the gory details of how (y)our Sarkar works.)