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Remove the stigma attached to disability: VP

New Delhi: The Vice President of India, Shri M Venkaiah Naidu has called for recognising the valuable human assets we have in people with disabilities and stressed the need for removing the stigma attached to disability.

He said it was important that as a society we stand up to the needs of the less fortunate and create a congenial environment for persons with disabilities.

Stating that eliminating discriminatory tendencies must become the first step in empowering the disabled, he said it should be the collective responsibility of the society, people and institutions to support Divyangjan and empower them to lead a dignified life.

Shri Naidu said that India’s development story would be incomplete without ‘inclusion’ and harnessing the hidden potential of all people including the differently abled.

Vice President attended a cultural event organized by the Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahayata Samiti (BMVSS) in Hyderabad today and lauded the efforts of the organization for providing Jaipur foot (artificial limb) to the persons with disabilities at an affordable price.

Shri Naidu said that improving vocational training and employment opportunities for people with disability was a critical element for enhancing the quality of life for individuals with disability. He appreciated the efforts of the government to empower them by providing skill training under “Skill India” initiative of Hon’ble Prime Minister.

He called upon Government, Private Sector and NGOs to put in unified efforts to realize the target of skilling 2.5 Million PwDs (with 70% target employment) by 2022.

Opining that employing persons with disability was also an important component in their empowerment, Shri Naidu said that 4% reservation provided by the government in Central Government jobs for persons with disabilities was a step in the right direction. He called upon the private sector and corporate India to take cue from this step and create more job opportunities for the less fortunate. He also urged them to include in their CSR activities the development of infrastructure accessible to persons with disabilities.

The Vice President complimented noted Dancer Ms. Sudha Chandran who gave Bharatanatyam performance at the cultural event and said that her dedication towards Dance, her extraordinary display of courage and persistence to realize the dream of becoming a dancer despite all odds, makes her a source of inspiration.

The following is the full text of the speech:

I am happy to be present at the cultural program organized by the Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahayata Samiti (BMVSS) here in Hyderabad today and watch the performance by Ms. Sudha Chandran, famed dancer and cine actor.

Her dedication towards Dance, her extraordinary display of courage and persistence to realize the dream of becoming a dancer despite all odds (leg amputation) makes her a source of inspiration and a role model for others.

All of us have seen how she overcame all the odds to pursue her passion for Bharat Natyam, which was depicted in the film Mayuri made in Telugu and two other languages. Undeterred by the disability caused by a major accident, she chased her dreams and worked relentlessly to realize them. In fact, she is the brand ambassador for Jaipur Foot.

I was informed that this cultural evening is being organized to raise funds for the activities of Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahayata Samiti, a Jaipur-based non-profit organization, founded by D.R. Mehta in 1975.

This organization has been doing the yeomen service by providing artificial limbs for over 40 years now. I am told that it has so far rehabilitated over 1.55 million persons with disabilities by providing artificial limbs, calipers and other aids and appliances free of charge. It is indeed a noble service and I must compliment this organization for providing the much-needed support to the differently-abled people.

The Jaipur foot (the prosthetic leg) is inexpensive, water-resistant, and quick to fit and manufacture.

I am glad to know that BMVSS is also focusing on research and development apart from providing the widest possible range of services for the disabled. Thus, it is combining service with science. I am told that it is also collaborating with top universities, IITs and scientific organizations for research and development.

As a humanitarian organisation, BMVSS knows no frontiers. It has been rendering services for the welfare of persons with disabilities all over the world. I am told that it has held more than 50 on-the-spot artificial limb and caliper fitment camps in 26 countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

I am aware that BMVSS has a special, patient-centric management system to deal with beneficiaries, who are mostly poor, marginalized or underprivileged.

The Union Government and various State Governments have taken up several initiatives for the welfare of the differently-abled people to enable them lead a life of dignity. Many civil society organizations too have been supplementing the efforts of the government. However, much more needs to be done. What the differently-abled people need is empathy and not sympathy. They need a little support so that they don’t have to struggle even to carry out their day-to-day activities.

Our Constitution treats everyone as equals. All of us have equal rights to participate in political, social, economic and cultural activities without any discrimination.

Eliminating discriminatory tendencies should be the first step in empowering differently-abled people. Nobody has any right to ill-treat or discriminate against anybody, particularly persons with disabilities. It should be the collective responsibility of the society, people and institutions to support Divyangjan and empower them to lead a dignified life.

We must acknowledge that given an opportunity and the right kind of environment, persons with disabilities can excel in every field. We need to create appropriate career opportunities and chalk out strategies to boost their confidence.

As mentioned earlier, although the governments have been systematically addressing grievances faced by the differently-abled persons, we need to create greater awareness among all sections of the society on the need to prevent any form of discrimination and provide necessary support to enable them lead a life of dignity and respect.

As a society, we need to ensure that no stigma is attached to disability and learn to recognize the valuable human assets we have in people with special needs. It is the duty of the fortunate to take care of the less fortune. In my opinion it is the basic duty of human being to be sensitive to the needs of the fellow human being.

I am glad that the NGOs are partnering with the Government in implementing various rehabilitation schemes. The Deendayal Rehabilitation Scheme is a major NGO-based scheme for providing project based financial assistance. I am also happy to note that the Government is providing scholarships to students with disabilities from pre-metric level and also to those studying abroad.

It is also important to enhance the mobility of persons with disabilities and create barrier-free environment wherever needed, particularly in public places. I am aware that it has been a priority area for the Government since the inception of Accessible India Campaign in 2015.

I would also like the private sector to collaborate with the government in developing barrier-free environment and earmark a part of their CSR funds for this activity–be it in the physical infrastructure, transportation sector or the ICT ecosystem.

Apart from promoting sports among persons with disabilities, they also need to be encouraged to take part in various cultural and social activities.

It is heartening that the Government has also launched a National Action Plan for Skill Development to impart skill training to 25 lakh persons with disabilities by 2022, to enhance their employability. I would also urge the private sector to create adequate employment opportunities for persons with disabilities. I am also glad that the government has enhanced reservation in government jobs to four per cent under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act.

In the ancient Indian mythology, we have an example of a physically challenged saint composer, AshtaVakra, who wrote a philosophical treatise, “AshtaVakra Gita”.

In this work, he says, “If you think you are free, You are free.If you think you are bound, You are bound”.

There are numerous examples of persons who refused to be cowed down by physical disabilities. One shining example is performing BharataNatyam today. There are others like Arunima Sinha who climbed Mount Everest and Malathi Krishnamurthy, an ace athlete.

What such people have demonstrated is the power of positive thinking, grit and determination. This comes through a recognition that they are not “disabled” but are “differently abled”. As AshtaVakra had said, it is the “thought” that matters.

Lord Krishna also tells Arjuna in Bhagavad Gita, “Mind alone determines whether we feel ‘free’ or ‘chained’ ”.

Along with indomitable will, we are fortunate that we have numerous assistive devices today, like the Jaipur foot, that help all differently abled persons to achieve their dreams.

We must make more progress in this direction and scientists must apply science and technology to make devices for the differently abled. Together, we must build an inclusive society where we enable each individual to actively contribute to society and lead fulfilling lives.

Let us all collectively strive to harness the true potential of persons with disabilities, ensure that their skills and knowledge are enhanced and that they lead a life of dignity.

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