November 07, 2005

India Empowered

This is an article written by a senior from school in today's Indian Express. I had earlier posted an article about him Fighter Pilot For A While; Fighter For Life

I havent met anil yet, but he is a legend in our school. Each and every student sooner or later comes to know about him and the lucky ones who travel to pune reverently goes off to meet him there.

I just had to post this one, for the fighting spirit that he still keeps alive (even though he will never be a fighter pilot again) and for the noble cause for which he writes

here is the link

Indian Express

When the disabled stand on their own feet, on own steam

M P Anil Kumar
Former fighter pilot at Paraplegic Rehabilitation Centre, Pune

M P Anil Kumar; Former fighter pilot at Paraplegic Rehabilitation Centre, Pune As was the wont, I called on my old teacher N Balakrishnan Nair during a visit to my alma mater (Sainik School, Kazhakootam, Kerala) in the mid-80s. He told me in the course of our chat that the school had benevolently admitted 25 needy students from Bihar that year.

I scanned our alumni website days ago to ascertain where these students, some from the boondocks of Bihar, had stationed themselves in life. Officers in the Army, Navy & Customs, journalist, doctor, engineers, research scholar, lecturer, executives—all doing well and shinning up the totem-pole. I could not but wonder where these schoolmates would have been had they not obtained quality education? Flotsam and jetsam perhaps.

Roughly a century ago, Shri Narayana Guru, sage and social reformer, had an uncomplicated solution to nudge the oppressed masses of Kerala to unfetter themselves from their social and economic subjugation—education. Unlike the self-styled modern messiahs, Guru never exhorted violence or grabbing as means to amelioration. He foresaw education as the stairway to salvation. It reaped rich dividends.

The above illustrations epitomise the capacity of education to catalyse the upward mobility of the straitened strata of the society. At the risk of luring opprobrious epithets, I would aver that the time has come to defenestrate the reservation policy based on castes. It has failed to meet its exalted objectives. Its beneficiaries are the ones with political leverage and the well-heeled SCs, STs and OBCs, not the necessitous ones.

Instead the government should focus on their education, books, meals and groundwork for competitive exams; building top-notch schools to provide first-rate education to impecunious students; sponsoring the higher education of the bright among the indigent lot. Unimpeded access to quality education will aid them to make the grade through open competition, instill self-esteem and self-assurance among them, breed role models to emulate, and prod their social and economic elevation.

I know my impassioned pitch for skirting the beaten track will fall on deaf ears as no government will have the gumption to groom them that way. It cannot beget instant results and tangible fruition will take decades; hence it will be a political hot potato. Nostrums like reservation, and more reservation, are sly remedies to con the electorate. I boldly believe that empowerment through education is the sure-footed path to pull off the durable uplift of the downtrodden masses. Education is the one-way highway to empowerment. There is no short cut.

I was a fighter pilot in the IAF till a mishap 17 years ago snapped my cervical spinal cord, rendered me a quadriplegic and condemned me to a wholly dependent life. From my vantage point aboard a wheelchair, the world markedly looks a different place, nay a different planet. Disabled persons— variously seen as wastrels, counterfeit coins, eyesores and laughing-stocks—are indisputably at the nadir of the food-chain. Though there are excellent exceptions, lip-service and pity are what we get in abundance. Our Parliament passed the Persons with Disabilities Act in December 1995 after much goading. Equal opportunities and non-discrimination, its cornerstones, have been flung to the winds. Why not? The disabled community is not a mouth-watering, exploitable votebank.

‘‘Disabled persons will never be true citizens until they are defined by their contributions, not needs,’’ bemoaned Sam Sullivan, a Canadian alderman and a quadriplegic. Our society has chosen to be a moral one in which no one should be in need. In a welfare state, a need of one confers a right to the resources of the rest. ‘Needs Assessment’ is the bedrock of our social support system. The classic mechanism of the welfare state is to identify large numbers of similar needs and to assign means to agencies devoted to solving or mitigating them. Alas, people are earmarked by their needs, not by their talents and assets. Think of friendships: They are always based on assets and contributions; no one develops friendships based on what’s wrong with the other person.

In sum, we need to ripen our skills and talents; we need to make our communities aware that everyone, regardless of disability, has vital contributions to make. Communities prosper when all their citizens contribute.

Rehabilitation, that catchall mantra chanted by the government, means more than just equipping with crutches, prostheses, wheelchairs, etc. Livelihood is the crux, not handouts. Governmental props, regrettably, enslave the recipients, stunt their talents and abet corruption. Besides, the sundry arms of the jumbo bureaucracy customarily work against one another to nix well-meant welfare programmes. Yet, the imperative of the state joining forces with the society to enable a delivery system needs no emphasis, but we need a novel paradigm to expedite the deliverance of disabled people from the yoke of destitution. Ergo, I believe that a slick public-private tie-up is the avenue to redemption, as demonstrated by the polio eradication drive launched jointly by the government and Rotary. Apart from access to transport and buildings, the disabled people want to be made employable and find employment opportunities where they live.

Since unemployment is a curse worse than impairment, a two-pronged initiative to boost employability and employment cannot wait. The education model (with accent on vocational training) I broached above is the key to making the disabled persons employable. Since the 3-per cent job quota pledged in the 1995 Act has not swollen employment, a robust blueprint to fuel employment needs to be devised. Everything being equal, an employer will always favour a non-disabled candidate. As the private sector will not do it pro bono, why not ape the German policy of stipulating incentives? Like, higher the number/ratio of disabled workers, higher the tax incentives for the employers. The disabled community will be empowered when the support apparatus will facilitate them to stand on their own feet, under their own steam.

Lastly, India will be empowered when the state of affairs is conducive for her citizens, especially the underprivileged lot, to realise their full potential and live with dignity.


Anonymous said...

inspiring stuff!

silverine said...

Really good heartfelt write. I didnt realise that the disabled did not have many avenues in India to become productive citizens of the country. This is shocking. There is so much they can offer.I agree with the writer that Tax exemptions for organisations that hire disabled people will go a long way in giving them avenues for employment.

hope and love said...

hmm.. so sad..
thought provoking post..

Jiby said...

great writeup from you again. reminded me so much of your post on you said there is so less dignity for a human life...our population has to come down to much lesser levels...there is so much unncessary competition everywhere...on the roads, at workplaces, while standing in a "queue"...that people have no time to bve courteous to a fellow human such a situation its no surprise the physically disabled feel treated unfairly despite their potential to contribute to scoiety.

Geo said...

Nice read... went thru each link.... Inspiring stuff.

Its only when I read something like this that I realize that I don’t have any right to complain about my little inconveniences...

Pradeep said...

Good that you put MP's article here on the blog. MP was one year senior to me in school and we used to be together at the cricket nets. How one moment can change the life of a person. I met him in Pune some five years back. What needs to be admired is the way he has commendably risen above adversities. He is truly an inspiration.

Leon said...

The benefits offered to the disabled in America is unbelievable.. India clearly has a long way to go in this regard.

Read your earlier post on 'Anil'.. Very touching and inspiring..

Matter of Choice said...

@lash & HnL: thankx

@silverine: yep, its a good idea but before that people's attitude to "disabled" has to change. thats why i so much prefer the term differently abled!

@Jiby: yep..lotsa ppl think that being in the rat race means that u got to behave like rats too!

@geo: thats exactly how i think too!

@Pradeep: we guys in 90's have heard so much abt Anil, i remember hearing about him in 8th std and feeling really uplifted. As u say, its the moment of adversity that maketh the man

@leon: yes we do have a long way to go

pegasus said...

do not bash the pilots man...

1) india's air fleet is really old... we went to 71 war with the MIGs and those are the notorious flying coffins we have...

2) the spare parts and technological upgrading is much overdue.

3) Indian migs are single seat-er compared to twin seat-er F-17 giving us little or no chance or error or recovery.

silverine said...

Many Happy Returns of the Day !!! :)

varghese anoop said...

Hi aneesh why did u

unsubscribe from gect-sfi group
as u wrote an explanation while joining i think u owe one now also

Matter of Choice said...

@ ankur: I have no idea what you are talking about!. mebbe u didnt read the post properly!

@ Silverine: Thankx :)

@Anoop: well, anoop i guess i owe an explanation and u have all the rights to demand it i shall send the explanation to u soon and if u want u can fwd it to the group as well..btwn how u doing at hcl in chennai? i dont get ur corny fwds nowadays :)

Shan said...

nice post mate!

varghese anoop said...

Hi anish,

i don't feel those are corny.
corny--"Excessively and objectionably sentimental".
it is having some significance in my view

may be u can write explanation to my personal ID i will post it in the group...

Matter of Choice said...

jez kidding dude...sorry if i offended u :)..will send in a mail soon. right now suffering from acute laziness :)

shaan..thankx for dropping by. tried to see ur blog...seems there is an error..nothing comes up

jedi said...

Now tht was a piece truly 'from-the-heart'. The travails of the disabled is a thought which shud me seriously meditated upon

Jithu said...

anish, wishing u and ur family a merry christmas and a happy new year! :-)

Anonymous said...

Sir Iam an old friend of yours.. My name is Ashwini.. I was a school student when I wrote to you..And you replied me twice for my letters.. But due to some probs we shifted to tamilnadu and i lost my valuable contact with you..
will U reply me..