Express News Service 21 September 2016
Traffic outside the state secretariat, Mantralaya, remained blocked
for almost half-an-hour Tuesday afternoon when a group of specially
challenged protesters took to the streets protesting government
Members of the National Federation of Visually Impaired Persons stood
on the road outside the main gate at Mantralaya, raising slogans
against Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and his government. Their
main grouse was that government benefits they were eligible for were
being denied owing to corruption and government apathy.

The group claimed while they had submitted a memorandum in this regard
to the Chief Minister’s Office a month ago, it had elicited no
response. Ironically, the protest comes days after Fadnavis was
complimented for promptly resolving a job-related matter pertaining a
wheelchair-bound doctor.

While the policemen allowed the protesters to carry out their protest,
they were later bundled off in police vans amid a steady downpour. The
federation has alleged the benefits available to the specially
challenged under the government-sponsored Sanjay Gandhi Niradhar
Yojana were not reaching them, and that these were being siphoned off
by corrupt officials and middlemen at the district and village level.

While beneficiaries eligible under the scheme are provided a financial
assistance of Rs 600 a month, the protesters claimed families had not
been receiving the entire amount. The federation has also been
demanding that the assistance be raised to Rs 6,000 taking inflation
and price rise into account. But the government is yet to give in to
this demand.

Rahul Patil, one of the protesters, fired a barb at the government and
the lawmakers. “The government can raise salaries of lawmakers who are
well-off. But in 10 years, we have seen no hike in our financial
assistance. The government is deaf to the needs of the blind. They
should be ashamed of themselves.” The chief minister is away on an
official trip to the US, but a senior official said the protesters’
demands would be looked into.

Avinash Shahi
Doctoral student at Centre for Law and Governance JNU

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