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AHMEDABAD: Prime Minister Narendra Modi likes to call them 'divyang',
saying they have special powers and don't need sympathy but equality.
However, the condition of disabled in his own state is anything but
'divine'. A group of differently-abled persons highlighted their sorry
state when they visited the Ahmedabad district collector's office on
Monday seeking an increase in their pension. Consider the case of the
disabled person in Gujarat who receives between Rs 400 and Rs 600 as
pension a month under Sant Surdas Yojana, which is among the lowest in
Other states like Rajasthan, Goa, Chhatisgarh and Union Territory
Delhi have moved on to offer up to four times or more of what Gujarat
— considered a model state — offers. While the disabled here must have
80 per cent disability and should be below poverty line (BPL), other
states offer pension to even persons with 40 per cent disability and
those above BPL. Last December in his radio address, Modi had
suggested that the term 'divyang' (divine body) instead of 'viklang'
be used for persons with disability. Since then the change in
nomenclature has been incorporated in official parlance.
The PM even celebrated his birthday on September 17 by distributing
aid and equipment to the disabled in Navsari. However, the disabled in
Gujarat believe they have got a raw deal and this needs to change.
Around 50 persons with disabilities gathered outside the collector's
office, near Subhash Bridge, on Monday morning to submit their demands
to the collector seeking an increase in pension. The irony was stark.
Unable to reach the first floor due to lack of disabled- friendly
measures, the additional resident deputy collector had to come down
and accept the memorandum.
The group has sought increase in pension money from Rs 400 that was
fixed in 1997 and inclusion of most physically disabled persons
instead of aset income group. Parag Panchal, who works in
administration department of Institute of Plasma Research and was part
of the group that went to submit their demands, said, "I use crutches.
We could not reach up to the office on first floor due to
accessibility issues in the building design, so we requested the
authorities to come down to collect our memorandum." Secretary of
Disability Advocacy Group that submitted the memorandum, Nitaben
Panchal said, "We have been requesting reworking of pension rules for
a while now. We have submitted the memorandum in 19 districts so far.
We now plan to meet the chief minister in this regard." "The current
pension money is too little for a disabled who needs to undergo daily
physiotherapy or medication," believes Ritesh Patel, a retired
government employee who works for the disabled.
Additional Resident Deputy Collector Mamtaben Sojitra said, "We will
forward their request to concerned departments." Regarding
accessibility of building for disabled, Sojitra said, "The work of
getting elevators fixed in the building is already being planned and
in process." Deputy Director of Social Defence Department Kashmira
Bhatt said, "Since 1997, the disabled were paid Rs 200. In 2006, the
amount was raised to Rs 400, while in 2012 it was increased to Rs 600,
but it was only for disabled below BPL. As per the earlier criteria,
there are 40,900 beneficiaries across the state and 7,000 under new
Aperson with 40 per cent in Delhi who has registered in government
employment exchange and does not get job with three years, the
government pays Rs 1,500 as monthly pension to the beneficiary.
According to Delhi-based lawyer and founder of Center for
Accessibility of Built environment S C Vashishth, "Generally there is
demand across the nation from disabled persons to match the pension to
the daily wages. So, Delhi has recently reworked on it, Goa and
Rajasthan too pay Rs 1,500 to the disabled. Since they need more
attention, their medical and other expenditures are higher, a few
hundred rupees of aid does not help much."
In Rajasthan, person with 40 per cent disability with Rs 48,000
annual income in rural and 60,000 in urban, BPL or Non-BPL candidate
gets Rs 1,000, person with 80 per cent disability or multiple
disabilities holder of BPL gets Rs 1,500 as pension. In Maharastra, a
disabled person in the age group of 18 to 65 years and having 80 per
cent disability is eligible under this scheme. He/ she is entitled to
receive Rs 600 per month. In Bihar, person with disability of 40 per
cent or above can avail pension of Rs 300 per month. There is no upper
limit of income for eligibility.
WHAT DIFFERENT STATES OFFE
Doctoral student at Centre for Law and Governance JNU
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