Making India Differently-Abled Friendly

By Tavanpal Singh

New Delhi: Disabled. This is what you are categorised as in a country like India when you suffer from a physical limitation. But does the word really mean that the person affected doesn’t have any abilities and is worthless?

Well, the answer is no, because everyone in this world has certain weaknesses and certain strengths. However, people with physical limitations are unable to focus on their strengths because most daily tasks become a challenge for them.

The reasons for this might seem very petty and minor to any other individual, but for me they were always something that disturbed me and made me ask: “Why should I compromise? Is it my fault?

Being a patient of cerebral palsy, I always knew that I will not be able to achieve 100% mobility. So my full concentration, along with the doctors who treated me, was on improving my functional independence. But soon I realised that my surroundings will always be a hindrance to that.

Public transport in India is definitely not disabled-friendly. A person with restricted mobility cannot think of boarding a train or a bus independently. Every time I travel by train, I have to ask people to help me get down from the train coach. Though DTC buses in the national Capital have ramps, it is very rare that bus conductors pull it down for a wheelchair user.

My physical limitations compelled me to pursue graduation from my hometown of Amritsar, a fact that I have not been able to digest easily even now, because it limited the opportunities that I could have got. You might now wonder, why didn’t I go to a better place for higher education? It is because a ‘disabled’ person cannot think of moving independently to a different city.

People with special needs require an environment wherein they get the amenities that will help them lead a comfortable life, just like anybody else.

I recently started using a battery-operated wheelchair when I moved to Delhi to pursue my Masters in Convergent Journalism. However, the use of the wheelchair was severely limited due to the inadequate infrastructure. This led to nothing but frustration. By simply building ramps a place does not become accessible. Every road needs to be re-designed so as to make them suitable for people using mobility aids.

As per government regulations, three percent of the total seats are reserved for the differently-abled in every course in every government university. But no one bothers to check whether the contents of these courses are in accordance with the limitations of people like me. If not, they cause a lot of unnecessary mental and physical harassment.

The curriculum needs to be redesigned. Modifications in the curriculum should be done according to the restrictions of people with special needs. For instance, I am unable to effectively take part in the video recording assignments. I often wonder how I will take part in field assignments. Though the college authorities try to accommodate me, I often question why students like me need to face all this in the first place. Can’t the course structure be redesigned?

I am always in need of a scribe for writing exams. Finding a good scribe is a challenge every time, because most universities in India don’t have effective scribe banks. So the trend is to bring your own scribe if you want to perform well. The quality of the scribes is very low and this is usually because of the assumption that the performance level of a disabled candidate will also be equally low.

Government universities especially need to focus on developing good quality scribe banks. They should approve scribes only after proper screening. Scribes should be provided for every exam and not just entrance exams.

The most important issue to be addressed is the lack of priority given to differently-abled students by the authorities. The approach should be focused on a design that helps all, rather than addressing it on an individual basis. One needs to understand that the issue needs attention on a mass level.

Please sign this petition to demand this much-needed change.


No safe haven for doctors in India

By Tavanpal Singh

NEW DELHI: Recently a doctor (orthopaedic) was allegedly assaulted at a civil hospital in Dhule, Maharashtra, after he referred a patient to a medical centre in Mumbai due to the non-availability of CT scan facility and a neurosurgeon to examine his injuries, which were caused by a road accident on the day of Holi.

The assault by the patient’s kin resulted in multiple injuries and an orbital fracture.

The incident lead to a number of protests and strikes, in various parts of the country, raising questions on the security provided to doctors in hospitals.

Most notable was the day-long strike on March 24, which nearly crippled healthcare services across the country. Fortunately, the strike was only limited to OPD (outpatient department) services and diagnostics. Emergency wards were functioning in all hospitals.

Initially, the strike only included doctors from government hospitals. Soon, doctors from private hospitals joined in as well.

Dr. D.S. Rana, Chairman of Board of Management, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, said the hospital had expressed solidarity with the concerns of Indian Medical Association (IMA) and Delhi Medical Association (DMA) over the safety of doctors.

Associations like the Federation of Resident Doctors’ Association (FORDA) supported the doctor’s strike as well. “Last year, doctors in different government hospitals in Delhi went on strike at least eight times due to different incidents of violence. Even this time, we supported the strike by Doctors, but we made sure that health services were not seriously affected by the strike,” said Dr. Pankaj Solanki, president, FORDA.

Such incidents have been happening time and again as a similar incident took place in PGIMER, Chandigarh last year.

Dr. Akash Tiwari, senior resident (Oncology) at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) said, “Patients get violent mainly due to emotional turbulence, when they lose their kin. Doctors should make sure that they communicate properly with the attendants of the patients so that they are mentally prepared beforehand.”

Safdarjung Hospital, New Delhi | Photo Credits: Yogesh Kant

“Government hospitals usually cater to a greater number of patients than their capacity, which results in lesser time being devoted to a single patient. This leads to frustration and is the primary cause of assaults on doctors,” he further added. Dr. Tiwari also said, “Many a times, lack of funds become the cause of inadequate facilities which in turn depends upon whether the hospital works under the Municipal Corporation or the State Government.”

Recently, the IMA, Maharashtra, held a meeting with the state’s Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and health officials of the state, where all problems faced by doctors due to assaults were discussed. It was discussed that 700 armed security personnel would be appointed from the Maharashtra Security Police Corporation and a security audit of all the medical colleges and hospitals would be conducted.

A proposal was also made for the amendment of Doctors’ Protection Act, 2010 so as to increase the provision of arrest from three years to seven years in case of assault on doctors. In addition to this, formulation of a pass system for the relatives of patients is to be started.

What remains to be seen how effectively the state and central governments implement these proposals to ensure the safety of our life saviours.