By Saswat Pattanayak
The physically challenged have it especially tough in Orissa. The State Government has formed a committee to look after their welfare but its role appears to have ended there. Not even a single meeting has been conducted by the State Co-ordination Committee for disabled persons till date, although the committee came into effect on November 13,1997.
Government of Orissa’s Women & Child Development Department had issued a notification (No.HW-II-A-34/97-13760) exercising its powers conferred by sub-sections (1) and (2) of Section 13 of the persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, whereby the State Coordination Committee was formed to be headed by the Chief Minister.
“Till date, not a single session has been convened. We have recently met the CM and apprised him of the situation and he has responded positively. After all, one cannot afford to ignore 10% of the population entirely. It’s not just unethical, it’s undemocratic at the same time and it runs against the spirit of our constitution,” said Dr Sruti Mohapatra of SHARE Sun Flower Nursing Home, who has been nominated as a member of the said Committee by the Government.
Apart from Dr Mohapatra, the other members of the dormant body are Ashok Hans, executive vice-president of Shanta Memorial Rehabilitation Centre, Hari Hara Ram, principal secretary of Nehru Seva Sangha, Surekha Das, member of Association for Social Reconstructive Activities, Pithapur, and Dr Aurobinda Mohant, State Co-ordinator, Indian Academy of Pediatrics (Disability Chapter).
“Initially, we had initiated few informal meets with the then commissioner Agnihotri. But I have never been a part to formal meets with concerned ministers as part of this committee,” said Asok Hans, another member of the committee.
Hardly anyone appears interested to convene a joint meeting, even though three and a half years have passed since the committee’s inception.
Meetings of the committee are supposed to be held regularly under the chairmanship of the minister-in-charge of Women and Child. The committee also consists of ex-officio members comprising the secretaries in the departments of welfare, school and mass education, higher education, women and child development, public grievances and pension administration, health and family welfare, industries, housing and urban development, science and technology, public enterprise and finance. Yet another section of members included in the committee comprise secretaries of Panchayati Raj, labour and employment as well as special secretaries to GA and P&C department.
There are three MLAs, the vice-chancellor of OUAT, president of Chamber of Commerce, chairperson of State Welfare Advisory Board, commissioner for persons with disabilities and commissioner-cum-secretary, women and child development department in the committee.
But no one apparently knows for sure, who issues the letter for meeting, if any and when the meetings will take place.
The final irony: Quite a few individuals have been transferred ever since the inception of the committee, including the then commissioner Dr SP Agnihotri and no wonder, many of the designated officials are even unaware of an existence of such a committee today!