Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Special Gesture

The recent decision of the State Government to institute a new scholarship [Sikkim Grant of Scholarship to Students with Disabilities Scheme, 2014] aimed at addressing the special needs and requirements of the disabled in accessing even routine services like education is a welcome move. This latest initiative complements the monthly monetary aid extended to persons with disabilities, and already in place commitments like Special Olympics Bharat. There will be those who believe that the amount and the punctuality with which the assistance is released leave a lot to be desired, and they will be right, but it is not so much the amount as the gesture that is important here. A policy initiative is a permanent commitment and slack babus a condition that can be corrected. That said, the amounts in consideration will still be princely for the poorer sections of the society which could put it to good use in according better care and ensuring more ambitious education for the special children in the family. As for importance of the gesture, the initiative reassures one to believe that now, with the State Government having recognised the presence of this section of the society and realised the moral obligation towards ensuring better care and access for them, more initiatives will follow from more sections. This is a big step forward in a State where such children were, till not so long ago, hidden away at home and their presence ignored by the society at large. Things changed with the setting up of the Spastic Society, and the diligence of its volunteers helped in educating not just the special children, but also those responsible for them on how to handle their special needs. As mentioned, there have been wider undertakings like the Special Olympics Bharat and other such efforts but these have been less consistent that would have been desirable. Sadly also, there has been very little societal involvement in the work and engagements of groups like the Spastics Society or even the much older “Blind School” in Namchi. Their circles are still limited to the volunteers, the staff, the special children and their families. The lay people make at most only guest appearances on special occasions and that is a tokenism that everyone can do without. It is for this reason that the State government’s continuing initiatives, irrespective of how lavish the outlay or how effective the official follow-up, is so welcome. With the society at large refusing to get involved in the care of persons afflicted with disabilities, the State’s direct involvement should help make up for the gap between what this special section deserves and what it gets. The gesture, because it proves that the State recognises the presence of special people among us and realises its responsibility towards them, opens the doors for those involved in their care to pursue and achieve the many more measures that need to be taken to guarantee the special people a life of self-respect and dignity.

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