By Zaheer Jan & Dr.Fouzia Rasool*
Srinagar: Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced nationwide lockdown because of Covid-19 pandemic threat. This was need of the hour. Since day one of the lockdown, Save the Destitute foundation, which is a Jammu & Kashmir-based registered organisation, is continuously on ground, striving to reach out to the disabled people in the valley.
Here in kashmir according to census more then 3 lakh people are having different disabilities but there are inadequate provisions for them. If we see in other places such as Bangalore , Delhi , Mumbai, there are even job opportunities for persons with different disabilities. For treatment of their special-need children, parents need to move out of Kashmir to Delhi , Bangalore and other places because here in Kashmir they can’t find any good early intervention center.
Here parents of special children are suffering a lot because most of the mainstream schools do not offer admission to special-need children. Though some renowned schools admit special children who suffer from Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Attention Deficit hyperactivity Disorder (Adhd) , Down syndrome, but they do not have B. Ed. special educators and registered RCI professionals. They appoint simple graduates, 10+2 candidates for these kids. As we all professional know, dealing with autism and other special kids is very difficult and we want only registered professional like B. Ed special educators, rehabilitation therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, physiotherapists and other Rehabilitation Council of India certified trainers to cater these kids because sometime wrong approach and mishandling can create problem for special children. In this regard Rehabilitation Council of India had already issued order that only RCI registered professionals can work for special children. But here in Kashmir, some simple Graduates also enter to deal with special children and most of the autistic kids get problem because of mishandling. As it is, parents don’t find inclusive schools for special children here. Moreover, there are no vocational centers for these kids and once these kids attain 18 years of age, they are not accepted by schools and parents are compelled to keep them at home.
Hence, although it’s going to be a month since the Centre issued disability inclusive guidelines to ensure the safety of disabled people through the COVID-19 pandemic, progress on this front has been patchy. Some states and union territories have taken proactive steps while others are lagging behind. Here in Kashmir thousands of disabled people are suffering in different districts. They are looking for help. Here in Kashmir, according to a survey, there are more 50 thousands children who suffer from Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Attention Deficit Disorder, Down syndrome etc.
Parents of special need children are very much frustrated because they are not able to handle these children in home environment. It is very difficult. I think we all professional need to come together and take up this issue seriously with the authorities. We must stop malpractice in the Rehabilitation field. Parents are already depressed because of the hardship these special children face.
We believe in inclusion and inclusive education and the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 is very clear about this.
While there are many challenges, we have made a small beginning. In the month of April we started online sessions for parents of special children and till date 50 parents of special need children called us from Kashmir as well as from outside Kashmir. We identified 50 persons with different disabilities from different localities of Srinagar such as Budgam, Shopian, Kulgam, Baramulla and Srinagar.
From day one, we started getting numerous calls from persons with different disabilities for help. On the eve of Ramadan, we could identify and distribute 40 Complete Ramadan Grocery Kits for one month to persons with different disabilities such as Visual Impairment, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy , Polio and Paraplegia. We also kept two sanitary pads packets for women in every kit to prevent disabled ladies from using any other clothes which might lead to infection and other problems.
All disabled person who received kits are from Baramulla, Budgam, Srinagar, Kulgam, and Shopian. These people with different disabilities are not doing any work because most of them are wheel-chair user and blind. They are in bad condition and here no one supports these people. We help them so that they are able to survive these lock down days. Here thousands of disabled people approach us for urine bags, diapers and medicine and to meet their requirements, we keep approaching different people and are continuously in touch with HAQ – the child right center in Delhi. We hope some more voluntary organisations, business houses and government agencies will come forward and try to help us so that we are able to reach these families.
Our experience has been that during these testing times, people with different disabilities are the ones who are the worst affected. Many parents of special-need children are simply not able to handle special need children in home environment . Special children with Autism , Cerebral Palsy, Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (Adhd) are missing their daily therapy sessions, special education and daily routine. Parents of special children are struggling with basic things that they are not able to get such as diapers, and medicines for special children. They need diapers, urine bags, and medicines but here local organization and other agencies are not able to help them during this lockdown period. As a result disabled people are in bad condition. Not much support is coming for them. There is no support system for disabled people in place here. There are no helpline numbers, no door to door delivery of essential goods and services and no system for issuing passes for caregivers. What is even more alarming is that basic awareness information about ways to keep oneself safe is not reaching people during this lockdown.
STDF is looking for more people who want to come forward to us in support of the disabled. We are looking for the required support to reach more and more persons with disabilities in these trying times. In face of all odds, we are striving to help them with our meagre resources so that they are able to survive these tough times.
During lockdown many healthcare workers approached our organization for masks, hand santizers etc., and in turn we approached our well wishers for financial and moral support. We received positive support from them. We distributed masks, hand sanitizers to different primary health centers. With the help of our members such as Sajad Hyder Wani and many other volunteers, we could distribute these items. In the process, we could also identify many migrant labours from West Bengal , Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Delhi who were seeking help and we provided 70 food kits to them. They were woefully rendered jobless during lockdown. I hope they too stay safe during these trying times. We had never felt so handicapped ever! As it is, even the COVID-19 cases are increasing in Kashmir!
*Zaheer Jan is a paediatric rehabilitation specialist and founder chairman of Save The Destitute Foundation;
*Dr.Fouzia Rasool is a senior physiotherapist.[the_ad_placement id=”sidebar-feed”]