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Surat Passport Office shows the way, makes it easier for disabled people to get passports

Getting a passport when you are a person with a disability can be quite hard. Access is a major issue and lack of support from passport officials is another major hurdle.

Just last year, Subbalakshmi and R S Rallapalli, an elderly couple in Andhra Pradesh, started an online petition after they were unable to get passports for their disabled daughters. Their daughters, who have polio, were unable to visit the passport office and this was used to deny them the documents.

It was also only after External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj intervened that officials from the regional passport office came to their house and the daughters got their passports at their home.

Now, the Surat Passport Office is showing the rest of India the way forward. They have made it hassle-free for people with disabilities to get their passports.

In the last few days, 51 people have been issued passports and their passport fees were sponsored by a local cooperative bank.

By finding sponsors who can pay the fees, officials are hoping to bring more disabled people into the mainstream. This way they can take part in events like the Paralympic games as well as go for student exchange programs in other countries.

The initiative has many challenges. One, there is no clear database of how many disabled people there are in south Gujarat. Two, many of them are too poor to afford the passport fees.

They are planning to overcome this by getting the numbers from local NGOs so the database can be updated. They have also reached out to officials at the Varachha Cooperative Bank to pay the fees of disabled people from its corporate social responsibility fund.

A wonderful initiative to promote inclusion that can be easily followed across India.

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