Disabled student has to be carried up the stairs every day as this Himachal medical college has no ramps
Rohit Prasad had always dreamed of studying medicine, an ambition his parents encourage him to pursue regardless of the fact that he has muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair.
That goal saw him achieve good results in school as well as the medical entrance exams. But for Rohit, clearing the medical entrance exam was a small hurdle, compared to what he goes through every day at the Government Medical College (GMC) in Nahan, Himachal Pradesh.
The college is inaccessible, and Rohit has to be lifted along with his wheelchair on the steps. His mother says she has to appeal to the visitors at the hospital to help her lift her son.
A humiliating experience that he is being subject to as the college has chosen to flout Medical Council of India guidelines, the RPWD Act, 2016 and those of the Himachal Pradesh government.
My son sometimes cries and says he does not want to study like this. It bothers me, but I am determined that he not give up on his dreams. He has been a bright student all throughout. - Kiran Prasad
For Rohit, this apathy is not a one-off experience. He first got admission into the Government Medical College, Chandigarh, but when college authorities found out that he was disabled, they turned him down. "They asked me 'how can your son study medicine when he is like this", says Mrs. Prasad.
Rohit did not give up and was granted admission at GMC Nahan. Here too, he got similar reactions. But Rohit's family is determined not to back down in the face of such callousness.
They have approached well-known disability rights activist Dr Satendra Singh for help. As Rohit's mother puts it, "this is not a fight for my son alone but for all disabled students who want to study medicine".
Dr Singh, who has been at the forefront of fighting for the rights of disabled students to study medicine, has taken the matter up with senior authorities in the Himachal Pradesh government as well as the MCI. He had petitioned the MCI in 2014 asking for all medical colleges be made accessible.
Dr. Singh says that despite the provisions of the RPWD Act 2016, a majority of leading medical colleges are not making any serious efforts to ensure their campuses are accessible.
"I wrote to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi and the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences (PGIMS) in Chandigarh about making their buildings accessible.. AIIMS responded saying this was a 'daunting task'!".
The problem, he believes, lies in the fact that rules under the RPWD Act 2016 have not been framed in many states.
"Besides, accessibility in India not been understood. The onus has been put on individuals and that is not going to work. It has to come on the government. We also have to ensure we have trained access auditors, which is a serious lack."
In the bargain, sincere, committed students like Rohit are being subject to daily humiliations, a violation of basic rights granted under the Constitution.
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