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Disabled students in West Bengal cheer move to reserve 5% seats in higher education

Good news for students with disabilities in West Bengal as the state government finally announces a reservation of 5% in higher education for them.

The announcement is long overdue under the RPWD Act 2016. Activists and students had been demanding the reservation for quite some time now. The decision spells huge opportunities for disabled students. The government notifications allows for a 5% reservation for people with disabilities in each of the categories, i.e. SC/ST, OBC-A, OBC-B and in the Unreserved or General Category.

The government has also said that disabled students will be given first preference when lists are made in the various reserved categories.

Among those who has been leading the campaign is disability rights activist Shampa Sengupta. She is happy that the order has finally come through.

After the RPWD Act was passed, we wrote to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, and also met the Education Minister to request for an increase in the reservation percentage. Though it has come after two years of passing of the law, we are happy that students of our state will finally get their due rights. - Shampa Sengupta, Disability rights activist

Somen Dutta, a student of Jadavpur University and member of the Forum for Disabled Students said there was now a need to ensure information of the various benefits under the RPWD Act should be disseminated.

"The announcement of reservation is a huge news for us as we have been fighting for our rights since the RPWD ACT was passed. There is a shortage of information about the provisions of the act in the state and many people are not aware of their rights and even authorities and various departments are also in the dark," said Dutta.

Dutta also said there was apathy on the government's part in giving disabled people their rights. "Programs are held in the name of charity but are mostly motivated by a desire for political mileage and personal fame. Disabled people in the state do not want charity, we want opportunity and equality".

For now, the government announcement has boosted the mood among the disabled community in the state and given a momentum to pushing for greater implementation of the RPWD Act.

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