Bareilly topper Mahima Shah appeals to Minister, says guidelines must be updated to reflect RPWD Act
Mahima Shah, the CBSE topper from Bareilly with cerebral palsy, has written appealed to Giriraj Singh, Union Minister, Animal Husbandry asking that admission rules to the Veterinary Council of India be updated in line with provisions of the RPWD Act 2016. Mahima has cleared the medical entrance exam, NEET, and wishes to become a veterinarian.
80% disability could not stop Mahima Shah from topping the CBSE exam this year from Bareilly. What does stand in the way of this 17-year-old’s childhood dream of becoming an animal behaviourist is a set of outdated rules.
Mahima has written to Giriraj Singh, Union Minister, Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries asking for that admission rules for the Veterinary College of India (VCI) be updated to reflect the provisions of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016.
Over two years after the Act came into force, the VCI guidelines state that anyone with a disability above 50% cannot study veterinary medicine. This a is a blow for Mahima who has cleared the medical entrance exam (NEET) this year in her first attempt.
In a letter to the Minister, her father Sheilendra Shah has asked that the rules be updated in the interim so Mahima does not lose a year and enroll in the Bachelor of Veterinary Science and Animal Husbandry programme in 2019.
He has cited past instances when the Supreme Court of India passed orders protecting RPWD Act provisions by allowing students who were barred from admission into MBBS due to outdated Medical Council of India (MCI) guidelines.
In the case of the VCI too, the guidelines date back to 2016 and Mahima’s father has asked for an interim arrangement to be made in his letter.
It is therefore requested that for the time being a stopgap be made until some permanent arrangements may be done, like constituting a committee of senior veterinarians to examine and frame rules for interim relief to people with disabilities in accordance with RPWD Act 2016 issued by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. – Sheilendra Shah, Mahima Shah’s father
Even taking the NEET was a touch and go affair for Mahima. Under the Act, disabled medical aspirants are allowed the facility of a scribe to write the exam but there was no provision made for this until 2018. The guidelines were finally updated for the 2019 exam for people with benchmark disabilities like upper limb disorders to use a scribe. However, this did not apply to newly formed ministries that were not in existence at the time, like the Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying.
It was after Mahima made appeals to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Ministry of Human Resource Development, CBSE and the Rehabilitation Council of India that she was allowed a scribe. “Mahima was telephonically informed just one day before the NEET-2019 exam that she had been allowed the facility of using a scribe”, says Shah.
Shah also says that the VCI, like MCI is an elected body but no elections have been held for over two years. He hopes that given these circumstances, Mahima’s case will be given special consideration and makes a passionate case for his daughter’s childhood dream to be fulfilled.
“In this age of robotics where scientists like Dr Stephen Hawking have made a valuable contribution to the modern science despite a disability…we should allow fast computing, analysing and visionary ideas of people with disabilities who are focused and determined approach in life given their battle with the adversities of life”.
Mahima, meanwhile, hasn’t lost all hope and is hoping she can pursue her lifelong dream of studying biological sciences. “I love animals and my goal is to be veterinary animal behaviourist. This way I can fulfil my dream of working for the good of animals.”