Demand for separate category for disabled people in Kolkata’s Covid database
Disabled people are among the most vulnerable during the Covid pandemic. Yet, they find no mention as a separate category in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation’s ongoing initiative to create a database of vulnerable groups in each city ward.
Guidelines of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MSJE), Government of India underline the heightened vulnerability of people with disabilities during the Covid pandemic.
Why then has the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) not included them as a separate category in an ongoing initiative to collect data about households with members most vulnerable to the pandemic? That’s the oversight Sruti Disability Rights Centre has questioned in a letter to Firhad Hakim, Chairman, Board of Administrators, KMC.
Disabled people among most vulnerable
In a letter, disability rights activist Shampa Sengupta has called the omission of people with disabilities a major oversight that must be addressed.
We are dismayed that although the KMC survey includes columns on religion, caste etc, there is no column on disability in the survey form. Our practical experiences in the past months show that when persons with disabilities are getting infected, they need specific requirements. – Shampa Sengupta, Founder, Sruti Disability Rights Centre
This is borne out by many instances in the past few months when people with disabilities have failed to get the attention they needed after getting infected with Covid. Dumdum resident Bahni Bhattachraya has experienced this.
Separate column on disability needed
“How can municipal authorities even think of preparing such a database without considering people with disabilities?”, she questions. Bahni’s 24-year-old daughter Rupsa is on the autism spectrum. The Bhattacharyas underwent a nightmarish experience after they tested Covid positive.
“My husband and I were in a bad shape and Rupsa was also infected with Covid”, she says. “We requested the authorities to admit all three of us in the same hospital as she cannot be left alone to look after herself”. However this was not granted as there were not enough beds in one hospital.
After much difficulty, the Bhattacharyas were able to find three beds in a private hospital in Kolkata. “We paid close to seven lakh rupees but how many people have the means to afford this? People with disabilities must be included in the KMC database. Every hospital should also have staff members who are sensitised to the needs of people with disabilities. In Rupsa’s case, there was no one and I had a hard time looking after her in my condition”.
The first phase of data collection by the KMC is complete. Activists are asking that a column on disability be included and the data be upgraded in further surveys.
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