Coronavirus-news April 4, 2020
Disabled people flood NCPEDP helpline with calls for rations & blood transfusions
People with disabilities are struggling for basic needs says the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP), which has set up helpline numbers and an email where people can reach out for help. Shakuntala Gamlin, Secretary, Department of Empowerment of Person with Disabilities, Government of India has also written to disability commissioners in all states and union territories urging them to implement the Centre’s disability inclusive guidelines for the safety of the community.
“I need lifesaving drug clotting Factor VIII injections other products. I have a severe genetic bleeding disorder and am a person with disability. I have no money. Please help.”
This cry for help on WhatsApp from Prabhjot Singh from Ludhiana, Punjab is just one of the many distress messages flooding helpline numbers. Prabhjot has Thalassemia, a blood disorder and patients like him are among the worst hit after the COVID-19 outbreak. There is limited blood available and many private hospitals have stopped delivery of services. This makes the situation worse for people without private transport.
The disability inclusive guidelines issued by the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPWD) directing states to ensure the safety of disabled people during the 21-day lockdown are fairly comprehensive but there are issues on the ground.
Lapses in implementation
Take Maharashtra for instance. Though the Social Welfare Ministry announced that ration for persons with disabilities will be delivered at home, this has not been taken up in an urgent manner by the state government. Caregivers need passes to collect benefits on behalf of disabled people, but these are not being issued. The extra pension of ₹ 1,000 announced by the Finance Minister in the COVID-19 economic package has not been made available either.
Taking note of these lapses, Shakuntala Gamlin, Secretary, DePWD, sent a mail on 31 March to disability commissioners across all states to take the necessary steps on an immediate basis. In her letter, Ms Gamlin said:
This office has been receiving complaints regarding difficulties faced by PwDs in getting services of caregivers, maids and access to essential items due to non-issue of travel passes to NGOs/caregivers/PwD Associations, etc. You are requested to tie up with concerned authorities to streamline issue of local travel passes..so there is no delay in providing necessary support to Divyangjan. – Shakuntala Gamlin, Secretary, Department of Empowerment of Person with Disabilities, Government of India
One of the key reasons for such lapses is that many states are yet to appoint disability commissioners. Some states like Goa have been proactive and appointed a nodal officer to meet the disabled community’s needs. Tamil Nadu and Karnataka are also showing great initiative. “We are attending to all the requests that come our way”, said V S Basavaraju, Karnataka Disability Commissioner. “There are many challenges in tracking down the community as many people don’t even have a phone from where they can call us”.
Proactive steps by some states
Along with Assam, Karnataka has also developed videos and circulated information on COVID-19 through social media platforms. This has been made available in sign language as well. Uttarakhand has facilitated easy movement of caregivers, as well as help required by persons with disabilities in terms of food, medicines or counselling. Separate helpline numbers have been set up for disabled persons in Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra. Jharkhand and Delhi governments have issued special e-passes specific for disabled people. For hearing impaired people Tamil Nadu, Punjab and Karnataka have set up video conferencing facilities with sign language interpreters. Telangana, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have also implemented the Centre’s order exempting disabled employees from the attending essential services within their ministries or government departments.
This needs to become more widespread, points out Arman Ali, Executive Director, NCPEDP. “Persons with disabilities are in all the 28 states, not just the few that are taking proactive steps. The fundamental right to life and dignity cannot be dispensed with even in a medical emergency. People with disabilities are not a homogenous, distinct group – they are to be found in every strata of society and in every aspect of life and they need to be enabled during this pandemic”.
Any disabled person needing assistance can reach the NCPEDP at +91-73039 44839.
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