Coronavirus-news April 17, 2020
Helpline for disabled & elderly people in Tamil Nadu gets thousands of calls during lockdown
The Commissionerate for the Welfare of the Differently-Abled in Tamil Nadu had started a helpline number to reach out to disabled and elderly people in the state. Officials are receiving thousands of calls everyday. The initiative is indeed a remarkable one. Activists say there is also a need for concerned departments to look at the big picture of requirements for disabled people.
Thousands of people with disabilities across India have been affected by the lockdown, which has now been extended till 3 May. Tamil Nadu, where there are over 3 lakhs disabled people, is undoubtedly one of the worst affected states. Commissionerate for the Welfare of the Differently-Abled had started a helpline for disabled and elderly people in the state. According to officials, the helpline number is now flooded with calls with over 15,000 calls being made in a span of few days.
Helpline for disabled, elderly people
According to reports, most number of calls are made to demand basic necessities, food and medicines and health support. Over 42 volunteers have been deployed to pick up the calls. Tasks are streamlined and assigned to concerned officials at district and taluk levels.
Johny Tom Varghese, Director for the Welfare of Differently-Abled told to The Hindu, “So far, we have reached out to 66,463 persons, including differently-abled people, senior citizens and their family members. All officials in our department have risen to the occasion and are doing their best”.
According to reports, the calls are classified based on priority with the help of software tools. The information is then shared on WhatsApp groups with concerned officials as members. All the requests are given an ID and officials will ensure that this is tracked until the needs and requirements of the caller is completed.
A much-appreciated initiative
Apart from individuals, the team has reached out to over 131 government run homes and NGO’s for disabled people. Children living in these homes have been handed over sweets too.
Disability rights groups across Tamil Nadu welcome the initiative. But also points out that there is much more to be done on a larger scale.
Disability rights activist Smita Sadasivan says, “Tamil Nadu Disability department is doing a great job 24×7 for meeting needs of vulnerable people. But in spite of that, the needs of people are much beyond that. The state and district management authorities should wake up at least from this experience. They must involve persons with disabilities as main stake holders in the process of planning, strategizing and exercising inclusive accessible risk education and relief measures at regular intervals with regard to any disaster”.
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