Accessibility December 19, 2020
Protests held against move to close down NIVH centres in Kolkata & Secunderabad
There’s shock and dismay over the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment’s move to close the Bengal and Telangana chapters of the National Institute of Empowerment of Persons with Visual Disabilities, Dehradun. These centres cater mainly to disabled students from poor economic backgrounds.
Disability rights activists, parents and students with disabilities gathered outside the office of Mohammed Eshop Nobi, Officer-in-Charge, National Institute for Visually handicapped (NIVH) Kolkata, on Friday to protest against the move to shut down the centre.
The Bengal chapter is among the two chapters of the National Institute of Empowerment of Persons with Visual Disabilities, Dehradun, that is being closed by the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, Government of India. The other centre is in Secunderabad, Telangana.
Both regional centres, started in 1997, cater to hundreds of visually impaired students from poor economic backgrounds. They join them to access assistive devices and pursue courses that enable economic independence. The Bengal chapter reaches out to pre-schoolers as well as graduate students. In 2019, over 3,500 students with disabilities were supported by this centre. Many students are in the waiting list. .
Move hurts poor disabled students
“This move will affect many, many students”, says Dr Ruma Chatterjee, Secretary, Kolkata Society for the Empowerment of the Differently Abled. “Apart from assistive devices the Kolkata centre has a unit for children with MDVI (multiple disability with vision impairment). This group of special children do not get services from other blind schools in the city”.
The Kolkata NIVH also runs parent support programmes.
”The centre here may not have been very active but now even the rudimentary services offered will be withdrawn”, adds Dr Chatterjee. Her centre support over 50 children with MDVI and deafblindness. “How can the government withdraw such critical support without mentioning alternatives?”
The National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD) has called for nationwide protests over this move.
The formation of such institutes and regional centres were in pursuit of the country’s commitment to provide equal opportunities to one of the most marginalised and discriminated sections of our society. The closure of these regional centres will impact not just students currently enrolled there but locks the door on all future students from the concerned regions. – National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled
Call for nationwide protests
The NPRD says the Ministry’s move is in in pursuance of the New Education Policy 2020, “whose thrust is commercialisation of education and the abdication of the State’s responsibility. When education becomes a commodity, the poor and the marginalised will be impacted more adversely”
Akhil Paul, Director Sense International (India) calls the decision a big setback.
“If this is based on the number of people coming to the centres now, that’s an ill-advised call. Due to Covid not many people are reaching these centres. but once things get better, where will people go? It’s lopsided to curtail expenses in an area like disability where you need to invest more”.
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