Volume 7 Issue 9 - May 01, 2010

Census 2011 and Disability – Mithu Alur’s publicity stunt enrages the disability sector

Members at the Round Table Consultation
Members at the Round Table Consultation

For decades, the Indian disability sector has been witness to a lobby of professionals who were happy with attending conferences and seminars abroad and writing books on their achievements and getting government grants, land at posh locations and even awards. Then came the 90s and the entire sector saw a huge paradigm shift when disabled people themselves began taking charge of their movement. The erstwhile leadership was slowly relegated to the backburner. However, time and again, these fringe elements have tried to create a rift within the sector, create controversies and get juicy stories in the media. Recently, the issue of Census 2011 saw one such unfortunate incident. Dorodi Sharma of D.N.I.S. takes a close look at the issue, to go beyond the stories and allegations and get to hard facts.

Close on the heels of the Round Table on Disability and Census 2011 organised by National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (N.C.P.E.D.P.) in New Delhi on March 15 and 16 where around 100 disability sector leaders from across India came to a consensus on the question on disability in Census 2011, a lame attempt for some cheap publicity by a Mumbai based organisation has left the entire sector enraged and shocked.

Showing complete disrespect towards the unanimous decision of almost the entire disability sector, A.D.A.P.T. run by Dr. Mithu Alur, tried to create an unnecessary confusion on this already closed issue by trying to lobby for the question given by the Washington Group for reasons best known to her. When the Census Commission rejected her recommendation, another publicity stunt was launched to make the whole issue appear personal and petty. A senior journalist at the Indian Express was contacted and pursued to carry a story on this issue, thereby making it appear as some kind of a personal dispute between a group led by N.C.P.E.D.P. and another led by A.D.A.P.T.

Here are the real facts:

  1. N.C.P.E.D.P. conducted a research on the question on disability in February this year. A total of 100 top notch leaders were contacted, out of which as many as 72 responded. One of the 7 choices given in the questionnaire was the question recommended by the Washington Group. Not even one of the 72 respondents (all top notch, credible N.G.O.s or disabled activists) selected / chose the Washington Group option!

  2. Then, a Round Table on Disability and Census 2011 was organised in Delhi on March 15 and 16, where around 100 top notch disability leaders from across India, representing as many as 22 States and Union Territories attended. The various options were once again debated and discussed and most importantly, a consensus was reached.

  3. Dr. C. Chandramouli, Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India was the Chief Guest at this consultation.

  4. Participants included names like Poonam Natarajan, Chairperson, National Trust; General Ian Cardozo, Chairperson, Rehabilitation Council of India; Vandana Bedi, Member, Central Executive Committee, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment; G. Syamala, Executive Director, Action for Ability Development and Inclusion (A.A.D.I.); Merry Barua of Action for Autism, representatives of National Association for the Deaf, National Association for the Blind, Basic Needs, Vidya Sagar, Ability Foundation, etc.

  5. Nilesh Singit, Founder Member, A.D.A.P.T. Rights Group also attended the Round Table and supported the process as well as the outcome.

  6. Javed Abidi addressing members of N.C.R.P.D. - India
    Javed Abidi addressing members of N.C.R.P.D. - India

  7. Dr. Alur chose not to come. Instead, she wrote an E-mail to N.C.P.E.D.P. on March 15 with her recommendation for the Washington Group question. This was put up at the 5th meeting of National Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (N.C.R.P.D.) India on March 17, and the idea was rejected. The members of N.C.R.P.D. are Javed Abidi, Honorary Director, N.C.P.E.D.P.; A. S. Narayanan, Secretary, National Association of the Deaf; Arun Rao, Executive Director, The Deaf Way Foundation; Asha Mehra, Secretary, Swavalamban; Poonam Natarajan, Chairperson, National Trust; Radhika Alkazi, Managing Trustee and Director, Alternative Strategies for the Handicapped; Shanti Auluck, Honorary Director, Muskaan; Shivani Gupta, Director, AccessAbility; Vandana Bedi, Consultant, Disability and Development (all from New Delhi); C. Mahesh, Advocacy Coordinator, C.B.R. Forum; J.P. Gadkari, President, Parivaar; Nirmita Narasimhan, Senior Programme Manager, Centre for Internet and Society; Rama Chari, Director, Diversity and Equal Opportunity Centre (all from Bangalore); Kanchan Pamnani, Advocate, Bombay High Court; Ketan Kothari, Programme Officer, Sightsavers; Nilesh Singit, Founder Member, A.D.A.P.T. Rights Group; Shilpi Kapoor, Managing Director, BarrierBreak Technologies; Suhas Karnik, Honorary Secretary, National Association for the Blind (all from Mumbai); M. Srinivasulu, Convenor, Network of the Persons with Disability Organisation, Andhra Pradesh; Rajiv Rajan, Project Co-ordinator, Vidya Sagar, Chennai; Shampa Sengupta, Director, Sruti Disability Rights Centre, Kolkata and Sunil Kumar Singh, President, Adarsh Viklang Seva Sansthan, Bihar.

  8. As opposed to this, the so-called Committee of A.D.A.P.T. consists of only 5 people, namely Dr. Mithu Alur, her husband Sathi Alur, Kamal Bakshi, R. Rangasayee, Director, National Institute for the Hearing Handicapped and Nilesh Singit.

Of them, Rangasayee and Singit have already disassociated themselves from the process.

Any person with average sensibility will notice that it is not a Group versus A.D.A.P.T., as has been unfortunately projected by the latter. It is the mandate of almost the entire Indian disability sector against the shenanigan of basically a wife husband combine. That their intentions are obviously not in the interest of the disability sector is for everyone to see.

If Dr. Alur is so much a well wisher of the sector as she claims, then she has to answer some very hard questions:

  1. How is she and / or Sathi Alur associated with the Washington Group? In what capacity? Is she supporting the Washington Groups question purely on merit and on an intellectual basis or is there a hidden motive, some personal agenda?

  2. Is Sathi Alur associated with the Washington Group through the World Bank and if so, in what capacity? As a volunteer / Social Worker with his heart bleeding for the cause of Indias disabled people or is there some monetary involvement? Is Sathi Alur a Consultant with the World Bank and if so, what kind of money is he getting paid for the assignment?

  3. The Washington Group was set up in Washington in 2001. Since then, it has met 8 more times in various exotic locales across the world, namely Ottawa, Brussels, Bangkok, Rio de Janeiro, Kampala, Dublin, Manila, Dar es Salaam and the next meeting is scheduled in November 2010 in Luxembourg. If Mithu Alur or Sathi Alur or any one else from their so-called Group participated in these Washington Group deliberations, why then were the details of the meetings not ever intimated to the disability sector for all these years? Why these so-called champions of the Indian disability sector who represented us in those meetings, never felt the need to write a single letter, or an E-mail, or for that matter, why did they not approach the media for all these years?

  4. When Javed Abidi met the Census Commissioner for the first time on February 1, 2010, Abidi categorically asked Dr. Chandramouli whether any other organisation or Group had approached him. The answer was No! What were these so-called champions doing till so long when the Pre Test Questionnaire had already been finalised and the Pre Test results were already out and when we were barely a month or two away from finalizing the main Questionnaire for the Population Census of 2011??

  5. The Washington Groups question was deliberated and discussed by 100 top notch disability leaders from across the country and rejected. Who gave the right to a handful of professionals and parents sitting in a room in an N.G.O. to question the decision of the larger sector?

If Dr. Mithu Alur has the courage of conviction to give honest replies to these questions, D.N.I.S. assures its readers of carrying the response verbatim, without any editing.

Meanwhile, the recommendation of the sector, as decided at the Round Table has been submitted to the Census Commissioner. He has assured N.C.P.E.D.P. that it will be put in front of the Technical Advisory Committee later this month. N.C.P.E.D.P. is now working closely with the Census Commission on the guidelines for enumerators.

The mistakes of Census 2001 have been avoided so far and the disability sector has made tremendous progress on this front. While, a few publicity mongers may try to create as much mischief as they would want to courtesy their influence, the might of the united Indian disability sector is not to be trifled with.

For years now, sector has patiently borne the antics of professionals, parents making merry in the name of disability. But when one makes the mistake of fiddling with the future of 70 million disabled people, the consequences will be hard, as will be the fall. Like Abraham Lincoln said, You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.

Click here to read N.C.P.E.D.P.s research on the question on disability (Word - 56 KB)

Click here to read the recommendations from the Round Table on Disability and Census 2011 (Word - 19 KB)

Click here to read Dr. Mithu Alurs E-mail. (Word - 33 KB)

Click here to read news report in The Indian Express

Click here to read more about the globe trotting Washington Group

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