Volume 3 Issue 17 - September 01, 2005

Aloka Guha out of the race for the post of Chairperson, National Trust

D.N.I.S. News Nwtwork - Aloka Guha is on her way out as the current Chairperson of National Trust for the Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities, after over a year’s uncertainty and controversy.

The tenure of the current Chairperson of the National Trust for the Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities, Aloka Guha, had ended in April 2004. The Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment (M.S.J.E.) had proposed that Aloka Guha be given a second term. Disabled Rights Group (D.R.G.) and Parivaar protested against this and demanded that a parent of a disabled person (belonging to the disabilities mentioned under the Act) should be appointed as the Chairperson of the Trust this time. In response, the Cabinet Committee on Appointments (A.C.C.) had noted that there was no “valid reason” as to why Aloka Guha, a professional, should be given a second term. The Committee then advised M.S.J.E. to do a “proper search” and to resubmit a list of names. The Ministry then advertised the post and invited applications. Interviews of the shortlisted candidates were held on 23rd August 2005.

Disability News and Information Service (D.N.I.S.) has learnt from an authoritative source that a total of eight people were short-listed from amongst the applicants (not six, as reported earlier). A Board, which comprised of B.S. Baswan, Former Education Secretary; Sarita Prasad, Secretary, M.S.J.E.; Air Vice Marshal S.K. Mehra and Jayati Chandra, Joint Secretary, M.S.J.E, interviewed the candidates.

The current Chairperson Aloka Guha has bowed out. She did not even apply for the post. Obviously then, she was not amongst the eight shortlisted candidates who were interviewed. This automatically puts her out of the race for the second term.

According to the source, out of the eight people interviewed, five were found to be entirely ‘unfit’; two had shown some ‘promise’ but were very ‘young’ and only one person was found to be 'fit with relevant experience and background'.

The source did not disclose the name of that one person who the Interview Board has recommended. However, we at D.N.I.S. suspect that the person is Poonam Natarajan, Chairperson of Vidya Sagar (formerly The Spastics Society of India, Chennai).

Poonam Natarajan is quite a senior person in the Indian disability sector with over twenty years of experience. She undertook a course in Special Education from Spastics Society of India, Mumbai, in 1982, in order to teach her child who had Cerebral Palsy. Natarajan then founded Vidya Sagar in 1985, when she moved to Chennai and realised that there were no services available there for children with multiple disabilities. Vidya Sagar, which commenced operations in 1985 with only three children, now caters to over 2000 children and young adults with cerebral palsy in a single year.

Natarajan is highly respected and widely popular not only amongst multiple disabilities N.G.O.s but in the disability sector at large, for she has been a great supporter of cross disability movement and inclusion. As the Zonal Coordinator for the South Zone for National Disability Network, she has been spreading the disability rights movement in the southern States and Union Territories of India.

If she is, indeed, finally shortlisted as the next Chairperson of the National Trust, it will be great news for the disability sector. It will also fulfil the demand of the Disabled Rights Group and Parivaar, who have been championing that a ‘parent’ should be given the post.

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