Battling against the odds to succeed in an often hostile world, young disabled people from all over India are proving that they can be an asset to their communities and to their country. Anne Marie Prayas reports.
People are used to thinking that disabled people are only useful for making
candles and postcards. People are used to thinking that by teaching a disabled
person to read and write, they had made their contribution to society. People
are used to seeing only able-bodied persons sitting in front of a computer or
working as engineers. Now is the time they would have to rethink their notions
... 20-year-old Jijesh is fighting severe visual impairment and poverty to complete an 'O' level computer course…
... 18-year-old Neha topped the semester in her Bachelor in Communication Application course, while dealing with cerebral palsy…
... Geet Kaushal did not let the absence of three (out of four) limbs deter him from doing a Bachelors in Technology in Electronics and Instrumentation...
... a budding engineer, Linganathan chooses to focus on intelligence and confidence, rather than on his orthopaedic disability…
Because these students have made up their minds to change your thinking.
The list goes on but what does not change is the ability of each person's testimony to leave a deep mark on the mind of the reader. These are just a few of the proud recipients of the Rajiv Gandhi Scholarship Awards presented to 42 disabled students from around the country. All of them are enrolled in technical and professional courses, ranging from engineering and computer technology to architecture and telecommunications.
But the financial strain of medical treatment, heavy tuition fees and low family incomes often put cumulative pressure on the student's will to study. To aid them in their endeavours, the National Centre for Promotion of Employment of Disabled People has devised the annual Rajiv Gandhi Scholarship Scheme for Persons with Disability, for students pursuing technical courses.
The details of this scheme were distributed to 1,554 educational institutions around the country, and a total of 400 applicants were received. Of those 319 were short-listed for ratings.
Eminent judges, Asha Mehra, Ramesh Awtaney and Salil Chaturvedi rated the applicants on the basis of their merit, means and extent of disability, and after giving due consideration to gender and zonal representation, they selected 42 scholars to be the recipients of the award.
A host of corporate organisations demonstrated their sensitivity and support by providing the essential funding for the 2004 awards. The donors include Samsung DigitAll Hope Award 2003, Mind Tree Consulting, Paul Foundation, Jindal Foundation, R C Malhotra Foundation Trust and Systopic Laboratories.
The scholarships have certain terms and conditions which were made clear to the students at the time of application. These include the rate and duration of the scholarship, and conditions for continuing the grant. Successful scholars receive a basic rate of Rs 1,200 per month, with the money being released on the condition that the student makes good academic progress and receives a positive conduct report. The conditions, while stringent, are not unfair and one failure on the part of the student, due to medical reasons or extraordinary circumstances, can be overlooked.
An added incentive has been provided to these young achievers with the award of a Medal and Certificate of Merit to the scholar who excels from among the chosen students each year.
This year's scholarships were awarded on August 20, to commemorate the 60th birth anniversary of our late Prime Minister Shri Rajiv Gandhi. Congress President and Founder Chairperson NCPEDP, Smt Sonia Gandhi, handed out the awards to the scholars, at her residence, 10 Janpath.
This event has brought to light several individuals who fought against all odds to break the myths and stereotypes society held against them. These scholars, though young and tender of age and experience have already chalked out their path to progress. They look forward to becoming contributors and assets to the same society that was once not ready to give them a chance.
Their struggle has not only been against their disabilities but also against a hardened community. In the face of their challenges, they have harnessed victory for themselves. It is time society stood up and realised that the future of this country lies in the heart of every Indian, not in their physical makeup.
When physical deformities couldn't stop them, why should we?