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State-level workshop on ‘Disability and Law’ organised in Manipur

DNIS News Network - DLU workshop provides a chance to understand the ground realities in the State.

A State-level workshop on Disability and Law was conducted in association with the Disability Law Unit (D.L.U.), Northeast region, Shishu Sarothi and Re-creation, a member of Common Forum of the Disabled (COMFORD) in Imphal, on 26 February at the State Guest House. It was supported by the British High Commission.

Our initial impression of Manipur was quite depressing. The local people in the hotel, where we checked in, referred to us as foreigners! says Rama Chari, Senior Programme Officer, N.C.P.E.D.P. When we switched on the TV in our rooms, we did not find any familiar channels. We were told, Indian channels, like N.D.T.V., Star Plus, Zee, etc, are banned here! People see Korean and English Channels! No Indian movies are shown in theatres

She adds, We were told that every government employee has to give a cut to militant groups. Development funds also go to the hands of the terrorists. The Human Rights Commissioner admitted publicly that his rights were being violated and he has not been able to do much about it! He has not got his salary for many months now. He referred to Manipur as a State which is not dead but also not alive; it is in coma!.

All this made us wonder. What would we talk about at the workshop, which was scheduled the next day, the reason we were in Manipur? Will we be perceived as foreigners? Will our audience be able to relate to the larger issues?

Much to our pleasant surprise, the next day was not as we had feared. The State-level workshop on Disability and Law showed us a new glimpse of Manipur, a State which was forward-thinking. Even if this group formed a minority, at least it existed, working against all odds to change the situation.

The positive mood at the Workshop was quite encouraging. The fact that disability NGOs are quite active in Manipur was clear. The COMFORD, which is a network of NGOs, that was set up in 1999, as part of N.C.P.E.D.P.s Disability 2000 campaign, is alive and vibrant. Solidarity Booths had been set up in various parts of Manipur as part of the common theme for World Disability Day [3 December]. We were told that the information we send on advocacy campaigns, says Chari, was widely read and circulated. We suddenly felt quite connected!

Quite a few Manipuris, who have had a chance to study outside the State, have now come back with a positive mood. Their energy is quite positive and they want to work for change, which is beginning to impact the people of Manipur in a small but significant way.

The workshop was attended by about 60 people, including NGOs working in the disability sector, persons with disability, government officials, legal fraternity, parents and media persons. Various national and local issues were discussed at length. Access and employment were identified as the major issues.

The participants expressed a major concern about the mis-utilisation of funds that are coming for disability from the Central government, which are getting used up for other purposes by the State government, like paying salaries, etc. They felt Public Interest Litigations would help to catalyse the process of development. The enthusiasm of the participants overwhelmed us, Chari confides, and gave us a very positive feeling at the end of the day.