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Orissa college agrees to extend age bar and 3% reservation for disabled students

D.N.I.S. News Network - In a victory for the disability sector, B.K. College of Art and Crafts, Bhubaneswar, will extend age relaxation up to by five years and a three per cent reservation to student with disabilities from this academic session, following a pitched campaign by Swabhiman – an National Disability Network Partner in Orissa.

According to Swabhiman, on 7 August 2003 it received a letter from Harihar Sahoo, father of one Priyambada Sahoo, appealing for intervention, as the B.K. College of Arts and Crafts had rejected her application on the ground of being overage. Priyambada, a hearing-impaired girl, excels in painting and wants to carve out a career in the field. But the rejection shattered her dreams of becoming a professional painter.

On 12 August 2003, Swabhiman sent a letter to the Principal of the college requesting him to reconsider Priyambada’s application in view of the provisions under People with Disabilities Act, 1995. Further, the pre-primary education of hearing impaired children takes almost three years.

With no response from the Principal, representative from Swabhiman met the Principal. He expressed his helplessness saying that a decision can only be taken by the Department of Culture. Consequently, the Disability Commissioner wrote a letter to the Principal seeking clarifications. The Principal responded stating that there is no such provision and instruction from the side of the Government.

On 3 September 2003, Swabhiman sent a letter to the Director, Department of Culture requesting for a policy change for age relaxation for people with disability. The Secretary and the Director were of the view that the concerned Minister can only make policy changes.

With nothing substantial happening as a result of these efforts, Swabhiman filed a case in the State Human Rights Commission. Following this, the Commission sought clarification from the concerned authorities. But even after this nothing happened as the Commission operates, as an enquiring body and it cannot take action. After exhausting all these options, Swabhiman launched a media campaign to draw attention to the issue.

The breakthrough came recently with the Department of Culture writing to the College to extend age relaxation up to by five years and a three per cent reservation for disabled student.