DNIS News Network - University of Delhi has once again failed in filling up even a fraction of 1,300 seats reserved for students with disabilities, as only 322 applicants have sought admission under this quota for this academic year.
Unfortunately the issue of non-fulfillment is being attributed by an insensitive University administration to the lack of applicants. And to add to this, a section of the media and college principals are using the logic of small number of applicants to argue that “precious” seats were going unclaimed each year even as general students struggle for admission.
This is a revealing example of the shallow approach that the University has acquired in dealing with the issue of making its “hallowed” portals accessible to students with disabilities. Using the argument of seats going unclaimed, the University authorities are gradually creating a case against the logic of three per cent reservation for students with disabilities.
The issue needs to be placed in the right perspective. The most important question that needs to be addressed is - why are these seats going unclaimed?
The answer to this question lies with the University administration, which has failed to take note of numerous instances and pointers by prospective students and disability sector who went hoarse trying to highlight problems of access and facilities for students with disabilities.
Delhi and national media kept coming out with stories of neglect, apathy and arrogance of the University administration. But nothing seems to have had an effect. Instead of even considering the issue to make long-term amends, the University seems to have conveniently brushed the issue under the carpet.
Professor S. K. Vij, Dean of Students’ Welfare (D.S.W.), has been conveniently evading the issue of this shortfall, and leaves it to individual colleges by saying, “After the last date for admissions, it is the discretion of the college as to what they do with these seats. We have no say in it.”
This is not all, as college principals see the reservation for disabled students as a liability rather than an issue of rights for equal participation. The statement of Jitender Kaur, Principal of Shaheed Bhagat Singh College, is a case in point: “The University forces us to keep these seats vacant, no matter how many general category students may be knocking at our doors. There is a letter saying that ‘don’t fill these seats till you hear from us’. But the communication that should say that these seats may be given to other students never arrives.” D.S.W. or the authorities do not seem to ever communicate to the colleges to provide access for students with disability. This is in spite of the legislation, which was passed ten years ago. Several disabled students are opting from private colleges or correspondence courses only because of lack of accessibility, including the unavailability of disabled friendly U-Specials. Many disabled students drop out of the college as they find it extremely difficult to study in an unfriendly environment.
The only ray of hope to make the Delhi University disabled friendly, is the Public Interest Litigation filed against them in the Delhi High Court, which is coming up for hearing in August 2005.