Parties must address concerns of differently-abled in upcoming elections: Activists

Parties must address concerns of differently-abled in upcoming elections: Activists

New Delhi, Nov 14 (PTI) Advocacy groups for the rights of the differently-abled have urged political parties to address the concerns of such people in the upcoming Assembly elections, noting they should be treated equally, without being viewed through the lens of sympathy.

Ahead of the Assembly elections in five states of Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Telangana and Mizoram, disability rights activists participated in a webinar in which they demanded that political parties give importance to the agenda of the physically challenged.

Arman Ali, executive director at the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People, said the issue of 'disability' often remains overlooked.

'It is crucial to ensure that our rights are viewed not through the lens of social welfare or sympathy, but with a perspective that recognises our inherent dignity. Close contests are evident in elections, underscoring the importance of voting for individuals who genuinely advocate for our interests.

'We wield the power to shape or reshape the government, and it is incumbent upon us to exercise that power judiciously,' he said.

M Srinivasulu, a person with locomotor disability, founder member of the Network of Persons with disAbility Organisations, also said that the recognition should extend beyond mere sympathy.

'We must unite and acknowledge ourselves first as voters, understanding the significance of each vote. In Telangana, every constituency comprises 5,000 persons with disabilities (PWD), with one constituency hosting the highest number of disabled individuals at 11,000. In areas where the disabled population is substantial, we are actively engaged in work and raising awareness,' he said.

Hemant Bhai Goyal, a disability rights activist at the Federation of Disabled Rights, said it's not just individuals with disabilities, but their families are also profoundly affected.

'If reservations can be allocated in elections for scheduled castes (SC), scheduled tribes (ST), and other backward classes (OBCs), why can't a similar provision be extended to PWDs? Unfortunately, it appears that no political party is inclined to meet our demand. They seem content with providing devices like wheelchairs, tricycles, or pensions, but are reluctant to offer us equal opportunities,' he said.

Nicky Chhakchhuak, another disability rights activist, said Mizoram's hilly terrain poses a significant accessibility challenge.

'Livelihood and employment issues are major challenges faced by the disabled population in Mizoram and demand immediate attention. Unfortunately, there is a notable absence of political participation among people with disabilities,' he said.

'Moreover, the impact of poverty alleviation schemes is limited, lacking effective reach and meaningful benefits for this community. Addressing these issues is imperative for improving the overall well-being of the disabled individuals in Mizoram,' he added. PTI UZM MNK MNK MNK

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