In heartening news, Nishtha Dudeja, a commerce graduate from Sri Venkateshwara College won the title of Ms India Deaf, 2018. The 22 year old, in a report by Amar Ujala, said that she had spent a year in preparing for the contest, learning ramp walk and dancing. A prolific tennis player, Ms. Dudeja also represented India in lawn tennis during Deaflympics 2013 (Bulgaria) and World Deaf Tennis Championship 2015 (UK) and Deaflympics 2017 (Turkey).
In the three-day pageant held from 24th to 26th February organised by the Rajputana Deaf Arts and Culture Society (RDACS) in collaboration with All India Deaf Arts and Culture Society (AIDACS), Ms. Dudeja showcased her skills at being the best on the ramp, which also included Bhangra dancing. Her father, B.D. Dudeja, mentioned how she had been a stubborn child since her childhood, learning speech therapy for several years. He also admitted to feeling unlucky earlier about his fate being the father of the differently-abled child. “We now feel very lucky to have her. She is very caring,” he concluded.
The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995 provides for both preventive and promotional aspects of rehabilitation in areas like education, employment and vocational training, reservation, research and manpower development, creation of barrier-free environment and so on. However, such measures have rarely been implemented. A recent survey by the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) found that thirty-two of India’s top universities and institutions of higher learning , including IITs, IIMs, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Delhi University, have together filled up barely 16% of the minimum quota for people with disabilities. The survey also found women students with disabilities made up of 28% of the disabled students in these institutions. This was later followed by a statement in December, 2017 by the Vice-Chancellor, Yogesh Tyagi who resolved to start a centre for disability studies soon for further inclusion-oriented research.
However, there is a larger culture of silence and neglect that afflicts disabled people in the country. Speaking of her travels abroad, Ms. Dudeja remarked how people with disabilities were given equal opportunities there instead of mere compassion. In India, they are made to feel weak which is something very harmful.
Nevertheless, Ms. Dudeja’s achievement does bring in inspiration for people with disabilities to pursue their dreams against heavy odds.
Feature Image Credits: India Today