Bollywood is a culture for most of the people in this country and this culture is on more occasions than one, problematic. It doesn’t to be stressed how stereotypes on colour, states and even disabilities have existed in B-town’s ‘family-oriented’ films.
From Tusshar Kapoor’s speech disability in the Golmaal franchise to mocking portrayals of disabilities in Sajid Khan films, differently-abled people have been used as laughing stock in Bollywood flicks.
One might argue that these are just ‘no brainer’ entertainers for the masses and hence, shouldn’t be taken seriously. However, this very argument is why we should be concerned with such portrayals. If the masses are just taught to sympathise or chuckle at the plight of the disabled, then the struggle for equality is really taking a step back.
Dr Atanu Mohipatra remarks, “Portrayal of disability in films swings primarily between two extremes –pity, fun, caricaturing, sympathy, and awesome heroism are at one end of the spectrum while discrimination, coping-up, emotional swings and aspirations of the human soul are at the other end.”
Still, with a new wave of cinema all over the country, the picture is slightly getting better. Filmmakers are focusing on representing more physical and mental disorders and disabilities. Dyslexia has become a term that more and more Indian people know now because of Aamir Khan’s Taare Zameen Par.
Barfi has a deaf protagonist. Shah Rukh portrays a man with Asperger’s in Karan Johar’s My Name is Khan (a director with otherwise quite a share of problematic content). Black has its Helen Keller-Anne Sullivan types relationship between Rani Mukherji and Amitabh Bacchan. While the arthouse scene in India already has had sensitive and well-researched content on disabilities (Margharita with a Straw being a recent example), the movies mentioned before should be considered too as they are made to appeal to the mainstream.
Again, the perspective of a differently-abled person from a non-disabled person might differ on matters. The critically acclaimed film Haider has the lead character avenge the death of his father by killing his uncle. At the end, when his uncle is caught in an explosion and loses his legs, Haider doesn’t kill him. He just leaves him to drag his own body and it’s assumed that the uncle suffers a torturous death.
Here again, matters get complex as there are high chances that writer Vishal Bhardwaj meant no offence to amputees and wanted to put this end as a part where the antagonist gets what he deserves. But then, an acquaintance of mine on further viewing found this to be a little insensitive as if the scene tells us that losing one’s legs is worse than death. There is no coherent solution but such questions to analyse films do show that attitudes can change.
As Riddhi Satti, a member of Glass Eye, the film society of Gargi College concludes it well, ‘The rise of representation of disabilities in movies is nice but then it depends on the content. It should be sensitive and should not romanticise disabilities at the same time and should basically cover how it’s important it is for us to normalise disabilities…’.
The Delhi Government has allocated 27 government hospitals in 11 districts to issue disability certificates to the applicants under the new central Rights of Persons with Disabilities (PwD) Act 2016, for 21 conditions.
Differently-abled candidates applying to the University of Delhi (DU) are in a dilemma as the Government of Delhi has notified the Varsity to accept disability certificates only from these 27 government hospitals.
This move could prove to be disadvantageous for many students as the certificates issued by other hospitals will not be considered for admissions under the PwD quota. Applicants are also discouraged because the procedure for availing these certificates may take a lot of time, and the students do not have that kind of liberty due to the fast closure of admissions.
According to the abovementioned Act, not less than 5% of seats in all institutions are to be reserved for PwD candidates. It also states that a relaxation of 5% is to be made for the candidates with respect to course-specific eligibility in the qualifying examination and the entrance test.
Akhilesh K Verma, who is in charge of DU’s Grievance Cell, stated that students have brought about this issue during open-day sessions, but his team has not received any formal written complaint against the same. “Without a written complaint, it won’t be possible to take any kind of action,” Verma said. “The department is following admission protocols.”
Verma further added that the students could submit provisional certificates that they have at hand, and proceed to make the authorized certificate from the respective hospitals.
Bipin Kumar Tiwari, Officer on Special Duty at the Equal Opportunity Cell, too, stated that many students did make inquiries about the decision of the Government. He said that it was not a new announcement and students had prior information about this change. “It should not be a problem for these students to get these certificates. Uniform certificates would make the procedures of admission smoother for the staff,” he added.
The procedure for acquiring the certificate is very simple. All that a candidate has to do is submit the needed disability documents to the selected hospitals and get them approved.
There is hope as the students can use the certificates they have at hand for now, but is important for them to get the certificates as soon as they can, to ensure smoother admissions.
For a visually disabled student, a task as simple as going from one classroom to another is very difficult without tactile paths. What facilities are available in the University of Delhi for students with disabilities? Let’s find out.
The built-up environment, meaning the basic amenities accessible to everybody to facilitate daily functions, is important. Hence, it should be barrier-free and adapted to fulfill the needs of all people equally. The needs of the differently-abled coincide with the needs of the majority. This is why planning for the majority implies planning for people with varying abilities and disabilities.
To ensure impartiality among students in the University of Delhi, the Equal Opportunities Cell was established in 2008, which works for the empowerment of students of the institution with certain disabilities and gives them equal opportunities in higher education.
The Equal Opportunities Cell, since its inception, has been working towards inculcating infrastructural changes in all the colleges that come under Delhi University to create an inclusive environment. Here are the facilities offered by some colleges in Delhi University: 1) Miranda House –
Miranda House has the Amba Dalmia centre within it’s library for the visually challenged students and also has computers that read out the text. There’s also an enabling unit called Lakshita. An app, which is installed in the phones of differently-abled students at the time of admission, called Digital Vision is also used. This app scans QR codes (which can be found outside every room) so that if somebody is within the radius of three feet from, the app is going to scan the code and give directions/number of steps to be taken. There are a number of ramps across the college. Braille books in the library and a Braille notice board are also available. There are scanners, e-book readers, voice recorders and a Braille embosser that converts printed text to embossed Braille dots for easy reading.
2) Lady Shri Ram College for Women –
Most of the buildings in LSR have ramps that make them wheelchair friendly. The college also has elevators for the same. However there are certain classes with a smaller door-frame which makes it difficult to enter with a wheelchair. The auditorium has a ramp but no railings, which can also lead to accidents. Menus and other important information is available in Braille. LSR also has a research centre for visually impaired students and almost all VCS get accessible readings. Workshops and mobility training for visually and orthopedically challenged students are also available.
3) Daulat Ram College –
DRC has a ramps in various places to make it wheelchair friendly. However the college has no elevators which could not allow wheelchair bound students to go beyond the ground floor. The college also has an enabling unit which assists students in multiple ways, including counselling them. NSS-DRC plays an essential role in helping differently-abled students. It provides them with volunteers who help them with assignments, help navigate across campus, act as writers during examinations and record audios and readings for them. These options are not exclusive to DRC students either, DRC-NSS co-ordinates and organizes these plans for students from different colleges and universities across Delhi. DRC also has an extensive collection of Braille books.
4) Hans Raj College –
HRC has four ramps across the college. Braille books and special softwares for the visually challenged students along with laptops are also provided to students. In addition, there is a Blind Students’ Club especially formed by Hans Raj College students to look after them. Hans Raj has both Equal Opportunity Cell (EOC) and Enabling Unit. The EOC provides the Enabling Unit with crutches, wheelchairs and angel recorders which end up helping VCS students, PwD students and orthopedically handicapped students. The EOC and Enabling Unit volunteers combined are more than 300. These volunteers help students in navigation, record books for them, help them with assignments and act as writers during examinations. Hans Raj has tactile paths both inside and outside the college. A lot of students had trouble feeling these tactile paths when they wore shoes. After three years of rigorous efforts, members of the EOC and Enabling Unit were able to get a tender passed which led to the installation of new tactile paths in the campus. The Equal Opportunity Cell and Enabling Unit also organized Roshini – an organ donation camp in association with National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organization. The “World White Cane Day” and “World Polio Day” are also celebrated in order to create awareness and to provide students with disabilities a platform to showcase their talents and express themselves.
5) Equal Opportunity Cell, University of Delhi –
EOC DU organizes various activities all year round to help differently-abled students. It commemorates World Disability Day, organizes Udaan a sports meet for students with disabilities, organizes debates on inclusion in society and provides students with guidance and counselling as well.
Discrimination is not the only problem that differently-abled students face. The everyday hassle of fighting with both lack of resources and ignorance among people around them is extremely disheartening. Seemingly small problems like cars parked on tactile paths, no railings on wheelchair ramps, a recorder that does not work well or a pothole on the street can cause immense stress and prove to be a hurdle in living a peaceful life. It is essential, therefore, that all colleges in the University of Delhi be as accessible as possible. The aforementioned list is a short one. In an ideal world, every college would have the above stated facilities and much more. Awareness, sensitivity and willingness to talk about the problems that students with disabilities face are ways to ensure that they get the resources they deserve. It is admirable that the NSS units, Equal Opportunity Cells and Enabling Units of so many colleges take immense steps to ensure that the lives of their peers become smoother and easier. It is crucial that our institutions continue to use technology, volunteers, sensitivity training and counseling to improve the lives of all of it’s students. The University of Delhi will truly be worth the hype and recognition that surrounds it when all it’s students have access to a nurturing learning intensive environment, not just the fully-abled ones.
In a progressive step towards giving equal access to PWD students, the University of Delhi will now have reserved seats for acid attacks survivors and students with thalassemia and dwarfism.
These reservations are mandated bythe Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016. According to this Act, all government institutions of higher education and other higher education institutions which get government aid must reserve at least 5% of the seats for persons with benchmark disabilities. Acid attack survivors and other disabilities such as dwarfism, muscular dystrophy, and slow learners have also been included under benchmark disabilities.
Anil K. Aneja, nodal officer of the DU equal opportunity cell claims that, “The files are under process and if everything goes according to the flow, we will implement the reservation policy as per the new act which asks to reserve 5 per cent seats for a person with benchmark disability during admission. We will also try to comply with the 4 per cent reservation in employment provision.”
Delhi-based acid attack survivor Laxmi Agarwal welcomed this move and said, “This will help create more awareness among people about acid attack victims. Most of the times, these victims feel alienated, and reluctance on our part to accept them further increases their plight. Reservation in universities such as DU is very supporting for us.”
In a survey conducted by the National Centre for Promotion of Employment of Disabled People (NCPEDP), it was found that a mere 0.56% of seats in higher education go to disabled candidates.
It is expected that after these developments, the university space will become inclusive.
With inputs from the New Indian Express and The Asian Age
The issue has its origin in the fact that the Governing Body of Hindu College has not reimbursed the amount of the fee waived in the last three years. As per an advisory of the University, the Governing Body must meet this expenditure through funds available to the college. Currently, the amount outstanding under this head is Rs. 7,19,313.
The HRD minister spent only 20 minutes in the college, during which the administration announced a complete hostel fee waiver and 50 percent reduction in the mess fee for disabled students. The minister arrived at 11 AM and left the college premises by 11:20 AM. She also met the college officiating principal Anju Srivastava, hostel warden Poonam Sethi and Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) president Nandita Narain. The warden claimed that the governing body didn’t allow the implementation of the scheme in the first place.
DUTA president Nandita Narain made a representation to Irani on the issue of victimisation of teachers, teachers’ pension scheme and the Choice Based Credit System (CBCS). Irani also personally met the teachers who have been on protest for 42 days against their penalisation by the college for writing a letter to the Delhi Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung to complain about alleged irregularities in the functioning of the college and certain construction work in the college campus.
Irani assured that she will mark the representation regarding Hindu College to the governing body and seek its response. She also said that the DUTA and other teacher associations will be invited before the review committee and that a meeting will be called to discuss controversial Choice Based Credit System.
Last week, DU’s Executive Council passed CBCS without discussion.
Image credits: DUTASidharth Yadav[email protected]]]>