Tag: change

People with Disabilities in India: Hopelessness and Hope

Today International day for People with Disabilities is being observed around the world.

Here in India, we also have various events to commemorate the day like every other year but PWDs continue to live in extreme poverty, facing different types of discrimination, poor quality of life and hopelessness.

PWDs in villages are still being mocked and are identified by their impairments. Disability is largely considered a consequence of one’s past life sins or karma instead of being a physical condition and disease. Widespread awareness is still lacking among people who are both educated and denied education.

PWDs are often looked down upon or looked at in a manner that makes them feel worthless. Even when we show compassion and kindness, it is more out of pity rather than the actual intention of helping the person grow. Our behavior is attached with stigma and discrimination and our use of words affects their self-esteem, confidence and faith in themselves. Some even don’t dare to attend public functions in fear of being rejected, mocked or looked down upon or considered as helpless creatures. Many are confined to their homes all their lives.

Although, disability is often a low priority for the government, in the recent years there have been many initiatives taken. In 2013, while I was working in Jharkhand, it was the first year the District Administration was observing Disability Day. This is almost 20 years after IDPWD was declared globally and more than 15 years after the PWD Act 1995 was passed. It is tragic that such a global event had been ignored for so long while there also seems to be a glimmer of hope as the District Disability Rehabilitation Centre was started on that day as well.  There are various rights for PWDs outlined in the Act and there are various social welfare schemes initiated by the government but they hardly promote empowerment, wellbeing, and freedom. At the ground level, the initiatives by the government are limited to disability pension of Rs 600/- p/m. In addition to the fact that the amount barely provides for basic needs, it is very irregular. Pensions are received once in 6 months or sometimes once a year. Even when they receive the amount, it is used to meet family expenditures making it close to impossible to have a decent quality of life dependent on the pension.

A few other initiatives by the government include the provision of assistive devices like wheelchairs and tricycles for PWDs (but not all) with restricted movements. These events are rare and when these equipments are given, they are of very poor quality and often do not last long. When a few PWDs actually utilize them, their movements are still restricted as the rural infrastructure such as roads, houses, toilets are inaccessible.

Apart from this, in order to avail any government benefits, PWDs are required to have disability certificates. Unfortunately, by 2012 when my colleagues in EHA had started working in the area in Jharkhand, very few had disability certificates in the region. Around 80 – 90 percent of PWDs were not registered or given certificates. The certification is a lengthy process which requires multiple visits to the district headquarters. It is both time consuming and a financial burden. Caregivers or family members who are dependent on daily wages find it especially difficult to get the work done. Even this disability certification process is not exempt from corruption. People with lesser impairments sometimes pay and get higher than 40% percentage of disability in order to access government schemes easily. On the other hand, there have been instances where people could not pay and have got lower percentages of Disability during certification.

As stated above, there are many challenges and barriers to a better quality of life such as social, financial, institutional and infrastructural.

There are hardly any government initiatives that focus on capacity building, skill development, education and empowerment of PWDs. Skill development programs which are functioning are more of a hype rather than doing any sustainable good.

It is 26 years since the first human development report was published by UN based on the capability approach. The government should focus more on building capacities, providing opportunities and an environment to utilize their skills, disable friendly technologies and accessible markets. Moreover, to create a community and society which is open, educated enough and inclusive in order to provide an enriching environment which is necessary for better quality of life.

However, it is not all hopeless. In the recent years, many Non-Governmental photo1729Organizations have come up to work in this area of disability, focusing on the right based and empowerment approach. In rural areas a few well informed NGOs are trying to strengthen the rural institutions and helping in forming disability people groups in order to work for their rights. The Government is also increasingly coming up with policies but the implementation is still dependent upon the mercies of the officials.

Hope is raising, change is happening but the question is can we be satisfied with this? Satisfied by the disguised notion that things are changing? If we are satisfied with the way things are changing, we are doing injustice by denying their rights. We need to be impatient, because the way things are changing, by the time we ensure an equal society and wellbeing for all, millions of lives would have been lost without education, quality of life, wellbeing, freedom and even without having to dream.

As the popular quote from Nehru’s speech on the eve of India’s Independence goes, “At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom”. I wonder we are still waiting for that stroke which will bring with it life and freedom to other relevant aspects of our lives.

Let’s observe the International Day for People with Disabilities as a reminder that a lot is still to be done much more than what we have achieved so far.

Love

Abinash

P.S. Contributed by Rachel

No more “Teach a man to fish, he will eat for life”…

For ages, development, social work, social change and many other professions focusing on empowerment have had the old Chinese Proverb as a guiding Star “ Give a man a fish, he will eat for a day, Teach a man to fish, he will eat for life”.

We have followed this in our work and have communicated it strongly as a principle. But just today I came across a very interesting modification to this principle. This has been outlined in the “Barefoot Guide to Working with Organizations and Social Change”.

Barefoot

Source: Barefoot Guide to Working with Organizations and Social Change pg no: 6

Often a lot of development activities done under this banner, end up teaching the community to fish claiming that it is sustainable. In working with People with disabilities in our project, it means that providing services makes them dependent for life but teaching them skills makes them independent or empowered for life. But in this complex society that is undergoing constant change, the skills that they learn are dependent on the circumstances. As long as the river or the circumstances are favorable, they would be able to use their skills but when things change, they either have to learn new skills or end up where they started.

But as this new twist to the Chinese Proverb suggests, organizing of Community would help them come up their own solutions. This is often overlooked in development activities. We say we believe that Community has strengths but often don’t act on it. This often leads to project driven interventions which have quicker results but often last only till the situation remains the same.

We in the Community Based Rehabilitation Project are moving to the next phase and are planning to expand our work and follow the Community Organizing (CO) process with People with Disabilities. In our previous experience, the CO process has been difficult and time taking as it does not yield immediate results. But coming across this new twist to our guiding principle has been encouraging.

I am looking forward to this new phase in our project and although the future looks hazy and the task is huge. I hope as a team, we would develop an attitude that, people, even the most helpless ones have inherent strengths that can be developed. I pray that as we move ahead, we will be able to facilitate our communities to come together for social change, no matter how difficult the work gets. This we believe would result in transformation and restore hope.

Happy Reading

God Bless…

Water- the Elixir of Life or May be Not…

This was my first visit to Chukru, a small village in the Palamu district. Although I had heard quite a bit about the village, it did not prepare me for what I saw and heard. Here is an account of my experience of my field visit, a very familiar but tragic tale.

Chukru is notoriously well known as the village, with record number of people affected with Skeletal Fluorosis, a condition caused by extensive exposure to Fluorine content in the water. A limited exposure would lead to the dental condition, Fluorosis but a chronic exposure could scar you for life. But Chukru is not only famous for this issue but also the extensive amount of work done on paper and feeble attempts in reality both by government and non- government agencies.

It is said that almost every NGO who initiated work in the Palamu district (one of the most backward districts in the state) had visited the village, made promises only to never come back. The people of the village, frustrated have lost hope and are afraid to trust any more.

I had visited the village because our staff shared that they were finding it difficult to reach out to people (we work with people with disabilities and their rights) as they didn’t want to even access their rights which were available.

Here are lives of two families I met, which is a representation of almost every family in the village.

Upendar is 9 years old, a happy go lucky kid just catching few minutes of play before school started. As I stopped to chat with him, I found that both he and his brother Ajay have been victims to this dreadful condition. Although other discussions held in the village showed that most people who were affected, manifested symptoms only after their twenties.

As we talked, his mother walked in nonchalantly (not a usual sight in the village, especially when there are strangers in your house). She didn’t seem expectant at all, giving me the feeling that she was used to people interviewing their family. Still determined, I sat to talk to her as well. She shared of her three children, both the boys were the ones affected.

The family had also spent a lot of money in treatment and finally gave up as they did not get any medical help.I told her that I had met her son and that he was a bright kid. She beamed as she proudly declared that she was determined to give both her sons good education, as it was the only source of hope.

The other family I met were a couple both very old and had lived with this condition for almost 30 years. In addition to this, they also do not have any children and are dependent on each other. Both of them shared they had adjusted to this life and have no expectations of any change.

A crowd had gathered around us and people were enquiring was this the meeting that was supposed to happen. I was surprised as we did not plan any meeting, when we found out that another “NGO” had come to hold a meeting to discuss the issue. People shared that this was a non-stop happening as the village has been a constant attraction. They asked me what would I do, I didn’t have an answer.

We explained that we are not here to solve their water crisis rather to work with people who are already affected. We enquired if the people had taken any steps, they shared that they had protests, marches but each time same promises were made to shut them up. I have no clue what we will be able to do in this village as everyday people are still drinking the same infected water and just waiting for the worst to happen, a destiny they feel that cannot be changed.

We, in the project don’t want to be just another NGO with promises, the magnitude of the problem scares me but am reassured by this very familiar verse “My Grace is sufficient for you, My strength is made perfect in your weakness”. I am not sure of the way forward but one thing I know is that for any sustainable change to happen, it is absolutely necessary for people to be part of that process. I believe that there is light at the end of this tunnel in Chukru; it’s just a matter of time till we reach there.

If you are reading this, I would appreciate any thoughts, feedbacks and experiences you might have on similar issues.

Thank you

God Bless.Photo5972

Social Transformation is possible!!!

There has been a continuous effort by development workers and government to find the best model for social transformation. So many experiments and so many models have been implemented but the success is yet at a very far distance. Lots of money has been spent on development both in rural and urban in our country but there has not been any remarkable transformation experienced which can be taken as ‘The Model’.

Why is this? What is the reason? Why isn’t there any tangible change? Is not it the time for us to think rather than trying the same methods and wasting time? What is that missing or what is that which is hindering the transformation process in our communities?

The community I am working with is a very poor community. Hundreds of NGOs and government organizations have been working for development and thousands of projects have been implemented. Our own organization has been working since many years and has implemented almost ten projects. There is some changes visible but that is not the change we are looking for. It is not a holistic change in our communities. The complexity of problem is so much that sometime I lose hope that nothing is going to happen. I am sometimes scared to hope to have hope for transformation. If I can’t hope anything then I am wasting my time here and I am working in vain. Am I just working for my livelihood? If it is so then this is the most heinous thing I am doing, I am selling poverty; I am selling suffering for my living. It is really a time for me to think what am I doing? Is there any hope that my hard work would pay off somewhere or I am just spending my days out here? Is this GOD wants us to do or He does have some other plan? Is God telling us to do the same things we have been doing or do we not understand His purpose? Are we missing out His way of doing? I don’t know but I don’t see any hope in the way we are doing stuff. It doesn’t make sense to me anymore. If you are working in a similar community or you have experienced you may understand what I mean.

But every problem has a solution. There is always a way out. We should find out the thing which is missing in the communities we are working with. What is that one thing which can be the factor for transformation, the complete transformation of people and society? Why do we do things what we do? What makes people in the community do things the way they do? What makes them think the way they think? I think it is the values that are existing in the community. Is it “value” that is missing, the value system in the society? What does it have to do with transformation?

Value is something which is the fuel for living. It makes society function the way it functions. It is natural but where have we lost it? If we see some examples of nature we may understand. As the proverb says – “Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider its ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest”. – Pro-6:6-8. Ants have no commander, no chief yet they work hard and with discipline. Nobody watches them or monitors them yet they work with honesty. The value that they have which makes them work systematically without any leader. Everybody understands their role and responsibility. They are that’s why called wise. But in our case, even after having chief and supervisors we don’t do our part.

If we look at the life of a honey bee we have lot more things to learn from. –They work diligently. They do all the things to complete the tasks they have accepted to do. They work in team by sharing the responsibility. One group of bees collects nectar from flowers and brings to the hive and passes the nectar to other workers who chew the nectar to make it more digestible. Another group spread the chewed substances around the honeycomb. Another group fans the substance to dry. The group visits around 2, 25,000 flowers a day just to get 30 grams of honey and they flew approximately 1600 round trips a day. (Cultivating Character, Character Solution International)

Wow! What a creature. They show diligence, hard work and teamwork, sharing and caring for their community without a leader telling them to do so. Nobody monitors them but everybody does their task well. This is the value and the character that honey bees teach us. This is the importance of values in society. If we have values as human beings, the society will function automatically in a way it is supposed to. If we have good values and characters then we will live to the fullest.

That’s why I believe if the value system changes there will be transformation in every segment. If people cultivate values in life, there would be change in situation, change in people’s condition, and change in life…change in attitude… If everybody understand their responsibility and have values, there would be completeness, harmony, stewardship and peace in lives and society. Life would be beautiful.

How would the value system change? I don’t see it possible; it is again too difficult for me to have hope. There are wrong things which have been practiced for so long that it has become a regular practice and people no more consider it wrong. Let me give you an example from my experience (Another experience I had already posted before)-there was a group who came to us for help to run the PDS scheme in village. They had gone through some procedures and in some procedures they thought we could help them in getting that. When they came to us, our Project Manager took some time to discuss with them about their families. They were from poor families. Then we wanted to know if they run the scheme how they would earn livelihood.  Then they explained to us about the scheme. And it was such a thing we had never expected. They told 30 KG of rice comes for each family from government and from which they would give them 28 KG and keep 2 KG each and sell them in market to get their profit. Same is with oil and dal too. When asked if it is right to do so, they said it has been a practice in every village and there is nothing wrong in this. They would take another person’s share and still they are not able to understand that something is wrong in this. It is not their fault but the way it has been happening. A long practice has become the system and it is no more wrong. We don’t have a value system which would tell us that it is wrong. There are so many things happening in our communities just like this.

That’s why I believe, if the value system changes, there will be hard work, truth, there would be no corruption, there would be mutual respect and respect for human being… kindness, love for human being and nature….etc.. No lie, no hurt…there would be trust…

If people would have values in life, external condition would also change …no doubt in that…but how? Can a blind person show the way to another blind person? S/He needs a person who can see to guide him/her. Even though there are people who can guide the society the society is not changing. If somebody has to be healed he/she has to accept that there is sickness in him/her. People in our community should know that there is something wrong. Unless they don’t understand that how would they go for change? If somebody tells the person that he has a problem without the person realizes it, it would make the person more arrogant rather than the room for change. That’s what we have been doing. We are trying to tell them that their condition is bad and they need transformation. Even in a participatory way we are trying to tell them it has still been a failure. They have not internalized that there is a problem. They have not seen a better model than theirs. They have seen the difference physically but not the internal factors behind any change. Then who can tell them the internal factors? If it is you and me, then how? By telling them that there is a problem or telling the solution it is not going to work. Because people don’t learn the best by listening or seeing but they learn when they do it. In order to make them do we need to show them how it is done. We need to practice the thing that we want them to practice. We need to practice value that we want to see them practicing. When we live with them and practice good values, there is a change in value system in our circle and then it will pass on to a larger society. We need to show them by doing the things we want them to do. That is called the incarnation model.

The incarnation model is the answer… (Mr. George Kutty, our Project Manger helped me to understand this model) This is the model that Jesus showed us…He did not just preach us to love your neighbor, truth, forgiveness etc but he became 100% human and manifested these as a human being…He practiced what He said…He changed the world with the message of love, kindness and forgiveness and nonresistant to evil by force… He made tremendous influence in people’s life by showing how to do not by preaching. He just didn’t tell us to forgive but He forgave from the midst of highest suffering, from the cross he forgave His oppressors.

So we can do this by following the same model….by doing what we want to see…behaving the way we want others to behave to us. Practice those values in our lives. Showing how to live would teach others about living rather than just preaching… If we only preach, it would make people more resistant towards good values and characters rather than cultivating them.

Somebody has rightly said: “Preach the gospel always but when necessary use word”…Preach the gospel by your action….

I strongly believe “The incarnation Model” would bring change…if we practice those values in life, people around us will practice those values. when people around us practice those values, the surrounding would have the same value, then it would spread…And there would be change in value system…Once there would be change in value system, there will be change in the condition of human life and nature…the transformation would take place. In every souls and then in everywhere… there would be full of life…Our prayer would become true…”His kingdom come”. The Kingdom of God is not an external thing but it is within all of us. “The kingdom of God does not come with outward show, neither will people say, ‘Here it is, there it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you”. Luke-17:20-21. Therefore there should be transformation from within then the transformation in external world would take place without even human intervention.

I may sound idealistic but I am not. It is my belief  that if we practice, we will bring transformation…we are the workers of The Master who has sent us to do this…so let’s stop just preaching but practice, may it be in larger development field or in personal life…It is not easy way ahead…but it is possible…

Truly, The Incarnation Model will work and this will bring social transformation.

This is my hope… I believe this and if you believe that this would work, practice!!! If you don’t, share your thoughts….

Thank You

God Bless…..