Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Public servants or masters of the public?

How is this for a classic case of deflecting your work to other people for whom you are supposed to be doing the work? One of the people in my group of disability activists sent this mail to all members of the group:

During a conversation with the Chennai DDRO (district disability rehab officer), she asked us to provide a list of govt buildings in chennai that is very frequently used by PWDs, so that she would work on making them accessible in the first phase. She said she would look into the accessible features of all other Govt buildings in second phase and all public building as third phase. It sounded sensible to me.

Could you all suggest the govt buildings that PWDs frequently use in Chennai so that we could collate and come up with a list that could be handed over to DDRO.

I totally disagree with my colleague's finding this `sensible'. We all know how bureaucrats treat random disabled people who walk/wheel/crawl into their office and ask inconvenient questions. On the other hand, if the secretary of a senior officer with an impressive title like DDRO, calls somebody like the Postmaster of a local Post Office, or the manager of a local branch of a nationalised bank, and says that the details to specific questions addressing the accessability of their post office/bank have to urgently be made available to the DDRO in 48 hours vide GO 248/17/10/13 subsection (vii)(a), we can make a good guess as to the reaction!

Is it not the JOB of this DDRO to find out which govt. buildings need to be periodically visited by PwD, and make a serious study of accessibility features such as ramps, elevators, braille markings at judicious places, etc., etc - rather than asking a handicapped person to possibly crawl up steps, find out the usability of toilet facilities, etc. 

As somebody recently said, disabled people should brand themselves as a disadvantaged minority and demand of these government officials to put their money where their mouth is before hoping to be voted into power in the next elections. We must demand implementation of many of our rights that have been enacted in our law books rather than be the silly nice guys we are, attempting entreaties, pleas and reason with a bureaucracy which moves only when there is a pot of gold at the end of it all! Or as the Americans would say in their colourful way, the only way to get anywhere is through some serious kick-ass!

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