Saturday, 10 February 2018

Open letter/plea to Mr. Pronoy Roy

Dear Mr. Roy,

I would like to ask a favour of you. Let me first introduce myself properly. I am (was?) a moderately accomplished and suitably decorated mathematician twenty years ago. Then I got multiple sclerosis 15 years ago, and slowly lost mobility. Ever since then, I have devoted a fair amount of time in disability activism. Incidentally, there are many such activists spread all over India, e.g., Shivani Gupta (Puttaparathi), Dr. Satendra Singh (Delhi), Vaishnavi Jayakumar (Chennai), and Muralidharan (Delhi) - all a lot more progressive minded than just about the only person with disability (PWD, from Delhi) who is ever consulted by the news media, including NDTV.

It is true, but rarely highlighted by the Press, that PWD have suffered at almost each of the series of brainwaves inflicted on the nation by the Modi-Jaitley duo, for instance:

(a) Demonetisation: did they spare a thought for a wheelchair user being forced to go at least once a week to a bank whose branches and ATMs are invariably totally inaccessible, or a blind person who suddenly has to deal with a new set of notes where notes of different denominations cannot be easily distinguished;

(b) Aadhar linking: People with various kinds of disability have difficulty in
recording a clear set of fingerprints: eg., a leprosy cured person may only
have a stump!

(c) GST: We saw calipers, wheelchairs and prosthetic limbs being taxed at 18%, while Agarbattis incurred 0% tax.

(d) Public transport: Wheelchair users like me have no access to public transport: the floors of metros and platforms do not match, it is impossible to get on a bus or a local train... We have to go by autos; and the rise in petrol/diesel prices does not make this an attractive option, especially when your disability makes it difficult to be gainfully employed.

(e) The whole issue of playing the National Anthem at the end of a movie when wheelchair users got manhandled for not standing up and marking their respect for the flag or got shouted down by apoplexic generals for not keeping their hand on their chest during the playing of the anthem.

(f) Budget: The budget has made no mention of provisions to fulfil the promises inherent in the RPD Bill of 2016, the Accessible India Campaign or Right to Education. Where are the funds to make a promised number b of buidings in c cities accessible by the end of 2018? (Incidentally the numbers b and c are woefully small and inadequate to make the large number N of our towns truly accessible!)

Now for that favour: I would love to see NDTV run a show (of the sort used in the Major Bakshi apoplexy episode discussed in (e)) with Modi and Jaitley occupying two of the six boxes and being bombarded on issues as above by Shivani, Satendra, Vaishnavi and Murali (occupying the remaining four boxes).

Looking forward to an early and positive response,
Thanks, and regards,

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