Persons with disabilities (PwDs) across the States are having tough times in managing day-to-day affairs in the absence of caregivers as well as essential supplies and medical aid because of the lockdown imposed to curb spread of the coronavirus.
This, despite clear guidelines from the Centre to the States issued late last month that they should ensure that the sector has smooth access to essential support services, including caregiver support, supplies and medical aid at their doorstep, pointed out Arman Ali, Executive Director, National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP).
He said, “Our helpline 73039 44839 set up to provide guidance to the PwDs has been keep on buzzing with requests and complaints since its launch on March 29.”
For instance, many people with Thalassemia have complained of facing difficulty in blood transfusion as limited blood is available in hospitals. Many private hospitals have ceased to deliver their services. For persons who do not have private transportation, arranging transportation for basic health services is a major task.
“We got a call from a PwD from Nagpur in Maharashtra, that he has not been able to take his pregnant wife to the hospital as there is no transportation available due to the lockdown, while, the State Government is yet to ensure ration for PwDs on urgent basis.”
Ali explained that it becomes difficult for PwDs who have mobility issues to step out for buying essentials. Also, the extra pension of Rs 1,000 announced by Finance Minister Sitharaman in her economic package is yet to reach to the intended beneficiaries, he said.
Moreover, in view of the rising prices of essential commodities, this amount is far from sufficient. Just recently, Shakunthla Gamlin, Union Secretary(DPwDs), following complaints from the sector, asked the States to ensure easy accessibility of the caregivers to the PwDs by issuing them e-passes on priority basis.
“One key reason for the gap is that Disability Commissioners have been designated as nodal officers under the central guidelines, but in many States Disability Commissioners have either not been appointed, are hard to reach, or are unresponsive,” said Ali.
However, some States have started taking disabled-friendly steps, though more are needed. Karnataka and Assam have developed videos and circulated information on Covid19 while Uttarakhand has facilitated easy movement of caregivers, as well as any assistance required by PwDS in terms of food, medicines or counselling. States like Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu too have set up separate helpline numbers.
On their part, Jharkhand and Delhi Governments have issued special e-passes specific for PwDs while for people with hearing impairment, states such as Tamil Nadu, Punjab and Karnataka have enacted video conferencing facilities with sign language interpreters.
To ensure that daily wagers with disabilities should not suffer due to the lockdown, Family of Disabled (FoD), an NGO has launched fund raising initiative.
“These are the people, who despite of their disabilities were making both the ends meet and were leading a respectable life. We hope these unfortunate circumstances won’t last long and contribution from good Samaritans will help in re-establishing them in their respective trades,” Preeti from the FoD said.