Disability News India (DNI)
Disability News India (DNI), is a disability News service dedicated to providing a quality up-to-date information to the Indian Disability. DNI's news section is updated two times a week, though we also add breaking stories as and when they occur.
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The Magnificent Taj Mahal eludes 'Persons with Disabilities' – based on personal experience of C. Mahesh
DELHI UNIVERSITY'S DEBACLE AND DISCRIMINATION CONTINUES: Praveen Dalal
If you are a wheelchair/ crutch user or experience difficulty in walking be prepared for bureaucratic and architectural barriers that could come between you and the magnificent 'Taj Mahal' at Agra, India.
All vehicles (i.e if you are not from the influential group) are stopped a kilometer and a half away from the main entrance of the Taj Mahal. It is important to carry you own wheelchair and a physically strong escort who could push/ lift will definitely enhance your probability of a successful visit.
From the main entrance there are 2 ramps that lead you to main complex.
The 3rd ramp from the entrance – could be better called a 'slide'. After entering the complex through these two ramps one is very happy as you can see the Taj Mahal from a distance and soon after – your happiness ends.
Hold your breath the next ramp you have to navigate is at an inclination of approximately 45 Degree that spans a height of 6–8 feet. It is impossible to even walk on this ramp without a slip.
A steep ramp (slide) awaits you at the washrooms (toilets) which I did not dare to explore.
The ramps looks old (guesstimate 2–3 years ago) and definitely these ramps have not been put up recently.
I am sure many of the persons who have difficulty in walking would have stayed back and watched the 'Taj Mahal' from a distance of 300 meters and gone back quite disappointed.
The nearest you can get to the Taj Mahal if you are a wheelchair user ? an alternative to explore possibility of being carried down physically. If you do manage to get down the first level of 8 feet mentioned above, after a short walkway along the fountains you will have to climb two more levels (close to 20 feet) by steps to feel the white marble and to get an inside view of the Taj Mahal.
People from all over the world have been visiting the Taj Mahal for generations. Lack of resources is not an excuse. It is not that we do not have the 'know–how' or 'expertise' to come up with appropriate designs and standards that blend with the aesthetics of the place.
Personally, these 'so–called' ramps are testimony to the many half–baked attempts made in the name of 'inclusion' of persons with disabilities. And in the Year 2007 we need to renew the pledge to promote and create opportunities for All to live life with 'respect and dignity' and to be treated as Equals.
Let us work together to break these artificial barriers.
And finally whatever might be the shortcomings – never ever miss an opportunity to visit the Taj Mahal.
C. Mahesh, Bangalore, India
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has tremendous potential for providing a sound economic growth of a nation. The same can be a reality if we appreciate, accept and utilise ICT for the common betterment of people at large rather than acquiring the mere tag of a technologically advanced State. The correct approach is to adjust ICT as per the requirements and capabilities of people rather than adopting the reverse. In the Indian context, e–governance and e–commerce must be in conformity with the socio–economic conditions existing in India. One such socio–economic requirement of India is to adapt, utilise and apply ICT for the betterment of persons with disabilities. ICT must be indigenously developed and should be Indianised and localised before putting it in use for persons with disabilities. This is more so regarding the Universities providing basic education at the grass root level.
The first and foremost requirement to bring a just and reasonable culture is to keep things and concepts at place. In India education needs an overall haul and rejuvenation. The same requires an "intrinsic approach" rather than "external support". That is the requirement till the time we arrange things or concepts in order. At the same time we must pay adequate attention towards enabling the disabled people through the mechanism of e–learning. With all the challenges that India is facing in education and training, e–learning has a lot of answers and needs to be addressed seriously by the countries planners and private industry alike. In the knowledge economy the chief competitive advantage of nations is not their physical assets be it land, natural resources or even oil but quality and skill of their people. If used effectively, e–learning can reach education to a large constituency that would otherwise not have access to it. The need for a comprehensive legislation for safeguarding the rights of persons with disabilities and enabling them to enjoy equal opportunities and to help them to fully participate in national life was felt for a long time.
In India, the number of persons with disabilities is around 70 million. National as also International efforts to combat this situation are on but the task is a gigantic one. This task can be effectively and easily met if we use ICT for their empowerment. The method of e–learning must be used to impart them appropriate education. At the same time, vocational and professional skills must be made available to them at their own home through the medium of e–learning. The ICT strategy of India must be amended suitably to accommodate this much needed initiative.
In India we have large number of skilled disabled people who because of people negative attitute towards disabilities, environmental barriers and policies, cannot contribute to the development of the nation. Disability and Skill are two different facts and they must not be confused with each other. There is no good reason to presume that disabled people cannot be meritorious and skilled. All that is needed is to accommodate them as per their own physical and mental capabilities. Along with the "reservation policy" we must also provide them support of the ICT base. There is a need to amalgamate technology with the contents so that disabled people can be empowered suitably. It seems this fact skipped the attention of the policy makers as the present e–governance policy of India is not compatible with the requirements of disabled people. Perhaps in the near future some attention will be paid to this concept.
However, the policy makers were kind enough to make reservations in favour of disabled persons. They, however, forgot that "power without accountability is worst than no power". This seems to be true regarding University of Delhi where all sort of arbitrariness and extraneous considerations are playing their level best. The Delhi High Court on 4 April restrained the University of Delhi and all its affiliated colleges, which failed to provide three per cent reservation for disabled person in teaching department, from recruiting faculty members till further orders. I have not seen even single disabled person that has been appointed in the Faculty of Law, University of Delhi during last few years. Even the ad–hoc appointments have witnessed certain "uncertainties" that are within the knowledge of Delhi University. No doubt there are many court cases going on in Faculty of Law and University of Delhi. There is an emergent need of invoking Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act, 2005) as much as possible. The University of Delhi and Faculty of Law are not meeting the requirements of Right to Information Act, 2005 as per the letter and spirit of the Act. There is an atmosphere of "non–accountability" and "evasiveness" at both University of Delhi and Faculty of Law.
Praveen Dalal. All rights reserved with the author.
Arbitrator, Consultant and Advocate, Supreme Court of India.