Srinagar: Members of the Jammu and Kashmir Handicapped Association (JKHA) held a demonstration in the capital city of Srinagar, alleging apathy on the part of the administration. The protesters put forward several demands, including reservation for persons with disabilities in all government jobs.
President of JKHA, Abdul Rashid Bhat, told NewsClick that the union territory administration under LG Manoj Sinha has been ignoring their long-pending demands regarding reservations, an increase in monthly honorarium, and other social and economic assistance.
“There was a recent amendment on reservations of Scheduled Caste (SC), Schedule Tribe (ST) and Other Backward Classes (OBC) and we are also demanding similar reservations for persons with disabilities because we deserve it,” Bhat said.
Bhat said they have other pending demands, including the enhancement of pension. However, he added that the community has been ignored by the UT administration, similar to the previous political dispensations in the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.
The group’s demands include reservation in assembly, municipalities and panchayats, all colleges and universities; setting up of an advisory board for economic and social development of physically challenged persons; opening of separate counters for persons with disabilities in government and semi-government offices; and implementation of the Disability Act 2016.
“The authorities claimed that the disability act has been implemented but it does not reflect on the ground. The officials feign ignorance about it and ask us to bring a letter or order copy for the same. I fail to understand why there is no communication within the government offices about the law,” the JKHA President said.
Another protester, who travelled to Srinagar from South Kashmir’s Kulgam, said their demands are genuine and should be acknowledged immediately.
“We receive a monthly honorarium of Rs 1000, but it is very less. Our demand is that it must be increased to Rs 5000 per month so that we can survive,” he said.
According to official figures, there are over 360,000 person with disabilities in Jammu and Kashmir, of which 56.7% are male and 43.2% are female. Bhat, however, said the number is far higher as the previous data was based on the 2011 Census. “The persons with disabilities have reached the 1 million mark since then. Earlier, there were only seven categories that recognised disabilities, but now, under the new law, there are 21 categories of disabilities, which increases the numbers,” Bhat said.
The Jammu and Kashmir Handicapped Association has been fighting for the basic rights of people falling under the disability category throughout the region. Many of the persons he represents include victims of violence. Thousands in Kashmir have been injured in gunfights, bomb blasts, cross-border shelling, IED explosions, and so on. Since the last decade, over a thousand persons have been blinded by pellet guns, which have changed their lives forever. According to the data provided by the organisation, most of the persons with such disabilities belong to the border areas of Jammu and Kashmir.
This is the second such protest held by the association since March this year. Earlier the organisation held a nine-day-long protest in Jammu city, following which the administration assured them of help. “But, nothing has been resolved,” Bhat lamented.