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Answer question on disability in 2011 census, urges campaign

Tuesday November 16, 2010 05:10:45 PM, Azera Rahman, IANS

New Delhi: Disability carries social stigma in India. But now a new campaign, 'Badhate Kadam', hopes to fight this stigma and urges people to answer a question on disability in the 2011 census.

The campaign has been organised by the National Trust, an autonomous body under the social justice and empowerment ministry. Into its second edition, the campaign this year will be flagged off Tuesday by Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Mukul Wasnik.

"The whole idea of this campaign is to bring about an attitudinal change in the community. Just like you have physical ramps which help the physically disabled to go to an escalated height, we want to do a mental ramping," said Poonam Natarajan, chairperson of the National Trust.

"Last year the campaign went to 13 states, this time we will go to 29. A large number of people with developmental disabilities and others will be there to share their success stories to inspire people.

"Disability is not a disease and we will also talk to doctors, so that they stop treating such people as patients," she added.

"The campaign will go to 29 states over 13 days, for the first time reaching people who feel ashamed to admit that. As part of our campaign therefore, we will request people to come out with the truth so that they can benefit from various government schemes," Natarajan told IANS.

India does not have an official estimate of the number of disabled people.

The census question asks if a member of one's family has any problem in seeing, hearing, speech, movement, has mental retardation, mental illness or multiple disability.

According to NGO estimates, there are roughly 60 million disabled people in India. According to a survey, almost 95 percent of the country's disabled population has no access to education, employment and healthcare.

Michael J. Rosenkrantz, capacity builder at the National Trust, said interesting and colourful posters are one of the important tools in their campaign.

"There is a poster which shows disabled kids saying they have a right to life, right to education and right to equality. There is another one which says they have the right to employment and to family and relationships," Rosenkrantz said.

"In the last edition of our campaign we realised that language is an issue if you want to reach across to people, so this time we have our partner NGOs in the states translating the posters and messages in the regional languages and even the theme song," he added.

There will be eight 'melas' or fairs in different parts of each state over the two-week period. A team of six volunteers, including a disabled person, will organise the fairs. There will be discussions, cultural programmes and other events.

The campaign will also aim to raise awareness on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) which promotes the rights of people with disabilities.





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