The Indian contingent has put up a phenomenal performance at the Tokyo Paralympics 2020. As we bask in the glory of our achievements in sports we should not forget that 2.21% of our population are differently-abled as per the National Statistics Office.
The Survey of Persons with Disabilities 2018 highlighted that among persons with disabilities of age 15 years and above, Labour Force Participation Rate in usual status was 4.2 percent.
The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy states that over 1.5 million Indians lost their jobs in the second wave of the pandemic. The state of those who are differently-abled is even critical.
In such a context Tiruvallur offers a bright spot. The Tiruvallur district administration has started a full-time counselling center for the differently-abled so that they can secure a place at private-sector jobs as well as be adequately equipped for self-employment.
Bridging the gap
The idea of starting this one of a kind initiative took shape when Dr Alby John Varghese, IAS had come across multiple grievance petitions from differently-abled citizens when he took charge as the District Collector on June 18th, 2021. He noticed that most of the petitions were about employment. The economic distress on account of the pandemic added to the burden.
In some situations, the District Collector himself intervened and tried to get some of them placed. Subsequently, a job fair was organized by the district administration exclusively for the differently-abled. This was publicised throughout the district. It was at this juncture that Dr Alby John understood the mismatch between demand and supply of jobs. A solution had to be devised to bring the two aspects together.
“There is a large number of differently-abled people who are waiting for jobs and there are also many companies who are willing to take them in. We thought a Counselling center is a good idea to bridge the gap,” the DC explained.
Working on the project
The Counselling Center is manned by an NGO partner, ‘We Are Your Voice’. Presently all the petitions of the differently-abled people, which have come up to the district administration in the last few months are being taken up.
The district administration is not only focused on private employment but self-employment as well by providing credit through the district industries center and other organizations. The aim is to ensure that these people can start their industry or business as well and live a dignified life.
This new initiative is a demand-driven project. Any person can get himself or herself registered at the center or may call or mail at the official number. At first, a biodata is secured from the person and then the team will have a conversation with the person based on the biodata. The Center assesses the aptitudes of the people and decides in which sector they can be employed. Based on that, the district administration is trying to place them in different industries. “At times some amount of upskilling is required. We are looking into that aspect as well as part of the center,” the Collector said.
A positive response
The Center has been widely popularized across the district. The District Collector said that people are coming in large numbers and getting themselves registered at the Center. “We have got around 100 plus applications on the first day,” the DC informed.
While setting up more such centers across the district might seem plausible Dr Alby John, IAS thinks otherwise. “We are trying to reach out to all the differently-abled through this Center alone. I think through the use of technology we will be able to overcome the barrier of distance. I think upscaling this center would be a better strategy,” he shared.
A Counselling Center for the differently-abled is a new idea. Dr Alby John and his team are learning by themselves. The District Collector pointed out that placing these specially-abled people is not a problem. The challenge lies in ensuring that they continue working and be involved in the job for a considerable period.
Moreover, the work environment should be conducive for them and be friendly for the differently-abled.
At times all the industries are concentrated in one particular belt of the district while the people come from different parts of the district. So the challenge for the district administration lies in arranging transport for them. “Hopefully we will be able to address all the issues involved,” Dr Alby John assured.
The big picture
The Tiruvallur district administration has tried to identify all the differently-abled in the district through an identification exercise. So far around 23,000 people have been identified who have been given Aadhar enabled ID cards.
“There are 21 different types of disabilities and each of them has different challenges. We are trying to identify the challenges and address them individually,” the District Collector informed.
Around 6000 of the eligible 15,000 people have been vaccinated as well. Many benefits like wheelchairs and hearing aids have been distributed. Recently 6000 mobile phones were provided to the blind which would help in better communication and strengthening interpersonal relations.
Towards an inclusive society
Every individual is entitled to a dignified life. As we progress as a nation, our society needs to be more inclusive and understanding so that no individual feels left out.
Dr Alby John said, “All citizens, especially the differently-abled should be able to do everything whatever any normal person can do in life whether it is the right to education or employment. This would help them to stay connected and integrated with the society and the political and social ecosystem.”
“A lot needs to be done. We need to make our public spaces, our administrative and educational systems more accessible. It is a long road ahead but with the help of all the citizens we can make it possible,” he added.
Let us take a cue from Tiruvallur and work together for the collective wellbeing of all individuals.