This was not an ordinary classroom, neither an ordinary training centre, nor a mundane event. This day was for the differently abled. Flagged off on August 9 in Kolkata, the East Zone Regional Abilympics, or Kolkata Abilympics, was a skill-based competition that provided a platform for the differently abled from the eastern states.
MD Shamim Allam, a tailor from Patna, is orthopedically disabled. He came to Kolkata to display his talent in the dress-making competition at the Abilympics. Similary, with a paralysed left hand, Sohini Mondal, who trained at the MAAC Institute, designed a flier for an ice-cream shop with hopes of winning the ICT competition. “I became crippled after suffering from polio five years ago. I’ve come here to participate in desktop publishing. I do small designing jobs from home and I thought I should test my skills at the Abilympics,” shared Jharkand-based Sham Sunder Sarkar.
Organised every year, the event tests competitors’ mental, physical and creative abilities. Participants get a chance to display their skills at everything — from computer programming to bakery to floral arrangements to tailoring.
The Kolkata event, hosted by the National Abilympics Association of India (NAAI), under the aegis of Sarthak Educational Trust with the support of The Hans Foundation, witnessed the participation of over 100 people with disabilities (PwDs) participating in various vocational skill competitions on Day 1. The East Zone Regional Abilympics Day 2 saw Job Fairs conducted by 25 companies at the Vocational Rehabilitation Centre for the Handicapped housed at 81, EN Block, Sector V, Salt Lake City, Kolkata.
The ceremony was graced by Debabrata Chattaraj, State Commissioner for Disability, Government of West Bengal, as chief guest; Nirmalya Khan, Vice-President, Capgemini; Lov Verma, former Secretary, DePwD; Dr Jitender Aggarwal, Founder-CEO, Sarthak, and Secretary-General, NAAI.
“Abilympics are Olympics showcasing the abilities and tremendous competitive zeal of PwDs,” said Dr Jitender Aggarwal. “About 65% Divyangjan live in villages and Sarthak Educational Trust intends to reach out to rural entrepreneurs through vocational training in livelihood models. Here, Sarthak will work as a catalyst in training and creating a sustainable ecosystem for Divyanjan,” he added.
‘PwDs should be included in every sector’
‘Inclusion of PwDs should happen at each successive stage — right from the admission of students through schooling and post-graduate studies to the corporate sector coming forward to give them jobs — will help in giving Divyanjan in our state the right to livelihood. Insurance companies should make schemes affordable to them. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds should be used to address their essential needs and help establish their identities. All we have to do is come out of the notion of physical and mental deformities declared by government under the PwD Act and accept these differently abled people by bringing them into the mainstream. The regional Abilympics will glorify the state and spread the success stories of the participants globally’
— Mr Debabrata Chattaraj, State Commissioner for Disability, Government of West Bengal
Recruitment drive for PwDs
One of the major attractions of the event is the Job Fair on Day 2, where over 25 companies will conduct a hiring drive for PwDs from Kolkata. This year, such companies as Capgemini, Genpact, IHG, Big Basket, Reliance, Flipkart, Lemon Tree, Hindustan Unilever, Hyatt Hotel and many more will be conducting a drive to hire Divyangjan.
‘There are several Divyanjan IAS officers. Similarly, there are many PwDs across several industries — health, entertainment and so forth. This, in itself, shows that Divyangjan are a brilliant talent pool that needs to be explored and I’m happy and positive that Sarthak Educational Trust’s belief in skilling of Divyangjan in the rural areas of West Bengal will set a new benchmark for the community’
- Lov Verma, Secretary, DePwD
Stakeholders spurring growth
Since its inception in 2001, Regional Abilympics have seen immense growth, with several stakeholders, such as the government, corporate houses, prospective employers, crowd-funding platforms, investors and start-ups, joining hands to extend support and appreciate the skills of PwDs.
4 zones, 10 segments
The Kolkata Abilympics was spread across 4 zones and 10 vocational segments
- Character Designing
- Desktop Publishing
- Floral Arrangements
- Beauty Therapy
- Architecture designing through CAD
The winners in each segment will represent their zones at the National Abilympics and stand a chance to represent India in the International Abilympics, 2020, scheduled to take place in China.
A regional conference, Corporate Progression towards Inclusion & Diversity, was also held and saw participation of several government officials, NGOs, corporates and their CSR heads discussing the prospects and scope of empowering and providing sustainable livelihood to PwDs to help them lead a dignified life