Thousands of disabled people stage candlelight protest (Lead)

December 3rd, 2008 - 10:50 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Dec 3 (IANS) Some were on wheel chairs, others were using sign language to communicate and hundreds were standing firm with white sticks - over 10,000 physically challenged people took part in a candle-light march here to highlight their plight on World Disability Day Wednesday.Having come together at the India Gate lawns in the heart of the capital, these differently-abled people from across the country stood shoulder to shoulder and later sat with lit candles to protest “the lack of political will to deal with disability” and demanded a separate “ministry for disability affairs”.

“The event was not for celebrations but to demand a separate ministry for disability affairs and fulfilment of promises in the 11th Five Year Plan - that every ministry should have a clear cut plan of action on disability issues and each ministry should allocate three percent of resources for improving the disableD people’s condition,” Javed Abidi, convenor of the Disabled Rights Group (DRG), told IANS.

The wheelchair-bound Abidi said they did not stage an agitation keeping in mind the terror attacks in Mumbai that had claimed 183 lives.

Voicing the sentiments of the hundreds of deaf and mute, blind, autistic and other physically challenged individuals, Abidi said: “We, the 70 million disabled people, are very much Indian. We just want equal treatment to be self-reliant and to be able to serve our nation.”

“We are ready to become tax payers and not a burden on society.”

Neha, who cannot hear, shared her personal wish to watch captioned TV soaps.

“I know that being deaf there are certain things one misses out on. But if the government (information and broadcasting ministry) makes a little effort, I could at least understand what my relatives are glued on to on TV,” she said.

Mohan Chowdhury, president of the Bihar Disabled Development Association, said small efforts like a ramp at bus stands and schools, and more spacious toilets in government and business establishments can go a long way to ease their problems.

“Authorities need to be little sensitive,” said Chowdhury, who is himself confined to a a wheel chair.

The massive gathering of people hailing from states like Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Bihar, Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi also expressed their condolences to the families of those who died in the Mumbai terror strikes.

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