It has been a while since anyone has had a majority government in our country -- it is something that I think of as an immense power, something we haven't seen for three decades. I was waiting for any party to get the power to decisively do things for my country and for people like me.
By people like me, I mean the differently-abled of our great country, well over 26 million according to the 2011 census data, perhaps more. Any other group that is this large would be considered a good number and actually be used to swing opinion and get things done. But in our case, we are relegated to a part of the public consciousness that sees us through only two lenses: charity and sympathy. Both are useless and pointless. We don't need either. We need the basic things that can help us live and lead a proper life! Nothing great, just the ability to go places and do things. Why is this a problem in India? The US had a President Roosevelt, but can someone like me even dream of running the country? Nope. Just being a voter is perhaps asking for too much here!
"Why aren't we taken seriously? Well, we don't belong to one religion, one caste, one community or one geographic area. Meaning that we are not a vote bank."
For starters, the number of wheelchair-friendly places is abysmally low. On top of that, the number of travel options for the differently-abled border on non-existent. You can count the number of wheelchair-enabled cab agencies in a country of 1.2 billion with the fingers on one hand! Yes you can!
As a group, we don't have the clout to have a gun-toting leader holding a city to ransom to get reservations for us. Nor are we looked upon as viable political candidates by parties or voters alike. What do we do? Fight for a separate state? That won't work either! We will be brushed under the carpet and forgotten. Left, right or centre -- all parties take us for granted.
There are a few companies that hire us, but what most of them want is a bunch of poster boys or girls to parade around in conferences. They seldom offer positions that are commensurate to the qualification or expertise that a differently-abled person has. We hardly ever move up the corporate ladder even if employed.
Even online, people think they can trample over us and no one will bother. Case in point, I was attacked viciously for simply stating that I am differently-abled. I tried filing a suit, but it turns out that there isn't much of a case there!
The media doesn't care either. They are too busy outshouting each other at 9pm with ten talking heads screaming about sleazy murder cases to even notice! Viewership ratings have superseded the real charter of the media. How many differently-abled journalists do we have?
Why aren't we taken seriously? Well, we don't belong to one religion, one caste, one community or one geographic area. Meaning that we are not a vote bank. So, no party cares about us. Even the Election Commission doesn't bother to make voting booths accessible. The subtext is that for us the choice of who should govern us doesn't matter. So what are we? Children of a lesser god? Charity cases for life? Second-grade citizens? Forget enablers for life, we can't even get our quota of vitamin-D (read sunlight) without getting hassled.
What do we want? The government should try and enable our day-to-day lives to be independent and functional. No, we don't need a CSR or charity drive. We don't need special quotas or token conferences or concessions on trains. We need to lead our lives with dignity. And yes, we want to vote. If NRIs can vote, isn't it fair that we want to? Give us an app, that will do!
In one line: "We have the wheels, we need a push to get them rolling!"
My son asks me "Dad, you are so knowledgeable, why aren't people noticing you?"
My answer depends on yours. Waiting to hear what you can do for us.