Nagpur: An entire family celebrates when a new baby arrives in the household. Whether it is a boy or a girl, the parents’ joy knows no bounds – as long as the child is ‘normal’. By some misfortune if the child is diagnosed as suffering from some permanent, congenital disability like spasticity due to a condition known as ‘cerebral palsy’ the joy turns to intense grief and disappointment. Future of both the child and parents seems bleak and gloomy and not much help is found from any quarter.
It is in such cases that the idealistic, service oriented Doctor couple Dr. Viraj Shinghade and Dr. Rashmi Shinghade and their team at the Children Orthopedic Care Institute step in to assess the child’s deformity, his/ her hope of recovery by corrective surgery and then bring the child to their hospital where they can conduct the actual surgery. They do not stop here, they follow it up by offering physiotherapy as long as the child needs it so that finally a person who seemed so deformed or disabled that he/she had no hopes of leading a normal life is walking, running and even jumping! They might not be able to do it for every child, but their strike rate of success is pretty impressive because they do not give up.
What is even more notable and praise worthy is that this service is not offered to just the children of city dwelling rich and educated but they work with social workers, NGOs and Govt. agencies in deep tribal hinterlands of Gadchiroli, back ward areas of Vidarbha, among the poor and socially downtrodden and offer this help to their children too. Mostly, in fact, to their children.
Today, this couple celebrated a decade of their institute’s existence and wanted to thank all their patrons, donors and other physicians and health and education professionals who have worked with them over the years.
In a function held at Scientific hall in Laxmi Nagar, they felicitated all these people.
Speaking as chief guest of the function Abhishek Krishna, Collector of Nagpur said that what Viraj and Rashmi are doing is not just ‘correcting’ deformities of some kids they are ‘correcting’ society – they are in fact doing nation building.
“They reach often where we, Government officers, who are supposed to be doing this, cannot reach with all the machinery and the manpower at our disposal. I have seen them working when I was posted in those areas, and it is really laudatory, what they do” said Krishna.
The President of the function was a very special person indeed. Samir Ghosh, Advisor to not just the Government of India on the issues concerning disabled, but also Advisor and consultant to UNESCO, WHO and many international organizations. He has studied at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences and later at London School of Economics.
He is the perfect man for this role because he knows the pain, the isolation and the ‘stigma’ of living the life of a disabled first hand. He lost both his hands in a tragic accident at the age of 8. He later adapted by learning to use his feet to write and do other things people normally do with their hands.
“I was a very bright student. I did not let my accident hamper my academic education. I continued to shine at studies and this apart from making my father proud, made him very worried and anxious. ‘Despite being so bright academically, what future can he hope for, my disabled son with no hands?’ He kept worrying. That anxiety killed him. He died of peptic ulcers very early” recounted Samir Ghosh.
Samir recounted that the Parliament passed the PwD ( persons with physical disabilities) Act twenty years ago which was supposed to revolutionize conditions for the disabled. It was supposed to make ramps available at every public buidling/ banks/ airports etc. where persons with wheelchairs can enter through. Services were supposed to become disabled friendly. The UPA government allocated a good budget for this – 5000 crores.
But in all this while nothing has changed on the ground laments Ghosh. “The PwDs still live on islands of poverty and neglect in a sea of prosperity and double digit growths. That is the reality of India Shining.
And hope is dimmed further as under this new government the bdugetary allocation for this project has come down to 1800 from 5000 crores – why so, know one knows?”
He cites examples of some physically disadvantaged people quoting from their experiences –
“When ever I ask help in crossing the road from other pedestrians, they hold me by my collar or my shirt sleeve and ‘haul’ me across the road, making me feel very small and insignificant” says a visually impaired man.
A polio afflicted person complains that his feet ache terribly if he has to stand. But when traveling in buses all his requests for a seat when bus is overcrowded fall on dear ears.
A disabled woman living in Mumbai says she never travels in local compartments reserved for handicapped. Why? “It is always occupied by drunkards and other suspicious characters and I feel very unsafe. I would rather go in a crowded ladies compartment where I am physically uncomfortable but at least mentally secure!”
Ghosh said disabilities were of many categories and types and many – like mental disorders – get completely neglected in our country. As a result of this the person and his family suffers needlessly. All this ends in disabled people getting secondary health problems which can lead to untimely deaths.
Despite having the ‘best constitution’ in the world, are we really ‘equal’?
This is a question all Indians have to ask themselves.