Citizens' Issues
Why do some places of worship disallow the disabled
Invisible dirt is allowed, people with filthy minds and filthier acts are allowed, but people on wheelchairs are not allowed at places of worship in India. Isn't it time to stop this discrimination? 
 
Many places of worship in India do not allow people on wheelchairs to enter their premises or the sanctum sanctorum as a policy. This is extremely demeaning, hurtful and insulting form of racism, apartheid and discrimination. Freedom to travel may be written in our constitution but there are several man-made barriers and impediments in the form of policies and concepts that are being propagated since time immemorial. So far people with disabilities have succumbed to these dictums, pressures as well as illogical thinking and retreated sadly. Consider that many people:
 

Use spectacles for low vision and poor eyesight

 

Use hearing aids for poor hearing

 

Neck belts and waist belts for pain

 

A pacemaker for proper heart functioning 

 

Artificial limbs (hands/legs) for mobility

 

Artificial dentures as a substitute for teeth 

 

And some of us use wheel chairs. And yet, disabled are stopped from entering many places of worship.
 
Places of worship allow wife-beaters, molesters, murderers, robbers, swindlers, alcoholics, smugglers, cheaters, kidnappers and more. People, who harm our environment by polluting our rivers, cutting trees and throwing garbage, are also allowed. Visibly there is no way to know the purity of a person. They look perfect. And so such people are allowed everywhere; freely without any barriers. People like us who have visible signs of being on wheelchairs are barred! This is done under the pretext that the wheelchairs are impure and filthy. Invisible dirt is allowed, people with filthy minds and filthier acts are allowed, but people on wheelchairs are not! Weird. 
 
Nina Foundation celebrates its FOUNDER’S DAY on 9th March every year by organising a ‘Spiritual Outing’ for all its friends with spinal injury and their family members. All of us have, due to an accident, incident or disease, obtained a spinal injury. World Health Organization (WHO) has declared it as the most devastating disability and which is a permanent disability without any cure! Our legs, hands, bladder, bowel, skin, bones, muscular strength, respiration, digestion all are affected. We use aids like wheelchairs, walkers, crutches, callipers, splints for our mobility. 
 
The reason Nina Foundation commenced this ‘Spiritual Outing’ activity was more to express our point of view and thinking to the ‘Managers’ of these spiritual places for the need to have a paradigm shift. Religion and India are synonymous. It was heartening to learn that both foreigners Steve Jobs (Apple) and Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) started their journey of glory by first visiting a temple in India.  Aren’t heads of such institutions supposed to be more enlightened and aware about the needs and emotions of the human race per se?
 
We, the friends with disability are a huge constituency (80 million X 4 average number of family members=320 million people). We do not want to impose or force anyone, but this issue of transparent apartheid, definitely deserves to be uppermost in the consciousness of an educated and civilised nation!
 
The original thought by our great leaders seems to have been enveloped by cloudy thinking, by the current gatekeepers of our revered religious institutions. Gandhiji suffered racism, Vivekananda suffered racism and yet they became global leaders. We as followers seem to have lost our way.
 
Who truly needs solace, peace, ray of hope and joy? Those people whose life has suddenly altered due to a life-changing event like an accident. We not only have lost our limbs, but also our hope to live. Going outdoors gives us some semblance of a ‘fulfilled life’. Praying and being blessed in a place of worship gives us hope and joy. Being denied entry anywhere due to our wheelchairs makes us ‘feel’ disabled; mentally and physically.
 
The day we have an ‘inclusive’ mind-set when we treat every human being with dignity, respect and equality without any discrimination –- we can say “There is GOD in each one of us and we all are free and equal”! Let’s all work together towards that day.
 
(Dr Ketna L Mehta is an educationist, editor, author and Founder Trustee of Nina Foundation that works for the rehabilitation of economically and socially disadvantaged people with spinal injuries. Her PhD Thesis was “Market Potential Study for a World Class Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Centre in Mumbai”. She is also Editor and Associate Dean Research, WeSchool. Email-  [email protected],  www.ninafoundation.org)  

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COMMENTS

What

1 year ago

Personally i don't care whether a place of worship or for that matter any structure is wheelchair accessible or not.

What I'd be actually interested in is if i sue the trusts/organizations managing committee for failure to comply with the accessibility requirements of the law, will i have to wait for DECADES to see the defunct judiciary to deliver justice?

We need to go for to the MOST IMPACTFUL solution. Begging and pleading is NOT one of it.

Surely, it has a valid place since confrontation is undesirable, but it's equally important in country like ours to have a LEGAL DETERRENT for those who are adamant on violating basic human rights of PwDs.

PIOs can no more give wishy-washy replies under RTI
As per DoPT guidelines, it is now binding on PIOs to provide certified copies of documents, if requested by the applicant and also to provide detailed reasons for denial of information 
 
The Department of Personnel & Training- DoPT has issued detailed guidelines for Public Information Officers for answering or sending replies to applicants under the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Remember, 16 April 2015 was the last deadline for citizens to submit their suggestions to the Committee comprising representatives of Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT), the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and Central Information Commission (CIC), to formulate specific guidelines for Public Information Officers (PIO)s while providing replies? (our story: http://www.moneylife.in/article/world-happiness-index-2015-ndash-where-does-india-stand/43578.html)  Now, the format of giving information has been formulated by the DoPT, which puts the onus on the PIOs to be meticulous about their replies.For example, it is binding on the PIO to provide certified copies of documents, if requested by the applicant; to provide detailed reasons for denial of information by quoting the relevant sections of the RTI Act. 
 
The DoPT, in a letter dated 6 October 2015, sent to Chief Secretaries of all States and Union Territories (UTs) as also Ministries and Departments, Secretariats of Parliament, President's Secretariat, Prime Minister's Office (PMO), NITI Aayog, Election Commission, Comptroller and Auditor General states “It has been observed that different public authorities provide information to RTI applicants in different formats. Though there cannot be a standard format for providing information, guidelines have been provided.”
 
As per the directions, the reply by the PIO should comprise the following points: 
 
(i) RTI application number, date and date of its receipt in the public authority.
 
(ii) The name, designation, official telephone number and email ID of the CPIO. 
 
(iii) In case the information requested for is denied, detailed reasons for denial quoting the relevant sections of the RTI Act should be clearly mentioned. 
 
(iv) In case the information pertains to other public authority and the application is transferred under section 6(3) of the RTI Act, details of the public authority to whom the application is transferred should be given.
 
(v) In the concluding para of the reply, it should be clearly mentioned that the First Appeal, if any, against the reply of the CPIO may be made to the First Appellate Authority within 30 days of receipt of reply of CPIO. 
 
(vi) The name, designation, address, official telephone number and e-mail ID of the First Appellate Authority should also be clearly mentioned.
 
“In addition, wherever the applicant has requested for 'certified copies' of the documents or records, the CPIO should endorse on the document "True copy of the document/record supplied under RTI Act", sign the document with date, above a seal containing name of the officer, CPIO and name of public authority; as enumerated below. Further in case the documents to be certified and supplied is large in number, information on RTI application should be supplied by a designated PIO but the certification of the documents, if need be, could be done by another junior gazetted officer,” the order says.
 
Leading RTI activists who have made recommendations and have been closely following this issue are elated. Venkatesh Nayak, programme coordinator of Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), says, “What is important is that the guidelines also include instructions as to how certified copies may be issued under the RTI Act by the PIO on request. In January 2014, Kerala High Court discussed the issue of certified copies being sought by applicants under the RTI Act in the John Numpeli (Junior) case. In this case, the Court ruled that Section 2(j) of the RTI Act does not take away the right of an individual to get certified copies under other laws such as the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 or the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. Conversely, if an RTI applicant seeks certified copies under the RTI Act then the PIO must attest to the fact that the copies have been issued under the RTI Act.”
 
Citing an example, Nayak said, “A PIO in one of the northern Indian States had used the Kerala HC judgement, recently, to deny certified copies to an RTI applicant. When a prominent RTI activist brought this case to my attention, I sent him a copy of the judgement to help the RTI applicant. This episode reminded me of the saying in Kannada loosely translated as - "what God proposes the priest disposes as he deems fit" (in Kannada - "devaru vara kottaru, pujari koda")’’
 
Another leading RTI activist Subhash Agrawal suggests that, since domestic photo-copiers are usually equipped to copy only A4 size documents, DoPT should also direct public-authorities to use only A4 size paper for all correspondence made under RTI Act. “Information-seekers have to spend money outside in case they have to file appeals or use information if provided in legal-size paper, which is lengthier than most commonly used A4 size paper. Rather, DoPT should issue advisory for not using legal-size paper in government-functioning. Even Supreme Court should be approached for using A4 size paper in judicial or legal functioning thereby altogether abolishing concept of legal-size paper,’’ he added.
 
(Vinita Deshmukh is consulting editor of Moneylife, and also convener of the Pune Metro Jagruti Abhiyaan. She is the recipient of prestigious awards like the Statesman Award for Rural Reporting which she won twice in 1998 and 2005 and the Chameli Devi Jain award for outstanding media person for her investigation series on Dow Chemicals. She co-authored the book “To The Last Bullet - The Inspiring Story of A Braveheart - Ashok Kamte” with Vinita Kamte and is the author of “The Mighty Fall”.)
 

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COMMENTS

Praveen Sakhuja

9 months ago

It is not only public authorities who dodo not adhere or take note of DoPT orders/guidelines , CIC also flouts those and hesitate to make public authorities to take note of those. I may be wrong BUT as on date majority of IC's work hand in glove with public authorities m who openly guide appellants to move to High Court t get the information. Is there any provision in Act, whc I am missing. [email protected]

Praveen Sakhuja

9 months ago

Can I get suggestion and remedy when CPIO refuse ti provide information stating applicant is Vindictive and wants to settle personal vendetta, second has filed more than 150 applications (every application has different subject related to finance; administration - appointments and tenders etc). IC dismisses the appeals declaring those as Composite petitions without assigning provisions of the Act. [email protected]

Mahesh Khanna

1 year ago

Reserve Bank of India never adheres with the DOPT guidelines, it cares a foot for the same. In one of my query as to implementing of DOPT guidelines in the matter of Recruitment, Transfer and promotion, the CPIO has replied "No information is available". It is common sense which the CPIO of RBI lacks, that the reply should have been either implemented or not implemented.
The RBI does not have information on how much they pay for litigation cost to advocates, no information as to how much they have spent on digitalization of records, which in other sense means that the annual financial statements prepared by RBI is bogus. RBI does not implement CVC guidelines in the matter of tenders etc.

Passenger car sales up 9.48 percent in September: SIAM
The festive season coupled with lower fuel prices gave a boost last month to domestic passenger car sales which grew by 9.48 percent, industry data showed on Friday.
 
According to data furnished by the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), passenger car sales during September stood at 169,590 units against 154,898 units in the like month of the previous year. 
 
The data revealed that the total passenger vehicle sales, which includes cars, utility vehicles and vans, went up by 3.84 percent to 232,167 units from 223,584 units sold in September, 2014.
 
However, sales of utility vehicles fell by 8.56 percent to 48,464 units. The off-take of vans, too, receded by 10.1 percent to 14,113 units. 
 
The industry data for last month showed a 12.07 percent growth in the overall commercial vehicles segment sales, which is a key indicator of economic activity. 
 
The commercial vehicles segment off-take for September stood at 62,845 units from 56,078 units sold during the corresponding month of 2014.
 
On the other hand, sales of three-wheelers receded by 13.04 percent in the month under review at 49,524 units from 56,078 units sold in September of 2014.
 
A downward trend was also seen in the sales of two-wheelers last month. Two-wheelers sales slipped by 1.06 percent to 1,537,137 units from 1,553,608 units sold in the like month of 2014.
 
Bucking the trend for the two-wheeler industry, scooter off-take in September was up 6.54 percent at 462,341 units. However, motorcycle sales plunged by 21.20 percent at 54,559 units.
 
Exports for the month under review were higher by 3.54 percent at 343,125 units sold abroad from 331,397 units shipped out during September, 2014.
 
Notwithstanding sales abroad, total automobile sales in September were marginally lower by 0.45 percent at 1,881,673 units from 1,890,218 units sold in the corresponding month of 2014.
 
Disclaimer: Information, facts or opinions expressed in this news article are presented as sourced from IANS and do not reflect views of Moneylife and hence Moneylife is not responsible or liable for the same. As a source and news provider, IANS is responsible for accuracy, completeness, suitability and validity of any information in this article.

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