Learning A Skill Is Not End Of The Road

Air Commodore Ranjan Mukherjee, Delhi’s Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities talks about the skill enhancement, employment opportunities, infrastructure and rights of the Persons with Disabilities

Delhi NCT has an office of the Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities since August, 2009, who is entrusted with several responsibilities pertaining to safeguarding the rights of Persons with Disabilities and monitoring schemes that are meant for their welfare. The incumbent State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, Air Commodore Ranjan Mukherjee, has been a commissioned officer of the Indian Air Force and has wide experience in civil and defence administration. Among other stints, he was Additional Director General, Prasar Bharti; Officer on Special Duty to the Lt Governor, Delhi and Advisor-cum-Secretary to Minister of State, Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Government of India. In an interview to BW Education, he throws light on a gamut of issues for Persons with Disabilities. Excerpts:

How enabling are our educational institutions and workplaces as far as Persons with Disabilities are concerned?

The Government of India and the state governments, especially in Delhi, have taken the path of inclusive education in all educational institutions. Earlier, Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) used to have a separate educational policy, so we used to have Airforce Golden Jubilee School, especially for disabled students but later on, it was learnt that inclusive education is the best form for child with special need. As per the United Nations Mandate it is a norm in each and every school now that they should have a minimum of two special educators. If any child with a special need or with disabilities approaches a school, the school cannot refuse to admit them. I get a lot of cases here where I intervene and make sure that each and every child gets admitted to the school they desire of. That's how there is a transformation concerning inclusive education for Persons with disabilities.

What are the steps taken for the skill enhancement of PwDs?

Skill Enhancement is not the sole job of the State Commissioner, but of the respective state governments. Each state government has social welfare department of the Ministry of Social Welfare. Though the state commissioner is working in very close coordination with them. We are responsible to ensure that the education department and the social welfare department impart the requisite training to the PwDs. So in Delhi, there are 13 homes for various kinds of disabled people. As per their disability, there are different kinds of skill developments. Learning a skill is not the end of the road, in fact the road starts thereafter. After they acquire some skills, how they find a job and how they become economically independent is very important. As I took over here, I made efforts to showcase the handicraft work of the PwDs and to make them earn a little more. Why not have a space for them in Delhi Haat, INA Market, and with my very close follow-up and chase we get that allocation.

How we can make sure that after skill enhancement PwDs get employment opportunities?

The Government has enacted Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 where 4 per cent of reservations for persons with disabilities in government jobs are mandatory and every government institutions must keep 4 per cent vacancies for PwDs. But due to a lack of awareness and knowledge, this is overlooked by some departments. If this happens, a PwD can approach us and there are so many cases where we have reversed the stand. As per the rule, 5 per cent of the jobs in educational institutions must be reserved for the PWDs. But is that enough? An able person can also become disabled, so each and every person has the right to earn a livelihood. So, the challenge is to ensure they earn their livelihood.

There are laws to provide infrastructure to people with disabilities but how difficult is the implementation?

Implementation has to be done by institutions on their own accord, but this doesn't work every time. So that's why there has to be a very proactive system from the Commissioner's officer and social welfare department office wherein it has to be ensured that these infrastructure norms are fulfilled.

I always give an example of a person with a disability. In some developed Asian countries like China, Japan and Korea, a wheelchair-bound person or completely blind person with a sensor stick can go out of the house and do all the work on their own. There is no help required because the infrastructure is there. In India, even in the national capital, a person with a disability cannot go anywhere without help. Accessibility is very important and whenever I travel I keep on looking for anomalies and I try to talk to the concerned department.

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