Is Himachal Pradesh insensitive towards the physically and mentally challenged people?

Shimla, Jan 13: Himachal Pradesh, it seems, is insensitive to issues related to the physically and mentally challenged. It has been caught in legal wrangles in three such cases in less than a month.

In all the cases, which the High Court took cognisance of on the basis of the missives written to the chief justice, there is a demand to extend special facilities to the people concerned.

Is Himachal Pradesh insensitive towards the physically and mentally challenged people?
The latest is the notice issued to the government last week by a division bench of Chief Justice Mansoor Ahmad Mir and Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan on the plight of 30 mentally challenged inmates of the state-run Nari Sewa Sadan or home for destitute women in Mashobra near Shimla.

The court Jan 9 took cognizance following a letter written by NGO Umang Foundation's honorary chairman Ajai Srivastava.

The letter, accessed by IANS, says all the 30 inmates, including two girls, were severely sick. A six-year-old boy, whose mother is an inmate, has also developed symptoms of mental illness.

"Most of the mentally challenged inmates don't know about their menstrual cycle. No inmate is provided sanitary napkins. This is one of the major reasons for their pitiable personal hygiene," said the letter.

The letter also picks holes in the security of the inmates.

"Since all the inmates are not of sound mind, in the absence of proper boundary wall or good barbed wire fencing, there is every possibility of (some) untoward incident (happening)."

Some years ago, the letter says, a young Muslim inmate disappeared from the home for destitute women in mysterious circumstances and her whereabouts are still not known.

It also highlights the plight of a European lodged in the home whose whereabouts are not known.

"No serious efforts were made by the government to trace the origin of a foreign national and to repatriate her. Earlier, she was admitted in the mental hospital in Shimla. There should be some mechanism to trace her kith and kin," it said.

The court directed the senior officials, including the chief secretary, to file replies within four weeks.

Two days before this directive, a division bench of Chief Justice Mir and Justice P.S. Rana sought a report on the plight of the physically challenged staying in old-age homes.

The order came on a letter written by Srivastava, who sought disability pension and separate rehabilitation homes for all physically and mentally challenged in the state as old-age homes do not provide ideal conditions for them.

The court directed the state to file a status report and reply before Feb 25.

Earlier, on Dec 23, a bench of Chief Justice Mir and Justice Chauhan took cognizance of a letter written by visually impaired Banita Rana, who is pursuing her Master's degree in English in Himachal Pradesh University (HPU) in Shimla, and issued notice to the state.

"There is no facility in schools and colleges for blind students. I suffered a lot. I have seen that the HPU in Shimla is also lacking it," she wrote to the chief justice.

Citing the Supreme Court judgment of March 26, 2014, she said the court had asked all the states to implement the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act of 1995 by the end of this year. But nothing has been done to protect the rights of people with disabilities.

Srivastava told IANS that the state government had failed to implement a policy for conducting exams for people with disabilities.

He said even the Himachal Pradesh State Public Service Commission has not implemented the policy.

The Himachal Pradesh University in November allowed visually impaired and physically challenged to engage a writer.

But the state school education board, the Y.S. Parmar University of Horticulture and Forestry in Solan and the Palampur-based Chaudhary Sarwan Kumar Himachal Pradesh Krishi Vishwavidyalaya, besides state departments of higher and elementary education, didn't implement the policy framed by the union government, Srivastava added.


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