Physical, occupational, social rehabilitation and financial assistance for purchase of Aids & Appliances are provided under Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS) with the basic objective to bring the target groups (which includes PwD) into the main stream of development by making them self reliant.

District RCS are preferred as implementing agencies for the Grant-in-aid under the “Assistance to Disabled Persons for Purchase/Fitting of Aids/Appliances (ADIP)” Scheme, with the objective of assisting needy persons with disabilities in procuring durable, sophisticated and scientifically manufactured standard aids and appliances that can promote their physical, social and psychological rehabilitation.  

I am not going into the details of “durable, sophisticated and scientifically manufactured appliances” as despite being a medical specialist I have yet to find an ideal assistive device for my locomotor disability. So let’s not divert from the main issue and see what’s the procedure for availing these assistive devices from a district RCS.

I belong to Rewari, Haryana so I contacted Rewari District RCS centre situated at Ambedkar chauk. The proforma for application for Tri-cycle/Wheel Chair/ Crutches/Hearing Aid has three parts as depicted in picture below. Let me tell you first that the main pre-requisite for a PwD to avail any benefit is a Disability Certificate (DC). Getting that is an altogether different painful story but once you get it from a medical board than you should not be paraded to confirm your disability again and again.

 In Part A of the RCS form, applicant has to paste his photograph displaying full disability (despite having a DC). Then there is a Part B where the disabled applicant again has to get signatures from a SDM/Tahsildar. Once this formality is done then again the disabled applicant has to go to a doctor (despite having permanent DC) to complete the harassment. This Part-C contains information on three things- nature of disability, cause of disability and recommendation of the Doctor with regards to equipment and reason. All of these things are already given in the DC which is made by a panel of three doctors. I would like to ask why a PwD has to prove again and again that he is disabled. Once a person has been declared visually impaired/hearing impaired/locomotor disabled by a panel of Doctors than why he has to go again to three different places to procure guiding stick/hearing device/crutches.

I immediately brought this to the notice of Secretary, Haryana State Branch on May 15, 2012. When there was no response, I brought this to the notice of news daily Dainik Jagran which not only published the story on 21 June 2012 but also took the viewpoint of RCS Secretary Mr. Mahesh Gupta. I disagree with his point that these formalities are necessary. These devices are not ‘special needs’ rather a part of lives of PwD’s. These are not our luxury rather our necessity. This discrimination is denying us our fundamental right to live, (Article 21 of Indian Constitution)—which means right to live with dignity as interpreted by Supreme Court in the Unni Krishnan Case—and free mobility (Article 19 A), which we cannot fully exercise without assistive devices.

This attitudinal barrier violates and undermines the dignity of persons with  disabilities which is so manifestly  against  the  spirit  of  the  Constitution  of  India,  the  Persons  with  Disabilities (Equal Opportunities,  Protection  of  Rights  and  Full  Participation)  Act,  1995,  and,  the UniteNations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to which India is a State party.

The governance structure of Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS) includes H.E President of India as President of the Society, Minister of Health & Family Welfare as Chairman of the Society and a Managing Body of 18 members. The Padma Bhushan awardee neurosurgeon Dr S.P Agarwal functions as Secretary General and there is an honorary post of legal advisor as well. Despite having these outstanding persons on the board, PwD’s in India continues to suffer when it comes to procuring assistive devices from IRCS.

It is recommended that a DC should be the sole criteria to enable persons with disabilities to procure assistive devices more particularly, in the face of the fact that the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995 have been enforced for well over 17 years now. I hope that IRCS will act immediately so as to prove that their seven fundamental principles of Humanity, Impartiality, Neutrality, Independence, Voluntary service, Unity and Universality are not just on paper but in spirit as well.