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Last month, Ramchandra Ahure travelled 620 km from Akkalkot, in Solapur, to Bengaluru all alone to look for a job in customer care service after his father found out about a company that trains disabled people. In Solapur, the 26-year-old had applied for jobs in the local municipal corporation and attempted to work at his father’s hotel for two years, with little success. Ahure has no vision in one eye and suffers from night blindness.
Vidhya Patil took the difficult decision to shift base at 43. The Pune resident, who needs a wheelchair to move around, had got a job with a private printing press but was asked to leave after a month’s service. “They said I won’t be able to work. I had tried public and private jobs in administrative roles for several years,” she says.
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Fatima Somnal (24) has deformity in her right leg but has been working with ease for nine months now in the customer care sector in a Bengaluru firm. In Maharashtra, she had applied for jobs in the postal department, railways, and in private customer care companies but never got recruited. A native of Islampur in Sangli, she has six brothers and parents but wanted to earn independently.
Mahesh Yallari’s right leg is shorter than the left and requires support to walk. The 21-year-old earns over Rs 10,000 now as a customer care executive for Videocon in Bengaluru.
WITH neither the government, nor the private sector offering adequate number of jobs for them, at least 40 differently-abled persons in the state have migrated to Bengaluru over the last two years where they are employed at a private business process outsourcing (BPO) company. It was not an easy choice but none of them plans to return.
In Solapur, Ramchandra Ahure was told by government officials that he was “not an apt candidate” to work in the municipal corporation. “They told me there was no work there that I could do. I tried all options. I wanted to live with my family,” he says.
Ahure shifted to Bengaluru last month and was recruited by Vindhya E Infomedia, a BPO. He underwent five days’ training to address customer grievances on the phone in Marathi. “I have made friends here. It feels good to work and earn like normal people,” says Ahure.
While the Lok Sabha recently passed the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2016, including 21 categories of differently abled people who will benefit, the disabled believe increasing reservation for them from 3 per cent to 4 per cent of total jobs will be of little help.
Vidhya Patil of Pune has a polio-related disability. On a relative’s suggestion, she moved to Bengaluru where she has been working with Vindhya for eight months now, the longest tenure ever in one job for her. “Apart from job opportunities, people also need to treat disabled with respect. There was no respect I got from my colleagues in Pune,” she recalls.
The issue of job opportunities is more challenging in rural areas for the disabled. According to Y S Pavithra, the founder of Vindhya Infomedia, 55 per cent of the 1,400 employees in her company are disabled and from poorer strata. There are at least 40 from Maharashtra who were all forced to migrate for a job, others are from Karnataka, West Bengal and Gujarat.
We train them for a few weeks or a month depending on the disability and assign respective roles. A blind or wheelchair-bound person can easily take customer calls. They just need the opportunity to work,” she says.
For Chandrika Shetty, the human resource head at Vindhya, the only reason why disabled people are migrating for work is that they look for a respectable job. “Most of them were employed with silly posts in their native states,” she says.
Sangli resident Fatima Somnal had only seen rejection in Maharashtra. “I tried even in Mumbai but there was no luck,” she says. Fatima is now an expert in customer redressal management and handles calls on daily basis.
Mahesh Yallari, a resident of Kolhapur, claims there is no scope for career in his district for disabled people. He is happy in Bengaluru. “I live in a hostel, which is disabled-friendly. I will never go back to Maharashtra for work now,” says Yallari.
The amendments in the new Bill make job reservation of 1 per cent each for people with mental and other disabilities apart from the existing quota for the physically disabled, the visually challenged and the hearing impaired.
According to Nidhi Goyal, disability and gender rights activist, the lack of infrastructure for disabled women, such as toilets, in corporate or government buildings is also a major setback for them to work.
Data with the Department of Social Justice shows there are 30 lakh disabled people across Maharashtra. “We are going to launch new programmes for the disabled. The copy of the new Act is still not with us. Once we study it, the implementation will follow,” says Disability Commissioner Nitin Patil.