At a discussion held to create awareness about the rights of disabled persons on Panjab University campus, organisers were disgruntled with the university’s student council members, who arrived only after the meeting had ended.
“Where are our Student Council members, where are the party members? Chetan Chowdhry are you around?” asked Rimpi Arora, a PhD student at the Public Administration department and member of the Equal Opportunity Cell at the university, darting questions at the PU Campus Student Council President (PUCSC) Chetan Chowdhry, who was supposed to be present at the event.
“I arrived later because I was stuck in another meeting, but we had a conversation with the concerned students and representatives. We were told that they wanted the wires outside Boys’ Hostel 1, 2 and 3 removed to ensure that visually impaired students could walk around without fearing injury,” PUCSC President Chetan Chowdhary told Newsline. Students at the discussion also raised questions regarding the accessibility of footpaths between Hostel No 1 and the campus market.
“It is crucial that members of the student council participate in the event as it would ensure a wider dissemination of awareness on campus. After all, they are our elected representatives,” said Dheeru, a visually-impaired PhD student from PU, who was one of the organisers and speaker at the event.
The discussion, which was followed by a rally that began at the Guru Tej Bahadur building and ended at the Student Centre, was organised by the Equal Opportunity Cell to mark the International Day for persons with disabilities. Each year, the United Nations prescribes a theme for the day and this year the theme aimed at promoting the “participation of persons with disabilities and their leadership” in accordance with the UN’s 2030 agenda on sustainable development.
Emphasising over the same at the informal discussion held at Students’ Centre, Rimpi Arora said, “In order to achieve the goals of sustainability, one has to make space and provide equal opportunity for the disabled population.”
University authorities, including Vice-Chancellor Raj Kumar and Dean of Student Welfare (DSW) Emanual Nahar also attended the discussion. “We are here to listen to you and the university will provide all resources it can within its means to ensure that the disabled students can access all the opportunities that the other students have access to,” said VC Raj Kumar. “However these steps have to be taken in association with the disabled students and the Equal Opportunity Cell on Campus. You all have to come together and make a proposal for an action plan,” added Kumar.
“We made recommendations to the administration before and will do it again. The administration responded quite well. They asked for a proposal from us on the ways to make the campus more accessible for disabled students. We will soon begin work on that,” said Rimpi Arora, representing the Equal Opportunity Cell.
On the prospects of any significant change on the campus, Kumar said, “We cannot take gigantic steps as of now, we should focus on small achievements, because there are a lot of restraints that are hard to surpass. For example, it is impossible to make a heritage building accessible for students with disability. But we have to be patient and make small efforts, without expecting an overnight change.”