Health Minister Surjit Kumar Jayani faced a tough time in Ludhiana on Thursday, where he attended the state-level function to observe the World Disability Day at the Braille Bhawan here. Jayani left the event in a huff, before it ended, after he was confronted by the president of the Physically Handicapped Association of Punjab, only to be gheraoed in the parking area by anganwari workers.
His sudden departure brought an abrupt end to the programme, leaving students of the Government School for Blind — who were to present a few cultural events — in the lurch.
Jayani’s troubles began after he finished his speech and was honouring Civil Surgeon Dr Renu Chhatwal with a state award. The previous year’s winner, Gurbaj Singh Baaj — also President of Physically Handicapped Association of Punjab — stood up and began shouting, demanding to know why the state had not cleared the backlog in jobs for the physically challenged.
He also referred to a contempt notice, issued by the Supreme Court on October, 2013, on the issue.
Jayani quickly came to the front of the stage and said: “You had disrupted functions at Mohali and at Pathankot. The government is doing all it can and is even arranging all your meetings with officials, so why do you create a ruckus all the time?”
Much before Baaj’s objection, Jayani had announced that 1,647 posts were lying vacant in the physically challenged categories and that the government had already sought applications for 453 posts.
Baaj, however, said all the posts should be filled at one go. “I am not keen to take a job but I am fighting for others. Apart from jobs, we face problems in getting seats in buses and railway compartments. Even now only 45 per cent disability certificates have been made and as a result, the rest cannot avail benefits announced by the government,” said Baaj, who works as a tailor in Barnala.
The members in the audience shouted that the cash awards for student scholarships and physically challenged scholarships needed to be doubled. They also wanted the state government to directly distribute aid like tricycles and artificial limbs instead of routing them through MPs and MLAs, who they alleged, were harassing them. The minister left the function much before it was scheduled to finish. He was, however, gheraoed by anganwadi workers, who wanted to know as to why the government was not implementing decisions it had taken at a meeting in September. Among other things, the government had promised to reduce the time slab for promotion of a helper from the existing 10 years to 5 years, they said. Jayani refused to talk to workers and his driver quickly drove the vehicle out of the campus. The workers kept on raising slogans against the government and the minister.
Protest by blind association
The Bharat Netarheen Sewak Samaj were also seen shouting against the government, outside the Braille Bhawan but their protest began after Jayani left the venue. Satnam Singh, chairman of unemployed wing of the samaj, said that government was not clearing the backlog and not promoting many visually challenged employees.