Around 150 wheelchair-bound persons, survivors of spinal cord injuries and afflictions, participated in a first-of-its-kind rally at the India Gate Sunday, a day before the first World Spinal Cord Injury Day.
The rally, flagged off by Union Minister of Science and Technology Dr Harsh Vardhan, saw former and current patients treated at the Indian Spinal Injuries Centre (ISIC) wheel themselves across Rajpath to spread awareness about the life-altering disabilities caused by car accidents, falls or other such accidents.
Harsh Vardhan said, “We keep flashing advertisements and warnings about driving safely and wearing seat belts and helmets. But people take these as routine ads. They do not understand the gravity of spinal injuries and the life of pain and disability they entail.”
Addressing the participants, he said, “Through you, people will also get the strength to fight this affliction and keep their will power strong. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is personally monitoring that all hospitals, government offices, schools, and public places are disability-friendly and he very earnestly plans to make the Accessible India campaign a reality by 2019.”
H P S Ahluwalia, Chairman of the ISIC — who retired from the Indian Army after he took a bullet to his nape in the Indo-Pak war of 1965 and was left wheelchair bound as a result — founded the centre to treat and rehabilitate patients with spinal cord-related disabilities. The centre, in association with the International Spinal Cord Society, has lined up a slew of plays and shows to be performed by wheelchair bound people across the country in the following week.
“We want survivors to know and be aware that they can rebuild their lives and get the same education, job opportunities and health services an able-bodied person is entitled to. Only the right treatment and cure at the right stage of injury can help one’s case,” said Ahluwalia.
The rally saw wheelchair-bound persons, both young and old, assisted by scores of volunteers and staff from the centre. The afternoon heat forced many to retire to ambulances on standby or cooler patches under trees.
The participants included university teachers, businessmen, students and retired persons. Sonam Angomo, a 21-year-old from Leh who had an accident in her village two years ago, was discharged from the centre a few days ago.
“A neighbour was driving down the road. He did not see me on the road and hit me. My BPL card saved me most of the expenses in government hospitals in Leh and Srinagar. But I needed advanced physiotherapy for which I came to Delhi early this year. The accident forced me to drop out of school months before my board exams. I want to finish school,” she said.