Sixteen-year-old Ritik uses his right foot like the right hand. A decade ago, his parents gifted him a set of crayons. Since then, he has been using his foot dexterously to draw sketches. The pencils, his mother points out, not just add colour to his sketches, but also his life. Last week, the Delhi High Court gave him another gift that would add colour to his life: a prosthetic limb.
For over a decade, his mother Usha (40) ran pillar to post — to over a dozen hospitals in the capital — seeking treatment for Ritik, who suffers from congenital limb deficiency and abnormally developed limbs since birth. Finally, on November 1, the Chief Justice Bench of the Delhi High Court directed the Delhi government to provide a prosthetic limb to the physically disabled Class X student within two months.
The High Court had earlier issued notices to the Delhi government and the Ministry of Social Justice on a PIL filed by advocate Ashok Aggarwal, seeking Rs 13 lakh for a prosthetic limb. Aggarwal had argued before court that the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 mandates the government to provide assistive devices to students with benchmark disabilities free of cost, as long as they are under 18 years of age.
Responding to the notices, the medical director of Lok Nayak Hospital told the court that the child “suffers from severe disability” and that the money for the prosthetic limb will be “organised through Delhi Arogya Kosh”. “It is, therefore, submitted that though efforts are being made to expedite the process of procurement, this child will be fitted with the prosthesis within two months,” the hospital told the court.
“When he was just two, I knocked on the door of AIIMS. They said there is no treatment. I went to at least five different government hospitals and everyone referred us back to AIIMS. For more than a decade, not a single government hospital wanted to fix a prosthetic limb. Finally, I had no other option but to ask the court to intervene,” said Usha, who runs a sweets shop in Sadar Bazaar.
Aggarwal said it took less than three months for the court to dispose of the petition — but more than six months to study the case.
“We did not know what the exact treatment is, or the cost. After consulting with various government hospitals, LNJP said that a prosthetic limb with machinery is needed… The new law on disability clearly states that students with benchmark disabilities have to be given free treatment by providing assistive devices,” he said.
Beginning his first round of tests before surgery, Ritik, who studies in a government-aided school, said, “I had problems holding books. Painting and sketching is my passion, a source of strength. I dream of becoming an artist one day. This gift takes me one step closer to achieving my dream.”