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A grim battle ahead for Orissa’s disabled

BHUBANESWAR, DEC 7: It was always a grim battle for survival for people with disabilities in the state. After the cyclone the battle for t...

Written by Debabrata Mohanty |
December 8, 1999

BHUBANESWAR, DEC 7: It was always a grim battle for survival for people with disabilities in the state. After the cyclone the battle for these fringe people has become grimmer. Till the super cyclone happened, they coped with their disabilities with help, though inadequate, from the society. Now they may have to do without it.

Sameer Hans, project administrator of the Shanta Memorial Rehabilitation Centre, a centre for people with spinal cord injuries in Bhubaneswar, is apprehensive of relief reaching the disabled. The disabled persons would be the last to get relief material despite the government order to district collectors to make special arrangements for them, he says. “Do you think the orthopaedically handicapped and visually challenged people would scamper for relief the same way as a normal person would?,” he asks.

Binod Bihari Sahoo, president of the Orissa Association for the Blind, said the disabled in most places have been refused relief by callous officials of the State Government. He citedthe case of three visually challenged persons in Kakatpur area of Puri district who were denied relief.

The government, on its part, has done its part to worsen the condition of the disabled. It has no clear idea on the number of disabled people in the State. The last census, done in 1991, put the figure at 1.58 lakh. Now, eight years later, the official figure would be somewhere between 2.5 lakh and 3 lakh, guesstimate voluntary agencies working for the disabled people. Of them 70 per cent live in the 12 cyclone-affected districts. “Even if one assumes that 50 per cent of the total number of disabled in these areas have been affected by the cyclone, the number would be a staggering one lakh,” Hans said.

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What is more worrying is incidents of people being disabled due to the cyclone. The cases of spinal cord injury and other such serious ailments have gone up sharply after the cyclone and have added to the growing number of people with disabilities in the State.

Commissioner-cum-secretary in the Womanand Child Development department Tarun Kanti Mishra said the State is yet to find out the number of disability cases due to the cyclone though the official figure puts the number of injured at 2500. The enumeration would be started this week in coordination with State Council for Child Welfare and United Nation’s Children’s Fund, he said.

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First published on: 08-12-1999 at 12:00:00 am

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