Compassion towards differently-abled moved me to help them: Agrawal

Story Summary: 

It was the touching words of the chairman of the Rehabilitation Council of India, Gen Ian Cardozo that moved Mr N D Agrawal, and he decided to work determinedly for empowering the differently-abled people when the opportunity came to him to serve as the South Goa District Collector.

BY ROQUE DIAS | NT

MARGAO: It was the touching words of the chairman of the Rehabilitation Council of India, Gen Ian Cardozo that moved Mr N D Agrawal, and he decided to work determinedly for empowering the differently-abled people when the opportunity came to him to serve as the South Goa District Collector.

"When I served as the director of social welfare department for one and half years, I saw differently-abled persons very closely and observed that this section of the society had been ignored for various reasons. During a meeting of the directors of the social welfare department in the year 2006, I met the chairman of the Rehabilitation Council of India, Gen Cardozo, who incidentally was a Goan. His convincing words touched me. He said that we must work for these people simply because God has gifted us with normal bodies," said Mr Agrawal, when contacted.

The South Goa district has bagged the national award for being the best district in providing rehabilitation services and empowering the differently-abled persons. The district has been selected the best among 623 districts in the country.

Mr Agrawal said that the feat was possible due to the efforts of his staff, who worked in tandem with other offices in providing service to the differently-abled persons.

When the opportunity came to work as the South Goa Collector on April 11, 2012, Mr Agrawal took up the challenge to do something for the differently-abled. "On April 26, 2012, the first meeting was held and subsequently up to August, four such meetings were organised. Awareness programmes were held in Mormugao on June 28, Salcete (July 3), Sanguem (July 5) and Canacona on July 7 with Anganwadi workers to identify and know the differently-abled persons with their parents, before having a separate meeting with parents in different schools of South Goa - Ashadeep of Mormugao, Gujarati Samaj, Daddy Home, Jyoti School in Margao, Sanjay School in Curchorem and Lokviswas in Quepem and Canacona," he said.

Mr Agrawal said that the Dayanand Social Security Scheme (DSSS) was launched in the state in three categories - senior citizens, differently-abled persons and single women - and the state is paying over a lakh of people, but still could not cover all the differently-abled persons despite having the will. This was due to the absence of medical certificates and other documents with the differently-abled. "Therefore, stress was laid on providing them with the necessary medical certificates first by holding various medical camps," he said.

The Collector further said that during a meeting with the central authorities, Goa along with Uttar Pradesh raised a point that relaxation be given on rules of the medical board. "The central government was kind enough to relax the rules and simplify the procedures, which helped the differently-abled in obtaining the medical certificates. According to the simplified procedure, disability that could be seen with the naked eye could be certified by one doctor instead of the three-doctor panel. This helped us in providing as many as 600 medical certificates and certificates of appointment of guardianship under Section 14 of the National Trust Act, 1999. This will help these differently-abled people in getting all other benefits," the Collector said.

He said that he held five medical camps, which evoked good response. The camps were held on May 27 at the Quepem primary health centre, on July 8 at ESI Hospital, Salcete, on July 15 at Cottage Hospital Vasco, Mormugao, on July 22 at sports complex hall in Sanguem for Sanguem and Dharbandora talukas and on July 29 at the community health centre in Canacona for Quepem and Canacona talukas.

Apart from this, Braille signages have been fixed at offices for the benefit of the visually-impaired, and training was also provided to them on how to vote on Electronic Voting Machines. "We found 338 differently-abled persons with an IQ of less than 70 per cent, with Sanguem and Dharbandora having the maximum number of 98 such people," Mr Agrawal said adding that it is not the will to win, but the will to prepare to win that makes the difference.

Various schools of South Goa, which provide education to differently-abled children were glad to know that the district had won the national award. "It is a joyous moment for us. The award will only enable us to work for these children to enable and make them independent in the society," said Ms Lara Pereira, Special Educator, while praising the District Collector for his dedicated work towards these children by holding camps and programmes. Most of the parents whom this reporter met said that it was for the first time that such an exercise was carried out in South Goa and thanked the government officials for the same.

"It was the team spirit and the collective efforts put in by the Anganwadi workers, Child Development Project Officers, Block Development Officers, MMC staff, Sub Divisional Magistrates, Mamlatdars, PWD engineers, elected representatives and staff of the Collectorate. The credit goes to all," Mr Agrawal said.