“Self-confidence is the key for success of all divyangs”
Kanubhai H. Tailor, ‘A Man on the Wheel’ with an undying spirit and will, whose singular efforts have transformed the lives of many physically challenged humans of the city of Surat, Gujarat, talks with Uday India corrospondent, Mahendra Rout about his journey of struggle Excerpts:
Q What was the inspiration behind forming the Disable Welfare Trust of India?
When I was in class X children used to tease me as I always crawled towards the school. This often teasing made me depressed and one day I took 7-8 sleeping pills to end my life, but, when I awoke the next day I felt my life did not end as I had a purpose to serve. Then I went to Ahmedabad for my graduation and came to Surat in 1985. It is here when I decided that time is ripe to do something for the society and more specifically for the disabled or the ‘divyang’. And by the blessings of God, today this institution is Asia’s biggest institute for the disabled.
Q Many organisations are working in this sector. What more are you offering than others at your institute?
When I started this institution, we had only four students, who also left after a while. This prompted me to find the reason behind it. I found out those students came from a poor background and couldn’t afford the cost of travelling to the institute. After that I started free rickshaw service for them, which eventually went on to matador service. This immediately raised the admissions to 113 in one year, which prompted me to think if I provide free food and logistics then the poor parents of these divyangs will send them to study. Now after three years, by God’s grace around 13000 students of our institute have passed from here and are working as doctors, professors, lawyers etc and, mind you, all these students are from poor background. Today, we have hostel facilities for all the students coming from outside Gujarat. Also we have set up a hospital where everyday 10 divyangs are operated upon, free of cost. Here I would like to mention one thing that all this would not have been possible without the support of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other big business houses like Reliance, ONGC, etc.
Q As you have said that when you started this institute you were actively supported by PM Modi. Now that you have given a new hope to divyangs, who else are now supporting you?
As for support. I can say that Thawarchand Gehlot, Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment, Santosh Gangwar, Minister of State for Finance, Anandi Ben Patel and all the ministers of Gujarat government are supporting us.
Q What support did you get from the Gujarat government?
The Gujarat government has started supporting us in recent times only. We were able to give only Rs 2800-2900 to our staff from 1997 but 15 days ago we heard that the Gujarat government has started giving full benefits to five of our staffs. As for the Central help, we have heard that they have opened a rehab centre here which will help divyangs in getting calipers or Jaipur foot. Also the Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Thawarchand Gehlot has recommended that they will give grant to our institution.
Q Are you in any of the government committees in this regard?
I am on many committees of the government. Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Thawarchand Gehlot took me on many committees like Senior Citizen Council, of which I am the head of Western region. A very high powered committee on Disabled Act 1991 has been formed recently to oversee the progress of this act. I am in governing body of this committee. I am also a member of Railway Board so that I can give suggestions on how to make railways more disabled friendly. PM Modi jee has started a new initiative called “Accessible India” for which awareness is needed and I think it can’t happen without the active participation of people of our country.
Q Disabled Act 1991 is very old and after the new dispention came into power, do you think changes should be made into the Act?
There are many reforms being made into the Act. The Act was there for a long time but there was no implementation. After Modi jee came into power, he immediately swung into action and told the Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Thawarchand Gehlot to look into the Act and take necessary action for making the country more disabled friendly. For me, it is important that people now know more about the problems of disabled. There are 10 crore disabled in the country, plus senior citizens and all these face problems in many areas of our country and to eradicate their problems we have to make people aware. People’s participation is very necessary to make “Accessible India” a success.
Q There are many problems faced not only by the disabled but also by women. Do you think there should be a social security cover for these people?
There should be some social security schemes in the country but thinking pragmatically, we should also see that this country has a humongous population so providing social security to everyone will take time. PM Modi Jee has a vision for making this country more disable friendly and more secure for women. It will take time but will happen.
Q You said that there are 10 crore divyangs in our country. What message will you give them so that they can keep their morale high?
Owing to the environment prevalent in our country and its society people with disability always live with inferiority complex. They start believing they are doomed because of their disability and continue languishing with their inferiority complex. Today, we need to bring them out of this complex. We have to make them believe they are also an important organ of the society. We need to make them believe in themselves. Once we succeed in doing this, automatically they will keep their morale high and will be able to do something not only for themselves but also for the country.
Q Tell us about one incident that had lasting impact on your life.
Being a divyang I have had my fare share of odd behaviours meted out to people like me. Once I was going to Ahmedabad and I was on a wheelchair sitting at the platform. Suddenly one woman who also was a divyang came and many people came forward to help her board the train. That lady had accepted the fact that she was disabled and asked for help while I sat there and no one came to help me. There I realized that once you accept your reality there is nothing to stop you. From there on I never looked back.