It is 1 A.M. There is an eerie silence outside on the road. The Pune police commissioner office, the commissionerate of social welfare premises are occupied by hundreds of people. One does not hear any slogans, one may assume that these are just a mob of people who are sitting on the road at 1. But these are hearing and speech impaired students who were lathi-charged by the Pune Police on Monday afternoon while peacefully protesting. They have resolved now that they will not go to the home with promises made by state representatives over just a phone call.
7 to 8 thousand speech and hearing impaired youth from all over Maharashtra had gathered at the Commissionerate of Social Welfare on Monday morning. They were demanding their rights through a peaceful protest, but no one was responding on behalf of the state government, so they decided to start a march towards Mumbai, but police denied them permission.
“As we can’t speak, we were asking the police about the permission in our sign language, but police couldn’t understand and started beating us. Around 40 people are injured, even women were beaten badly and their clothes were torn.” Pradeep More told Indie Journal with the help of Atiya, a sign-language interpreter. Pradeep, is a teacher and the general secretary of an organisation called the State Level Association of Deaf (SLAD).
Abhijit Samudre. Photo- Priyanka Tupe
Abhijit Samudre, a civilian protester who took part in the protest told indie journal, “I have come here for my cousin Pradeep. These people are simply demanding for their education and betterment in jobs, is it too much to ask the system for education and jobs?” adding, “But the worst part is that, nobody has come here since morning except the local politicians. The Chief Minister has to take all these demands into consideration. These people have been silent since years, now we have to understand them but the police beat them up instead.”
Photo- Priyanka Tupe
“We have our demands and we will not go home unless the government promises to fulfil them. The minister of social welfare, Dilip Kamble, spoke to us over a phone call and promised that he will come tomorrow to meet us, but that’s not enough. We are not going to leave the place unless our meeting is done,” Pradeep More says.
Following are the demands that the students are protesting for:
- Quality higher education for the speech and hearing impairment students.
- Freedom to choose fields like Arts, Commerce, Sciences, Engineering, Pharmacy etc. Fees should be waived off by the government or a social service institution.
- To provide them with adequate technical knowledge there should be an institute teaching them MSCIT and TALLY etc.
- For STD 1-12, the books of sign Language in Hindi, English and Marathi should be made available. It has started in the country and should be incorporated in Maharashtra as soon as possible.
- There are many jobs given to people who pretend to have the disability and are able to get a fake disability certificate due to which the people who genuinely have hearing and speaking impairment are deprived of the opportunity. Brain stem evoked response audiometry test should be conducted to find out bogus cases since the last 15 years so that the person who deserves it the most gets the opportunities accordingly.
- The doctors are handing over fake disability certificate by taking the bribe, as a result of its an injustice to the person with a genuine disability. People get a disability certificate by conducting basic audiometry tests. All this should be scrutinized properly by the authorities but they haven’t conducted it since 2011 due to which it doesn’t fall under the updated category for tests.
- There should be included for them similar to any other normal student.
- People with speech and hearing impairment should be given employment opportunity in every district of Maharashtra.
- As there aren’t proper facilities for their higher education, there shouldn’t be a written test for them while seeking a government job.
- According to the Kerala state government, people with hearing and speaking impairment should be allowed to drive. Like Kerala, every State should allow it.
- There should be a committee set up for welfare.
- 80% to 100% people with hearing and speech impairment should be provided with a government job.
- He/She should be given work in places like the bus station, District offices etc.
- The meeting conducted by the hearing and speech impaired people should have an interpreter present.
– Priyanka Tupe
(Priyanka Tupe is the Chief Reporter at Indie Journal)