Built on crippled common sense

nVisually impaired Sonali Pal (35) from Uliyan Kadma nearly fell on December 22, 2012, on the staircase of the first floor of the district collectorate while going to submit a memorandum of protest against the Delhi bus rape before East Singhbhum deputy commissioner (DC) Himani Pande

nWhen orthopaedically challenged Deepak Kumar Srivastava (31), secretary of Jharkhand Viklang Sansthan, has to meet officials such as deputy development commissioner (DDC) Dadan Choubey in the course of his work, he climbs steep stairs using crutches to reach the first floor of the district collectorate

On an average, around 10 disabled persons who visit the East Singhbhum district collectorate office a day, know what it is like to feel like second-class citizens.

The three-storey (G+2) collectorate building in Sakchi, Jamshedpur, does not offer accessibility to the disabled.

Even though the structure came up in 2003, eight years after Persons with Disabilities (equal opportunities, protection of rights and full participation) Act with sections 44 and 46 that stipulated barrier-free accessibility for the disabled at public buildings, staircases and not ramps were the only links between floors.

According to conservative estimates of a Jharkhand Viklang Manch survey, nearly six per cent of the total 22-lakh-plus population of East Singhbhum district comprises the disabled.

It appears a sizeable population of 1.32 lakh can't access their own district collectorate without feeling humiliated and risking a fall.

Most senior bureaucrats, including DC Himani Pande, additional deputy commissioner Ganesh Prasad, additional district magistrate (law and order) Ajay Shanker, DDC Dadan Choubey, executive magistrate Sunil Kumar and others, have offices at the district collectorate.

These apart, important departments including social welfare, DRDA, welfare, district information office and nazarat deputy commissioner office are also located in the same building.

Manch president Arun Kumar Singh said they had submitted petitions to all deputy commissioners from 2006 onwards, protested twice in front of the district collectorate and written to former state commissioner (disability) Satish Chandra, but nothing happened.

"It seems our plight does not bother bureaucrats. Mounting stairs is a risk. Plus, it is a time-consuming and painful process. But there's no way out at the district collectorate," said Singh.

Former state commissioner (disability) Chandra ' the post is vacant since December 2012 ' admitted to receiving petitions from the disabled in Jamshedpur.

"I had taken up the issue of barrier-free accessibility. But nothing has been done so far," Chandra said.

State social welfare director Krishna Prasad Dev Sahu agreed the problem was serious. "When a new commissioner (disability) is appointed, he will be entrusted with the task of ensuring that the disabled can access the district collectorate with ease," said Sahu.

On being prodded, deputy commissioner Pande claimed they had asked the executive engineer of building construction department to prepare a blueprint for a ramp and guidelines tiles on staircases for visually challenged.

"We are planning these things. We will look into it," she said without giving a deadline.

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