Srinagar: As the International Day of Disabled Persons (or World Disability Day) is being observed across the world on Thursday, a specially-abled person from South Kashmir’s Kulgam district is out to earn his livelihood in the city centre of Srinagar in Lal Chowk.
Iqbal, sitting in his hand-drawn wheelchair outside Polo Ground and selling his stuff to earn a livelihood, narrates how he and the people like him have been ignored by the successive regimes in Jammu and Kashmir.
“Nobody is yours until you give them money,” Iqbal says, with a sarcastic smile on his face. He says he earns his livelihood by selling pens, socks, copies and other related items while plodding in his hand-drawn wheelchair.
Iqbal says there is no door, which he did not knock in the last 15 years, only to be disappointed.
“I come from Damhal Hanjipora area in Kulgam. The former legislator Sakina Ittoo is my neighbour. I used to visit her home often, but she failed to come up to my expectations and later told me that you come here to beg in front of me following which I never visited her home,” Iqbal says.
“I approached all the leaders in the last five years including former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, Nazir Gurezi, Ali Muhammad Sagar and others, but nobody paid heed to my sufferings and failed to provide me any relief,” he says. “I am fed up now with these leaders and don’t expect anything from them.”
Iqbal further says that even his family members do not bother to see where he is at the moment. “My brothers don’t know where I am. They will visit me only if they need money.”
However, he praises an individual from Srinagar, whom he identifies by his first name only, Azad, saying that he provides him with the stuff like pens, copies, pencils and other items free of cost to sell them later and earn a livelihood. “It is he who has been helping me from the last several years now.”
“I manage to earn my livelihood by selling this stuff in the markets. I earn enough to eat bread regularly. I have also performed Umrah last year (2019) from my savings of 14 years,” Iqbal says.
“I don’t want to rely on anyone and I don’t want to beg before anyone. I want to earn on my own and feed myself. That is why I am here to sell things and earn my livelihood,” he says.
Nothing has changed in the last 15 years for Iqbal as there has been no assistance to him from the government.
Iqbal says every promise and claim (by the government) is aimed to hoodwink specially-abled persons like him, as nothing is being done for them on the ground.
On Thursday morning, Jammu and Kashmir Handicapped Association (JKHA), like previous years, turned up at Srinagar’s Press Enclave and staged a protest against the government for failing to address their concerns.
Abdul Rashid Bhat, the President of the association, said that on this day, new laws are implemented across the globe for the specially-abled persons but the situation is quite different in J&K.
“Over a year has elapsed since the erstwhile J&K state was changed into a union territory, the government has failed to implement the RPWD Act so far which would have ensured betterment of handicapped persons,” Bhat said.
He added such is the height of indifference by the government that he has sought an appointment with the Lieutenant Governor and has written to him five times so far in this regard but his request has fallen into deaf ears.
“We want the government to take steps for the well-being of disabled persons across J&K so that they could heave a sigh of relief,” he said. (KNO)