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My fight for my rights

My Fight for My Rights

by Mohini Sharma

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I was in final year and just 20 days were left for final exam or I must say the exam of life. The exam for which I had struggled for whole 15 years, The exam which was going to honor me with a degree, the exam which would set my future. It wasn’t only an exam, it was my parent’s expectations, it was sister’s concern, brother’s love and friends & professors best wishes. My dream of getting good job was about to be fulfilled…the exam wasn’t burden it was a wonderful time to dream more, set goals, and go for it.

Though there were infinite other problems like arranging vehicle, writer, driver, and center with accessibility etc but it was no big deal if one has a wonderful family and friends.

I studied hard, really hard for this exam.My mom used to drive my wheelchair on roads full of traffic, every day (even on Sundays)1km to drop me to classes and again 1 km from class to home for full one year, with great smile on her face. Professors and class mates were awesome to lend there helping hands. The life was in full energy and strength to fly high. But something happened.

Exactly before 20 days of exam some renovation work held in society and suddenly society members started feeling problem from ramp that I made for my wheelchair to move in/out of society.

Meeting was held by society and my parents were called as culprit of making ramp that gave facility to their daughter. Many options were given to alter ramp which were completely inaccessible for wheelchair.(they might not knowing how wheelchair can be drive or may be don’t understand what ramp is actually meant for ;) ) A meeting turns in to dispute and my parents were alone fighting for my rights with 72 houses of society members. ( I remember well that day we had no dinner as mother was too busy to save my rights) I was worried if ramp would be demolished how would I go for my exam? What would happen to my career?

A corporator came to help me but he was helpless as he could not compromise with his vote bank to help me.The second day my ramp was demolished and a staircase was built in its place and society reasoned that because of ramp people fall and moreover ramp gave the look of hospital to the society and my rights were snatched for the sake of beautification. That night I decided to fight myself for my rights.

The sun rose and I woke with great a strength.I don’t know from where it came but I never felt as powerful as I was that day. I approached TV channel they came with great response and interview was aired on same night. I wasn’t very much aware of rights about disables so approached a lawyer and got to know about disabled act 1995. Than I realized I don’t need to ask anybody to show humanity and let me build my ramp. Its my right and I should get it. Finally I decided to go to police station and I went.

With help of a social activist I met senior officer Mr.Mahabadi, He was a wonderful man and he assured me that within a couple of days my wheelchair would again ply on the ramp again. My case was handed over to police inspector Sunita Kulkarni.(I must say, I salute Mumbai Police)

On the second day of complain, police came in society with intention of compromise and my parents were called again for meeting but this time I decided to attend meeting.

That meeting brought drastic change in my personality, I was arguing with more than 72 people.I still remember somebody asked my father to talk instead of me as I was not allowing anybody to speak.My father replied “she is mature 18+ & educated, she can take her own decision".

At last they had to surrender but they wanted me to bear the cost of carpet for sake of beautification of ramp. I agreed as the exam was near and I had no time left with me. After all it was the exam of life.

The very next day staircase was demolished and a ramp was built again but it was a ramp for name sake.It was so steep that two people were needed to help me get down from it. I decided to keep quite till my exams were over.

On 7th April when my exam over I met Dr.Deepak Savant. member of Assembly and he promised me to raise issue and he did so, and Govt assured they will look in to matter but nothing happened. I tried again but they said they would solve the problem after monsoon session.

Many monsoon sessions came and went but nothing happened. My ramp is still as it is and two people are needed at a time to help me get up/down from ramp. I got busy with my tuition and life struggles.

Now I don’t stay in that society because of my mother’s health issue I have shifted to new a place. I am still doing home based job with minimum salary as offices don’t have wheelchair accessible infrastructure.

Govt says they have made many changes in infrastructure to make it wheelchair friendly, and of course Malls and movie theaters do have ramps but how do I spend money if I work with minimum salary.

I am 25 and I haven't voted till now because voting booths are not accessible, of course 10 people are there to lift my chair, but where are these people when I really need to go out for interview or work. I hope things will change one day and struggle will become bit easy for us.

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The author writes regularly for CTH. She may be contacted at contact@crossthehurdles.com