Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine
Safar\Rabi-Ul-Awwal 1424 H
May 2003
Volume 16-05 No : 197
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The Disabled Deserve a Dignified Life!
Another Milestone for Silicon School


The Disabled Deserve a Dignified Life!

Mohammed Hanif meets Javed Abidi who is confined to a wheel-chair,
but yet is actively involved in disability rights and providing employment rights to the disabled


By A Staff Writer

Javeed Abidi

You have to meet him to see and believe his grit and determination! Javed Abidi, 38, affected at birth with a spinal malady and confined to the wheelchair by medical negligence, is working to provide political visibility and economic opportunities for disabled persons.

In 1994, he founded the Disability Rights Group (later re-named the National Advocacy Network) to work specifically on cross-disability issues, particularly the drafting and passing of the Disability Act of 1995. Javed has been systematically training various disability groups in campaigning and negotiating skills, and helping them to campaign in the political arena for disabled rights.

As the head of the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP), Javed is also doing the groundwork for partnerships in the private sector, primarily with the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), the apex body for industry in India. Thanks to the efforts of Javed, CII has declared unequivocally that disability will be part of their corporate social agenda and that it will collaborate with NCPEDP to take up sensitisation among corporate houses and private industry. Similarly, the Tata Council for Community Initiatives is working closely with NCPEDP to develop an employment policy for the disabled for all Tata companies.

Javed was born in Aligarh. Inaccurate medical diagnosis confined Javed to the wheelchair when he was very young. He suffers from sclerosis of the spine, and his disability could well have been controlled with timely medical intervention. However, Javed took on the active role of “ambassador for the disabled” when he was still in high school. When he was ten years old, his father took him to the United States for treatment where he saw the respect with which the disabled lived and the empathy of the environment to disability.

Javed returned to the United States in 1995 for treatment and education in journalism and mass communication at Wright State University. Javed became an active member of the disability unit of the University and in other campus activities while also achieving high academic honours. However, on his return to India, jobs eluded him, as most publication editors he approached did not consider the task of political reporting appropriate for him. Constrained by his disability, while very highly qualified, Javed experienced employment frustrations that are common to many of the disabled in this country. But it was a matter of time before he established his credentials as a respected political journalist.

“I had returned from the U.S. with a degree in mass communication and was happily working as a freelance journalist,” he said. “A chance meeting with Sonia Gandhi led to an offer to set up and head the disability department in the newly established Rajiv Gandhi Foundation - a non-profit organisation focusing on areas of social need.”

Javed joined up and began educating himself about the disability scenario in India. And what he learned appalled him. This vast constituency had virtually no legal muscle nor a coherent government policy to facilitate its socio-economic empowerment. Less than one per cent of disabled children were in schools and barely 0.5 percent disabled adults were employed. What was disturbing too, was the dearth of information - qualitative and quantitative - on the sector.

He recalls with disgust, “It was the blind for the blind, the deaf for the deaf: everybody so caught up in service delivery that they had lost sight of the big picture and consequently, none of the fundamental issues were being tackled.”

As his own experience of disability became part of a larger perspective, the boundaries between personal and political began to collapse and the persona of Javed Abidi, the activist, started evolving. It was galvanised into full-fledged existence in 1994 when he and seven others, covering between them a range of disabilities, formed the Disability Rights Group (DRG) - India’s first cross-disability activists’ body. Positioning itself as a non-political pressure group, it is focused at issues that have large-scale implications for the sector.

The NCPEDP was conceptualsed and set up by Abidi. In 1997, under his leadership, the centre launched a multi-pronged program aimed at facilitating employment for disabled persons, which not only creates employment opportunities, but also prepares the sector to use these openings. Says V. Iyenger, CEO of INFAR India, a multi-national drug company: “We’ve had a disability-friendly human resources policy for a while, but Abidi rocket-launched it into its second phase. The approach now is to work on spreading these policies across the pharmaceutical industry by working with the industry’s apex bodies.”

“Javed visited our office and that one meeting resulted in my realising that disability was a serious problem in India and what he said came straight from the heart,” says Pradeep Gupta, Helen Keller Award winner and CEO of Indian IT giant, Cyber Media India Limited, to explain what sparked off his support for the disabled.

Javed’s most significant recent accomplishment has been through his involvement in a case being heard in the Supreme Court against the state of India, the aviation ministry, and Indian Airlines. Javed filed a claim when he was refused an aisle chair while travelling on Indian Airlines. A master strategist, he swung around the issue of non-availability of aisle chairs for the disabled in aircrafts, to the hostility of Indian airports towards the disabled, and then pointed to the non-implementation of the Disability Act of 1995 as the cause. He represented himself in the Supreme Court and was pitted against the government’s top lawyers (including the Advocate General).

Javed won a resounding victory. The result of this landmark victory is that today, the disabled can avail of a 50 percent discount on Indian Airlines tickets, use the facility of an ambu-lift, be assured of aisle seats and expect a customer-friendly attitude.

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Another Milestone for Silicon School

Maulana Riaz-ur-Rahman laying the foundation stone

Bangalore: The Silicon City Public School managed and run by Masjid-e-unemul Hasnian and Sal Sabeel Educational Trust is one among the best schools in Bangalore city, located at Indira Nagar and has by the grace of Allah earned good reputation within a short span of time.

The foundation stone for the High School and College building along with the school day function of Silicon City public school was held on 12 April. Maulana Riaz-ur-Rahman. imam of Jamia Masjid, Bangalore, laid the foundation stone. The structure construction is estimated to cost 2.25 crores with four storey building covering 48,000 sq. ft. The function was presided by J Alexander, I.A.S Retd. Chief Secretary, Government of Karnataka and MLA. Saadulla Saheb I.A.S, U Nisar Ahmed Saheb I.P.S, along with other prominent delegates were present at this function. Zaiullah Khan sahib, president and Secretary along with Vice President Janab Abdul Jabbar Khan sahib of Sal Sabeel Educational Trust welcomed the guests. Maulana Riaz-ur-Rahman in his speech praised the management of the school for the improvement in the quality of education. He stressed that the elite from our community should support these establishments in all possible ways. Alexander hoped that the project would be completed by the sincere efforts of the management.

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