New Delhi: The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment urged the Home Ministry to ensure minimum support services for people with disabilities during the ongoing lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In a letter addressed to the Home Ministry Secretary Saturday, the social justice ministry asked that law enforcement authorities across the country be directed to issue permits to the caregivers and maids of persons with disabilities on a priority basis.
The ministry had also issued guidelines to all states and union territories Thursday for the safety and protection of people with disabilities. They directed states to give them priority in treatment, provide them with home delivery of basic amenities and allow their caregivers to reach them without any obstruction.
‘Too little, too late’
However, with the country all set to enter the second week of lockdown, many people with disabilities across the country feel these initiatives are too little and too late.
Soumita Basu, a 37-year-old entrepreneur from Kolkata, has arthritis and has not been able to access her medicines since the lockdown. She has been prescribed hydroxychloroquine for her illness, but since reports emerged that the medicine may possibly prevent Covid-19, it is in short supply in medical stores.
“People have started hoarding hydroxychloroquine, a very potent drug, without a doctor’s prescription. People like me who need it for our survival are not getting access to it,” she told ThePrint.
She added that she had also not been able to access food since deliveries have been hit since the lockdown. “Medical and food stores around me are not delivering food to us. We are relying on the kindness of people around us.”
Furthermore, despite government orders, Basu’s caregiver has been unable to reach her. “With police lathi-charging people venturing out, there is no way for my helper to reach my house. Even if I manage to get a letter of permit made I have no means to send it to her,” she said.
‘Social distancing not an option’
According to a survey conducted by the Ministry of Statistics, 2.2 per cent of India’s population is disabled. In effect, 86 out of every 1,000 Indians are disabled.
Virali Desai, a Mumbai-based motivational speaker who is wheelchair bound due to a spinal cord injury, was only able to get access to her caregiver after she posted a distressed tweet.
I’m disabled and I live alone, I need my maid who cooks and does other physiological care for me. Due to the virus, she won’t be able to come. What do we do about these situations? @MumbaiPolice @MoHFW_INDIA #CoronavirusLockdown
— Virali Modi (@Virali01) March 24, 2020
“It is now a challenge for my help to reach my house. They have to walk upto 8 kilometers daily,” she told ThePrint.
She also requested the Home Ministry to issue permits to her help so that they could travel via buses but she is yet to hear from the authorities.
For Shaista Parwin, a visually-impaired UPSC aspirant, the lockdown led to a seven-hour wait at the Delhi airport without any aid.
“Since I am visually impaired and suffer from orthopedic disabilities I knew living on my own would not be possible,” she said, adding that medical and grocery stores around her had already told her that they would stop delivering supplies.
With everyone constantly reiterating the importance of social distancing, for people with disabilities, this is practically impossible.
Anubha Mahajan, a dentist residing in Gurgaon, suffers from complex regional pain syndrome, a disease yet to be recognised by the Indian government as a disability. This syndrome causes chronic pain in a certain part that eventually spreads to the rest of the body.
She has to rely on her caretaker at all times to cope with her disease. However, at the same time, her compromised immunity makes it an especially dangerous situation.
According to Mahajan, “I have to ensure that my help is clean at all times. Maintaining social distance is not possible for me because my condition can worsen anytime and I need help administering my medication.”