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Stephen Hawking may not be the greatest contemporary scientist. But there is no denial that he is one of the most popular names in the world of science and outside. A primary reason – he is physically challenged. His capabilities are always weighed in comparison with his disabilities. He draws accolades. He is far too intelligent despite the disabilities. The almost completely paralysed person proved his doctors wrong living decades after the ‘deadline’ set by the latter. Not only lived, but he also excelled in the field of science and scientific literature. Oscar Pistorious, leaving aside his infamy for ‘accidentally’ killing his girlfriend, is another person who shot to fame for his sheer ability as an athlete. The disability factor helped him further to be in the limelight.

By drawing reference to Hawking and Pistorious, the point being tried to make here is that a disabled person does not have to live on doles always. On the occasion of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 3, some physically challenged youths performed according to their various abilities. Young ‘disabled’ boys were seen making beautiful paintings on the street walls of Shillong within no time. They are as good as any of their ‘abled’ peers. Some of them danced and sung, impressing Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma. He promised to make policies that would ‘truly’ empower the persons with disabilities (PWDs) in the state. His statement is welcome. But, it has to translate into action to help PWDs be self-reliant.

There is so much noise by various associations of PWDs seeking jobs in the government. The chief minister’s announcement will calm them for some time. While the associations’ demands centre around government jobs and grants, the government tries to satisfy them looking at the popular mood. As a result, the PWDs become more reliant on government doles. Is it a healthy trend? In this kind of environment in the country, can any PWD hope to become either Hawking or Pistorious some day? The answer is a big NO. There is a huge need to inculcate the feeling of competition among the PWDs. And who better than the family members and respective associations can do it. Once they put forward the first step, the government can be pressured to push the move further.

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on December 5, 2014)

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