Union Home Minister Amit Shah recently said that the biggest gift Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave to Indians with disabilities is the term ‘divyang’ to describe them. But Thaawarchand Gehlot, Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, says otherwise — Modi, he claims has also given more than 14 lakh specially-abled people a better life.
The minister, while inaugurating the first indigenously-made standing wheelchair at IIT Madras, said that the Narendra Modi government has organised 8,064 camps to make equipment that helps them in their daily lives available to them at Rs 10,000. "We organised the camps to maintain transparency as well. So that they can get to know the schemes for the specially-abled, see for themselves the products that the government gives out and to whom they were given," said Gehlot. "We have reached 14,16,000 people and distributed equipment worth Rs 851 crore that has changed their personal and social life at the same time. We have also organised camps in schools across India — more than 5,000 camps and Rs 167 crore worth of equipment distributed. We have also helped children who have problems reading, talking or hearing with the financial support of Rs 6 lakhs. We have also presented 2,192 children with Cochlear implants," he added.
Praising IIT Madras for its advancements, Gehlot said that he has visited many institutes in the past few years that been working on advanced tech to help people but has not come across a standing wheelchair more advanced and developed than this, "I am really impressed by the kind of work done by the R2D2 Centre of IIT Madras and look forward to cooperating with them in the future. I am sure IIT Madras and its partners that we will try to provide standing wheelchairs to the needy through the Ministry, MLA Constituency Development and CSR Funds. It will bring health benefits as well as the confidence to the users. It's not very expensive either. While motorised wheelchairs cost Rs 37,000 each the standing wheelchair by IIT Madras costs only Rs 15,000."
"We have distributed 12,000 motorised wheelchairs at a subsidised cost of Rs 12,000 and I promise to help roll out the standing wheelchair with a subsidy of Rs 5,000. Around Rs 1.5 lakh is allocated for wheelchairs by the government every year. In 2015-16, more than 78,500 tricycles and 44,536 wheelchairs for the specially-abled were sold," added the minister. "We would like to collaborate to make the standing wheelchair available to all. We are manufacturing prosthetics and various related equipment already. We have signed MoUs with german companies to make prosthetic legs," he said.
The Modi government, he said, has made the law more inclusive and it now recognises 21 different types of specially-abled individuals. The government has also helped with reservations for the specially-abled — 4 per cent for government and 5 per cent in higher educational institutions and promises to keep working for the special individuals of the society