For eight years, Karyanand Mishra — a resident of Dallupura, East Delhi — had been running from the proverbial pillar to post, trying to secure a Disability Certificate for his son Aman.
Aman, now 15, was diagnosed with the movement disorder cerebral palsy in early childhood.
A Class 10 student, Aman will appear for the Board exams in a few months.
At the Sarvodaya Rajakiya Bal Vidyalay in Dallupura, where he is enrolled, Aman is counted among the promising students. Karyanand carries his son to school on his shoulders every morning. Aman’s passed in every class so far, fighting to stay abreast of his peers — and often succeeding. But as he faces the Board exams, without the Disability Certificate that would have offered him support like an additional 20 minutes per hour to complete a paper and a Rs 2,500 monthly grant, Aman’s parents are justifiably worried.
Cerebral palsy is among the conditions included under the Persons with Disabilities Act. And Aman’s is a visible disability. Yet, obtaining the Disability Certificate — which would ensure Aman has access to all the provisions set aside for specially/differently abled individuals under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act — proved to be a years-long struggle for Karyanand. And the Mishras’ case stands in stark contrast even as the Delhi government’s Doorstep Delivery of Services scheme marks its first anniversary.
“The specially or differently abled require services like doorstep delivery the most. For them to struggle for years to avail of their rights, when others are accessing services with a phone call — this is a case of sheer discrimination,” Ashok Agarwal, a lawyer and child rights activist, told Firstpost.
Karyanand works as a security guard at an upscale apartment complex in Delhi. He is the family-of-four’s sole breadwinner, and is paid Rs 8,000 a month. The Mishras live in a one-room home. The time Karyanand spent in doing the rounds of government hospitals and offices for Aman’s certificate was time he spent away from earning his (and his family’s) livelihood.
When Karyanand narrates how he was stymied at every turn in his quest for a Disability Certificate, it’s enough to make you wonder if this was some sort of tragicomedy — except the stakes for the Mishras were all too high.
“Every time I applied for the certificate in a hospital, I was either denied or referred to another one,” Karyanand recounts.
Karyanand first applied for a Disability Certificate for Aman in 2011, at the Lal Bahadur Shastri Hospital. However, hospital authorities said that he would have to submit proof that he’d been a Delhi resident for at least five years in order to be eligible to apply. Karyanand, who hails from Bihar, has been residing in Delhi for the past 15 years. However, at the time his proof of residence in Delhi covered only the previous three years. Karyanand’s submission was rejected. “So I had to wait for a long time to apply once again for my son’s Disability Certificate,” he says.
When Karyanand had gathered the necessary proof, he reapplied for the certificate at Lal Bahadur Shastri Hospital. This time, the authorities referred him to the GB Pant Hospital. The GB Pant staff sent him on to Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital, and then to the Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences, where, Karyanand was told, Aman’s IQ would be tested.
“In the last hospital, I was told that as per the norms they could not certify my son as disabled until he was 18 years old. I made many requests, saying that a Disability Certificate was of immense importance for my son. No one would listen to me,” Karyanand says. Helpless, he felt he had no choice but to wait.
According to the law, state governments must notify hospitals to issue certify various types of disabilities. A specially abled person should apply for a Disability Certificate in one of these notified hospitals, where he/she would be taken through a series of diagnostic tests. The individual is duly certified after the disability is diagnosed.
Sources in the Disability Commission in Delhi told Firstpost that the time stipulated to certify a disability should not be more than 30 days.
At a time when a host of government services in the capital are being delivered in a time-bound manner, it is particularly jarring that the Mishras have been shunted from one place to the next in their quest to avail of the rights granted to Aman.
Lack of clarity from the government regarding the procedure for securing the Disability Certificate led to Mishras’ protracted struggle. In May 2019, however, the Delhi government empowered 27 hospitals to certify 21 types of disabilities. The manner of the hospitals’ selection ensures all areas of Delhi are covered, and people will not have to visit a series of hospitals to avail of the service.
The notification did not solve the Mishras’ problems. For even if their role in issuing Disability Certificates had now been clearly defined, not all hospitals have adequate facilities to conduct the necessary tests.
As per the new notification, Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital was authorised to certify Aman’s disability. But when Karyanand Mishra visited the hospital recently, he was told there was no clinical psychologist on the staff who could administer an IQ test to his son. IQ testing is a part of the procedure required to follow for issuing a Disability Certificate to a person suffering from cerebral palsy.
“We have been writing to the health department to appoint a clinical psychologist. Since we do not have one on our rolls, we had asked Aman Mishra’s father to get the test done at another hospital,” a source from the Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital told Firstpost.
As for the Mishras’ previous struggles, a doctor at the Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital told Firstpost on condition of anonymity that it stemmed from the authorities’ confusion over which government hospital could certify which disability.
“Only this year has the Delhi government come up with a clear notification defining the role of every hospital in issuing Disability Certificates,” the doctor said.
Alka Srivastava, a special educator based in Delhi, says she has come across many cases where it has taken individuals over a year to complete the certification procedure. She ascribes this to the previous lack of clarity and the continuing infrastructure crunch.
“Moreover, many parents of specially abled children cannot afford to spend the time required to complete the tedious process, as they are working,” she pointed out.
Aman Mishra’s case is representative of the plight of many other applicants and their families who cannot meet the requirements of time and money to complete the procedure specified for issuing a Disability Certificate.
The 2011 Census reported that Delhi has 2,34,882 specially abled persons, of which 1,47,227 are certified as disabled persons. This means more than 37 percent of this population does not have Disability Certificates.
On 29 July this year, Karyanand Mishra filed a complaint with the Disability Commission in Delhi about his eight-year battle. Disability Commissioner TD Dhariyal took up the matter and ordered that applicants should not have to make multiple visits to get the certification.
“If, as per law, the applicant has to visit a hospital to get the required tests done, then the visit has to be made. But I have passed the required order to ensure that an applicant should not have to make multiple visits to a hospital,” Dhariyal said.
After the Disability Commissioner’s order, the Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital, a medical facility notified to certify Aman’s disability, called Karyanand Mishra to visit the facility with his son. Aman was taken through a series of physical tests, after which he was assured that he would receive the Disability Certificate soon. To Karyanand’s surprise, no IQ test was conducted this time, as the authorities had previously insisted on.
With the Disability Commissioner himself asking the authorities to speed up the procedure of issuing the Disability Certificate to Aman, staff at the Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital finally handed Karyanand Mishra the long-hoped-for document on Tuesday, 1 October.
But for Karyanand, some questions remained: if he hadn’t approached the Disability Commissioner would he have received the certificate, without Aman having to take the IQ test? Would the spiral of hospital visits — painful, time-consuming affairs that extracted a heavy financial toll on the Mishras — have continued?
Disability Commissioner TD Dhariyal told Firstpost that the Health Department has issued a notification to hospitals stating that in the absence of facilities to conduct certain tests required for the certification process, the help of specialists from a nearby hospital can be sought.
“Unfortunately, many-a-times the notification is not followed by hospitals,” he added.
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Updated Date: Oct 05, 2019 17:02:22 IST