By Sheshu Babu*
Almost all sections of people have suffered due to lockdown. Only a few elite upper classes and rich have not suffered much. The migrant workers, street vendors and petty business persons had to endure lot of hardship. Similarly, disabled have also bore the brunt of suffering due to lockdown. The disabled constitute a small percentage of the whole population and visually disabled are even less but their welfare has not almost sidelined by both centre and state rulers.
According to Indian government, there are 5.4 million people with visually impairments in the country (activists put the figure at 42 million, while the World Health Organisation gives an estimate of 62 million). A large section of this population is either unemployed and dependent on government provisions or working as daily wagers in the unorganized sector.(“Covid 19 Has Made Life Harsher For The Blind”, by Shabnam Durani, thewire.in). Eyeway, a network of about ten voluntary organizations, is trying to help the visually challenged.
One of the crucial problems faced by the blind is transportation. Due to lockdown, the means of transport have been scarce. Some of visually impaired working in sectors like banking have not been given clear guidelines and instructions to stay at home due to which many managers are forcing them to attend to their duties. Thus, these employees have to request someone to drop them to the office which may not be possible all the time. Even if a blind person becomes ill, the means of transport is hardly available.
The unemployed blind face even grave problem. They are already dependent on others for basic necessities, with lockdown, the bread earners have themselves become unemployed and the Blind persons in their homes are an additional burden. Often, the frustration of losing employment is shown upon the helpless blind who have to bear anger, restlessness, stress and emotional outbursts of their bread earners.
Most domestic workers , specially women, could not find work and if their husband happens to be a blind, they have to face additional responsibility.
Also, ‘social distancing ‘ has become a curse for the blind as they have to depend often on someone when they are out on streets. According to figures provided by the union health and family welfare ministry in Lok Sabha on November 29, 2019, at least 0.36% of indian population is Blind (“Blind people fear days after lockdown say social distancing is a curse”, updated May 06, 2020, hindustantimes.com). The problem compounds for students who need scribes to read and write specially during exams.
Many blind especially women are facing domestic violence from their families and are unable to find ways to diffuse tensions in the family.
Due to unplanned lockdown, visually disabled are facing physical and psychological problems. As their percentage of population is very less, governments at center and state should have identified them and given adequate support. Even the ration supplied to poor is being denied to most of the blind. Social apathy is aggravating their suffering leading to emotional distress. The NGOs are trying to help them out but that is not enough. Many visually disabled do not know about the particulars of NGOs so that they could ask for help.
Therefore, awareness campaign is essential to help blind with suitable answers to their problems. Both NGOs and governments should launch door-to-door search for the identification and provision of necessary help during and after lockdown. So far, not much has been done for the well -being of blind during lockdown. Hopefully their woes will be considered during and after the end of lockdown on humanitarian grounds.
*The writer from everywhere and anywhere supports civil liberties and human rights