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Heartbreaking story of a severely disabled Himachal village girl seeking shelter and care

SHIMLA- A heartbreaking story of 25-years-old girl living in a remote village of Himachal Pradesh has again raised question over efficiency of government schemes for disabled persons and awareness in people living in remote regions about these schemes and rights of disabled.

Anitu alias Neenu’s story of suffering in misery is set in remote Kungal Balti village in Tehsil Rampur, about 110 km from Shimla town where Neenu lives with her grandparents Ram Singh and Kempu Devi.

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Neenu is suffering with severe mental and physical disability since her childhood. She can’t stand so she crawls with the help of her hands. She can’t speak but understand and retain memories. As she is unable to use toilet and grandparents are too old to facilitate her, she lives in separate shed.

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She never received any opportunity to see a doctor for diagnosis. Daughter of an unwed mother, she was deserted by parents after which her grandparent’s acted as her guardians for 25 years.  She never saw her biological father, while her mother married somewhere else and settled with her new family.

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The grandparents looked after her for 25 years, but eventually old age has made it a challenge for them to continue caring for her. They fear who will fed her, take care of her after them.

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Tears rolled down over their wrinkled faces when a disability right activist first approached and gave them hope of better future for their granddaughter.

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Himachal Watcher’s Community member, Tarun Sharma, accompanied Mr. Ajai Srivastava, chairman of Umang Foundation, during his visit to her remote village.  While Mr. Shrivastva interacted with the elderly couple, Tarun captured the apathy of Neenu and pleading of her old, illiterate grandparents so that her suffering could at least serve as a message to others like her.

Neenu could have been diagnosed during her childhood, got treatment, and monetary assistance under social security schemes for disabled under provision prescribed in the constitution like e.g. The Person with Disabilities Act, 1995, The Mental Health Act, 1987, The Rehabilitation Council of India, 1992, and The National Trust for Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation, and Multiple Disabilities Act, 1999.

In this case, lack of awareness, illiteracy, and inability of the government to reach remote villages for better implementation of social-security schemes kept Neenu deprived of all her rights. Moreover, the people must consider it their duty to aware such people and help them claim their rights. 

Now, in this specific case, Umang Foundation, a public welfare trust working for the disabled, destitute women and homeless elderly persons, has taken up the matter with the state government regarding rehabilitation and checkup of the girl.

I have written a letter to Anuradha Thakur, Secretary, Department of Social Justice and Empowerment, to immediate rescue Anitu, get her medically examined and send her to the home for destitute women

said Shrivastva.

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It took more than five hours to the team to cover this journey as almost half of the road was terrible to travel being ‘kuchcha’ road. After that, they had to track steep down about two km to reach the family.

It was a shock for the team to see the condition of Neenu. Unable to stand or walk, she has a little locomotor control and low vision. Kempu Devi told that the couple loved their granddaughter like anything. They know her likes and dislikes. She loves to eat chapati and doesn’t like rice. Since her biological father is unknown, her name could not be registered in the panchayat’s family register.

The poverty and unawareness apart from very difficult topography remained the main barriers to stop Ram Singh to get Neenu medically examined when she was a kid. She was not fortunate to see a doctor. She does not possess a disability certificate that could entitle her as a disabled person so that she could claim monthly pension.

Ram Singh and Kempu Devi are very much worried about the future of Anitu as there would be nobody to feed her after their demise.

On a question, crying Kempu Devi said,

We never wanted to part with our innocent child. Now, we have no alternative but to handover her in safe hands.

The situation is peculiar to grandparents. They never wished to depart from Neenu, but their old age has made it inevitable. However, assistance being offered by Mr. Shrivastva can provide her rehabilitation and care if the government bothers to attend to her.  Mr. Shrivastva thanked Advocate Balwant Thakur for bringing Neenu’s case to his attention. He is hopeful that the government would certainly take necessary steps to save the girl from further hardships and suffering.

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