A man from the Alipore area, whose movement has been severely restricted since his early 30s because of joint problems, was recently compelled to make four visits to NRS Hospital to get his disability certificate from a board of doctors, whose area of specialisation seemed to be slow but excruciating torture of handicapped people.
There are thousands of handicapped people who are meted out similar maltreatment in city hospitals, where disability certificates are issued. With the certificate, one can get an identity card that entitles one to certain benefits. For the certificate, the first prerequisite is a letter signed by the local councillor. The second is one’s ration card as identity proof. A passport is not considered evidence enough. A hospital is allotted according to ward number, and if one is unlucky, it can be miles away from one’s home.
Family members can initially visit the hospital to find out the day on which the doctors will inspect the disabled person. After examination by the medical board, which meets twice a month, the certificate is issued on another day. The entire process takes months, with the authorities behaving as callously as possible.
A social worker with the Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy says the doctors and other hospital staff need to be sensitised, as they feel this work is an extra burden on them.
Strangely, the disability certificate, for which they have to struggle so much, is a bit of a riddle. The National Medical College certificate reads thus: “Grant of disability will increase his efficiency”.
In the case of the mentally-handicapped, two different government hospitals can give their own versions of a particular candidate’s IQ. So, a single person is endowed with two IQs.
Again, a certificate on one’s mental health issued by the Calcutta Pavlov Hospital is rejected by Medical College. The same person can be certified as being both a victim of mental retardation as well as cerebral palsy by two different institutes.
Instead of issuing multipurpose certificates, each time a disabled person needs a concession on his railway ticket or aids and appliances, he has to make separate trips to the department concerned. The same goes for family pension.
The National Handicapped Finance & Development Corporation grants loans up to Rs 2.5 lakh. But here, the disabled get up to Rs 50,000, thanks to the government’s inability to bear its share.
Prabhakar Chatterjee, health director, admits that if doctors have to go by the book, the disabled could be harassed. But he says he is trying to decentralise the system as far as possible.