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Disabled citizen’s home truths

Dumka, Dec. 3: A day before International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2013, chief minister Hemant Soren yesterday couldn’t give time to an old man on crutches at Raj Bhavan in the state’s second capital.

Former driver Ram Iqbal Rai (65), who claimed he had taken JMM chief Shibu Soren to the latter’s native place in Nemra in 1976 when Soren Senior was busy marshalling forces for the separate statehood movement, got crippled five years ago when a road accident hurt his spine.

Rai, who has seven more mouths to feed, wanted Rs 5,000 under a government scheme to set up a roadside shop for snacks.

“Hemantji told me to visit next time he comes here and started interacting with others. The afsar babu (officials) around him did not take any notice of me,” Rai told The Telegraph.

But had Hemant listened, he could have known first-hand how officials get on the government gravy train, siphon off benefits of well-meaning yojanas and cripple lives.

Rai, who is eligible for a BPL card, has been allotted a number but no card. Under Antyodaya Anna Yojana, Rai is supposed to get 35kg of rice every month from the local PDS shop. Rai claimed he gets 21kg “very intermittently”.

“The dealer withheld distribution of rice arbitrarily for months,” he alleged.

Rai is yet to be allotted his Indira Awas home promised three years back. “The houses are incomplete. They say some people ran off with the money,” the old man said.

Rai pays Rs 200 as rent for the shack where he lives with his wife, sons Mukesh and Rakesh, daughter-in-law and two granddaughters in a rented shack in Lakhikundi, a stone’s throw from Khijuria where the Sorens have their home.

The Rai family reached desperate straits when Mukesh, an auto driver, got bedridden three months ago, diagnosed with abdominal tumour. They now depend on the earnings of garage apprentice Rakesh — Rs 1,000 a month — and Rai’s own monthly disability pension under Swami Vivekananda Nishakt Swabalamban Protsahan Yojana — Rs 400.

“I just need Rs 5,000 to invest in a snacks shop. I want to give my family two square meals a day,” Rai said.