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Special lifts lost on funds use

Rakesh Kumar, a differently abled youth, climbs down the stairs of the outpatient department in Patna Medical College and Hospital. Picture by Ashok Sinha

The differently abled suffer even during visits to the six medical college hospitals. There are no lifts or ramps long after central funds were earmarked for the same.

Social welfare minister Parveen Amanullah had told The Telegraph last January that her department received Rs 5.86 crore for installation of ramps and disabled-friendly lifts at some hospitals. She had said work would be completed in seven-eight months.

But sources in her department said the funds, received in 2012, were handed over to building construction department only last October.

What’s worse, the building construction department has not started work yet. “Had the funds been utilised on time, it would have been of great help to the disabled. According to the 2011 census, there are 1.9 million disabled people in the state,” said a source in the social welfare department on condition of anonymity.

He said: “Social welfare department received Rs 5.86 crore from ministry of social justice and empowerment under the Scheme of Implementation of Persons with Disability Act (SIPDA). The fund was meant for installing disabled-friendly lifts at the three major public buildings, including Vishweshwaraya Bhavan, Patna High Court and Vikas Bhavan, while ramps were to be installed at some selected primary health centres and six major government medical college hospitals (see chart).”

Even after several attempts, The Telegraph could not contact Parveen Amanullah.

However, Kaushal Kishore Verma, director, directorate of social security and disability, said: “We have handed over the fund to the building construction department in October.”

Asked why the department took so long to hand over the funds, Verma said: “We follow a process. We had to take Cabinet approval. Only then we sanctioned money to the building construction department.”

But the building construction department is yet to start work.

Secretary, building construction, Chanchal Kumar, said: “I don’t know whether some funds have been given by social welfare department. You can ask special secretary in my department, Ganga Kumar.” The special secretary sought time to check facts but did not take this correspondent’s call later.

The disabled feel cheated. “The social welfare department seems more disabled than us, as it takes so much time to execute works for us. The disabled face lots of problems when visiting public buildings that don’t have ramps or disabled-friendly lifts. For them, the most problematic thing is to climb a dozen stairs. There are no disabled-friendly lifts at any public building. Whenever the disabled visit buildings like the secretariat, Vishveshwaraya Bhawan, they face a lot of problems. Had the central funds been utilised, we could have got some relief,” said 24-year-old Rakesh Kumar, a disabled person here.

He further said: “Visiting the building which houses directorate of social security and disability in Punaichak itself is a torture. We have to climb 16 stairs there. There is no ramp facility. It shows how much the social welfare department cares for people like us.”

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