The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Call-off cry from voices of the weak

Calcutta, Nov. 10: Voices of the less fortunate have appealed to Mamata Banerjee to call off her bandh on World Disabled Day.

On December 3, about 400 disabled children and their 'friends' had planned a march in the city against human rights violations. Several other programmes were lined up, too, to honour achievers and raise issues of concern to the disabled.

But Mamata's 12-hour bandh call against the rise in prices of petroleum products and essential commodities has cast a shadow on the plans.

Organisations representing the state's 18 lakh disabled today appealed to Mamata to reconsider. 'We just wish it was not on this particular day. This is a very big day for us and the walk was scheduled to raise issues that are often overlooked. We would appeal to her to rethink,' said Sudha Kaul of the Indian Institute of Cerebral Palsy.

Kaul and her colleagues held an emergency board meeting to work out an alternative to the march on the city's southern fringe.

In another part of the city, on Ganesh Chandra Avenue, organisers were struggling to put in place a grand programme to felicitate achievers.

'We are still not sure if the felicitation programme, which has been a glorious tradition, would be held or not on this particular day this time. We have identified a hall opposite the Zoological Gardens but there is a problem with the stage. The disabled would not be able to climb it and much of the sheen would be lost,' said K.S. Adhikari, assistant commissioner of the department of social welfare.

'The bandh has come in the way and we earnestly hope the party will think about the date,' he added.

Bitan Goswami is one of the achievers on the honours list. In his late twenties, the youth from Nagerbazar is 100 per cent hearing impaired but is pursuing a postgraduation course in textile technology at the Government College of Arts and Crafts.

It is not about felicitation alone. Besides rallies and camps that usually mark the day, organisations in the city that has around 88,000 disabled ' 43,000 suffer from an over 40 per cent handicap ' were planning to come together to set up a Disabilities Activists Forum.

'Issues like arranging a podium at Nandan so that even a disabled can take his wheelchair inside the theatre or providing them necessary support in jobs would have been on our agenda. We would appeal to the political leaders to leave this day out,' said Asutosh Gupta of Kaliya.

Chanchal Sengupta from Silence and Basudev Bhattacharya of Bikash Bharati Welfare Society echoed him.

'We had made all arrangements to hand over kits for the disabled whom we had screened in Pandua of Hooghly district. The bandh would come in the way and many needy people would lose out to a political agenda. I would plead with the organisers to think about the date once more,' Bhattacharya said.

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