The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sight lost, but not vision of self-respect
- 70% in secondary, still a hawker

Krishnagar, Aug. 30: Twenty-five years ago, he lost his eyesight to measles. Now 27, Nityananda Das could be robbed of little else since, least of all his self-respect.

The youth from Nabadwip, who scored 70 per cent in Madhyamik, is now a hawker.

Last week, he turned down Nadia district magistrate Rajesh Pandey’s offer of a monthly pension meant for the physically disabled.

“I have come a long way to meet you. And for this, I have not taken any help from others. It is just a matter of fact that I am blind, but am capable of earning my own bread. Your offer is for those handicapped, I do not consider myself one,” Nityananda told Pandey politely, clutching on to his aluminium cane.

The district magistrate came to know about Nityananda while going through some of the papers on physically challenged people in Nadia. In an application seeking a job, Nityananda had said he lost his eyes after an attack of measles. His father, a former hawker now 83, took pains to make him study in the Calcutta Blind School, from where he passed Madhyamik in 2001 with 70 per cent in the aggregate.

He had to quit studies to take up the family’s reins after his father stopped working because of old age. His elder brother Bhagirath, who owns a grocery shop, left home five years ago and has started living separately with his wife and children.

“Earning bread and butter for my 83-year-old father and 70-year-old mother became a challenge for me. So, I had no option but to take up my father’s occupation of hawking food items. I would be grateful if I get a decent job,” Nityananda wrote in his application. Pandey was moved. He called him.

“I had decided to offer him a monthly pension of Rs 500,” the district magistrate said, adding: “Thirty physically challenged people from Nabadwip (about 100 km from Calcutta) already get the financial help and there is no room for more. But as Nityananda’s profile was impressive, I decided to recommend his name to the government as a special case.”

When Nityananda, the father of a three-year-old girl, walked into his office, Pandey offered him a chair and asked him what sort of assistance he expected.

“Sir, I hawk food items on local trains and run a five-member family. I earn about Rs 30 a day. It is not enough. Because of my handicap, I cannot compete with other hawkers. I have no physical problem but for my eyesight and want to start a business. I love work,” Nityananda said.

After he refused to accept the pension, Pandey spoke to him about bank loans available for business and that the financial institutions would ask for security before funding him.

“Thank you,” Nityananda said. “We live in a small hut, which is my father’s. My wife has some ornaments, but I do not want to put my father’s house and my wife’s ornaments at risk. Thank you once again because you tried your best for me,” the young man said as he tapped his cane and hauled himself up from the chair.

Pandey watched Nityananda leave. “He is educated, young and honest. I will try my best to provide him a job,” he said today.

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