The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Strident voice of disabled people

Itanagar, Oct. 9: His is as much a fight for votes as it is for the disabled.

For the wheelchair-bound 47-year-old Tami Taniang, the October 13 election in Arunachal Pradesh is a battle to ensure the rights of the handicapped.

Referred to as “langra babu” by his followers, Taniang, contesting on a Janata Dal (United) ticket for the 13 Itanagar constituency, has declared, “I don’t want to become MLA to earn big bucks or lead a luxurious life like others in Arunachal Pradesh politics. I have a wish list. Here, I am fighting for a cause to establish the genuine rights of disabled persons in the state.”

He is not new to the fight. Chairman of the Arunachal Pradesh Handicapped Welfare Society, which was floated by him in 1995, Taniang is moving from door-to-door to seek votes to prove that disability is not a bane.

He became a crusader for the cause of physically challenged persons after losing his ability to walk following a spinal cord surgery at Apollo Hospital in Chennai.

As a man who loves to call himself “people’s servant”, the humble yet suave Taniang was conferred a national award in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the cause of welfare of people with disability in December 2002.

A politician by accident, his wish list includes judicious implementation of MLA funds towards education of youths inflicted with physical disability and seriously physically disabled persons with no education and employment.

Taniang’s defining moment in life, however, was the pat he received from general secretary of JD (U) Arun Kumar Srivastav and party president, Sharad Yadav, who offered him a ticket during a seminar on a national NGO’s partnership programme held in New Delhi recently.

“I am grateful to Srivastaji and Yadavji for offering me an opportunity to represent the oppressed, disabled and fringed people, who have been leading a wretched life because of society’s little care or the lack of it. It was during the seminar that both the national leaders approached me with the proposal to represent JD (U) in the state. I was moved by their love and affection. I gladly accepted it,” Taniang said.

President of Papum Pare district unit of JD(U), Taniang banks heavily on the support of grassroots and hapless people, who, he feels, are at the receiving end of political leaders’ false promises.

“I lack money but I have mass support. The love and affection of poor and unlettered people, who were betrayed by the so-called affluent people, form my support base. My battle is against the oppressors and to see the end of money-oriented corrupt politics that has eaten into the vitals of Arunachal Pradesh society. I have a definite chance to script history by being elected as an MLA with physical disability, who is ready to bring an end to injustice meted out to disabled persons and establish their rights,” the JD(U) candidate said.

Despite his optimism, he is up against seasoned politicians with lot of clout and funds.

Win or lose, however, he has given the physically-challenged a voice — and a face.

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