'It is a struggle to make depts take interest'

Bipin Tiwari is officer on special duty at the Equal Opportunity Cell of Delhi University. He is also differently abled. He talks to Sugandha Pathak about the role of the EOC.

Excerpts:

What are the recent initiatives EOC is taking for inclusion of differently challenged students in the mainstream?

Our vice chancellor has been extremely supportive on the issue of disabled students and faculty, and has never refused to introduce an initiative which will benefit our students. Although there is three per cent reservation for differently abled students in DU, recently the VC, using his powers, increased it to five per cent in the hostels.

We have also waived off tuition and hostel fees. The VC has also announced laptops with related software to all disabled students of the varsity. It is in the process. Then there is a proposal of issuing Metro cards to the students. However, it is still in the pipeline as we have to work out the financial details which the university has to bear. The unfortunate part is that the Metro authorities have refused any kind of concession for this project.

A counselling centre has also been started in EOC. We felt that many students do not have anyone to talk to about their problems.

The tactile paths on footpaths around the campus, which help visually handicapped persons to walk in the right direction, reach poles, trees and pits here and there. It has been a constant complaint by students as there have been accidents. What is the university doing about it?

The pits have been repaired around the campus. We are in constant touch with public works department which is responsible for the modification of the footpaths in order to place the tactile paths properly. We will soon meet experts on disabilities to do further modification as per the building laws. It has been a struggle to make the concerned departments take interest in these issues. There is a specific stretch of footpath on the campus which is in a very bad condition. It comes under the Municipal Corporation of Delhi. I have called the MCD official at least 20 times to fix the footpath. It’s been three months, yet there is no work done on it.

Persons with disabilities (PWD) complain about colleges not being disabled-friendly infrastructure wise. What is DU doing to overcome this?

We are repeatedly directing the colleges to improve their infrastructure. However, many are waiting to get funds from the higher departments of the government. Even when the university is trying its best to create an inclusive environment for these students, somewhere there is a gap between the requirement of the varsity — in terms of funds for differently abled and the financial assistance released by the government.

It seems that the concerned government departments are not fully sensitive to this cause. The government should give special assistance funds to PWD students like the assistance funds which the reserved category students get.

Officials at the social justice empowerment ministry — who should be easily available to listen to the problems of the PWD — are also not available. The UGC has created a committee on disability. However, nothing fruitful has come out of it yet.

What are the plans of EOC?

The evaluation process for PWD students require several changes. As the teacher checking the answer scripts will not be able to understand if the answers have been written by PWD or regular students. The PWD students may make spelling mistakes, or forget to write an entire paragraph. If we keep the answer scripts of these students separately, then they will say there is a bias in checking. We are trying to figure out a way in which the PWD students benefit during the evaluation.

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