Disabled and Poor? Good Luck Finding Govt Approved Employment
These STD/PCO booths are getting sealed. (Graphic: <b>The Quint</b>)
These STD/PCO booths are getting sealed. (Graphic: The Quint)

Disabled and Poor? Good Luck Finding Govt Approved Employment

Sareen Pandey, a resident of East Delhi, was admitted to Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital for the treatment of fever in 2002. Doctors diagnosed him with tuberculosis, the treatment for which was long-term medication.

As a result of the treatment, he lost his eyesight and was left blind and unemployed. He found out later that he did not, in fact, have TB and was misdiagnosed. After a long struggle of eight years, Pandey was allotted an STD shop in the same hospital in 2010 as compensation.

Hundred metres away from Sareen’s shop is Vijay’s STD/PCO booth. He is a polio victim and the booth is his only source of income. Father of two kids, Vijay lost his wife two years ago when she succumbed to a heart disease.

Vijay still blames himself because he was not able to raise the funds required for her treatment.

Sealing Booths, Rendering the Disabled Unemployed

Hospital administrations feel that people like Vijay and Sareen who sell biscuits, water bottles, small snacks and tea in their booth alongside offering STD services should be penalised because this is against a government order that forbids them from offering anything apart from STD/PCO services.

Their booths are getting sealed. Obviously, this will result in the unemployment of several handicapped people like Sareen and Vijay. Check out The Quint’s video report.

PM Narendra Modi says that the physically-challenged are a crucial part of India’s population. Their employment requirements, however, have not been fulfilled yet. He said as much in the ninth world assembly of Disabled Peoples’ International (DPI). He also announced that the Central government would provide skill training to more than 25 lakh people in next seven years.

Selling Snacks and Candies: A Constant Struggle

Many booths were allotted to people with disabilities near government hospitals, bus stations and other public areas. Some were also provided with STD/PCO rickshaws, but most of them have shut down now.

Mohammed Hasan, resident of Dariyagunj says, “There are no takers for STD/PCO services. Everybody has a phone now and what we earn from the STD/PCO booth is not sufficient for our livelihood anymore. We are forced to follow government orders which may eventually create even bigger financial problems for us and our families.”

An STD/PCO rickshaw. (Photo: Prashant Chahal)
An STD/PCO rickshaw. (Photo: Prashant Chahal)

His friend, Umar, was allotted an STD/PCO rickshaw. When his income became too meagre for his family to survive on and the police did not allow him to sell anything else on his rickshaw, he sold it to Hasan and left for his village.

Now Hasan is selling paan and candies on this rickshaw. Police and government administrators threaten him several times a month, but he keeps changing his location. Being the sole bread-winner of his family, he can’t afford to stop working.

An abandoned PCO rickshaw. (Photo: Prashant Chahal)
An abandoned PCO rickshaw. (Photo: Prashant Chahal)

Following the ‘Rules’

The Quint spoke to several administrative officers in this regard. They all said that they were following government orders. The situation will change only when the rules change.

The disabled associated with these booths believe that if the government changed the rules to reflect the reducing demand of STD/PCO services, they might have still been employed.

(The Quint is now on WhatsApp. To receive handpicked stories on topics you care about, subscribe to our WhatsApp services. Just go to TheQuint.com/WhatsApp and hit the Subscribe button.)