Dr. Kannekanti Parameshwar, Dr. M. Purvachar, pp. XVIII+400, Rs. 550, Niruta Publications
1.1. The Problem: Discrimination is inherent in society in all walks of life in all human spheres because society has strata. Society is existed on the basis of role, identity, personal merit; support etc. It reveals about the identified problem of human beings against disabled in the society as a whole. It is common knowledge that the Persons with Disabilities (PWD) have been badly neglected and discriminated all over the world. They do have outstanding abilities which are hardly recognized and excluded from the mainstream of the Society. Given appropriate education, training and opportunity, they can also contribute to the society and economic development of the country.
It is not correct to say that the disabled constitute an absolute distinct category of people. A large number of such persons are intelligent and, if given the right opportunity and environment, they develop their capabilities through education and training. They can lead full and independent life. What they need is proper medical attention, special education, and rehabilitation facilities so that they are restored to the fullest physical, social, vocational, and economic fulfillment of which they are capable. Both in the industrialized (developed) and the developing countries the disabled find themselves, by and large, excluded from society. In many cases, they are kept in special institutions. They are dependent on assistance from others and cut off from the rest of the community. The other factors which contribute towards disability are neglect, ignorance, apathy and absence of adequate preventive measures. The disabled suffer not only from physical deformity or mental retardation and a sense of inferiority, but also in many cases from cruel treatment by relatives and society. But, the focus of society is disability/discrimination and not ability. Before proceed further, let us consider the basic concepts involved in the social discrimination, such as, what is disability? Who is disabled? What is discrimination in general? What is social discrimination in particular? How discrimination relates with the disability? While, we can also have a focus on magnitude of disabled, how it amounts a social problem in the society? How a disabled interacts with the society and faces various problems in it? What are the factors affecting the disabled in his attitude change? What are the major causes of social discrimination and its prevention is the process of the study. In addition to these factors, how a disabled discriminates by various means like, negative thinking, making difference, stigma, bias, stereotype, prejudice, discrimination, segregation, exploitation and as a whole social discrimination what leads to deviation from the mainstream of society which ascribes them minority status in the society are the core part of the study.
1.1.1: Trends of Disabled: “Disabilities are as old as humanity. Archeological research has demonstrated that skeletal disorders have been common since time immemorial; Egyptian mummies dating back 5,000 years show clear evidence of osteoarthritis and tubercular spine; and remains from the Neolithic Period indicate that illness, probably mental as well as physical, was combated by the heroic measure of trepanning, in which a hole was bored in the skull to permit evil spirits to escape.”1
Since antiquity, society has detected disabilities and disabled arising out of obvious deficits in anatomical structures as mentioned in epics and it is needful to mention that the disabilities were also mentioned in the Bible as Jesus Heals a Paralysed Man (Matt. 9.1 – 8; Luke 5.17 – 26), The Man with a Paralysed Hand (Matt. 12.8 – 14; Luke 6.6 – 11), The Jesus heals a Deaf-Mute (Mark 7 – 31), The Jesus heals a Blind Man at Bethsaida (Mark. 9 – 22) are some of instances.
1.1.2: Abilities verses Disabilities of Disabled: The following paragraphs reveals that the abilities of the disabled identified/recognized during ancient times than the present time.
126.96.36.199: Identification of Abilities of Disabled: It has been a part of India’s cultural heritage to help the poor and the needy even at a great personal sacrifice. The responsibility of assisting the individual in need was shared by the community and the rulers. “Devotion and service towards one’s fellowmen, love for charity and brotherhood existed even in the feudal times. In keeping with this tradition, every possible protection was given to the physically handicapped by the society.”2
A reference to Mahabharata shows that the handicapped were then treated with sympathy. For, Narada interrogates Yudhisthira: “Do you treat as father, your subjects who are afflicted with blindness, dumbness, lameness, deformity, friendliness and those who have renounced the world?”3. The kings were expected to provide for the war disabled and their dependents, for Narada again put a question to the eldest of the five Pandava: “Do you maintain the women of those who died for you on the battle field? And do you also maintain those who are wounded on the battlefield while fighting for you?”4. likewise the laws of Baudhayana enjoined: “Granting food, clothing and shelter, they (kings) shall support those who are incapable of transacting legal business viz., the blind, idiots, those immersed in vice, the incurably diseased, those who neglect their duties and occupations, and so on.” 5
The eminence of Ashtavakra (literally meaning a man with eight physical deformities) who was first jeered at by the Pandits at the court of King Janaka, because of the crookedness of his body, but whose learning ultimately drew their plaudits; the status of Manthra as the favorite maid servant of the royal queen Kaikayee, though hunch backed, and the acclamation of Vamana (a dwarf) as an incarnation of God Vishnu unmistakably shows that even in early times the Hindu society did not hesitate to recognize the individual merits of handicapped people.6
During the period intervening Smritis and the Guptas the position of handicapped persons became more tolerant due to Buddist influence; Buddism emphasized the virtues of mercy, charity, truth, purity, kindness, goodness and above all, non-violence. The followers of the Great Buddha practiced the preaching of their master and showed great compassion and regard for the decrepit, the maimed and the disabled. At the same time somewhere in the middle of sixth century B.C., another faith, Jainism, was born. Jainism also followed the same fundamental doctrines of non-violence and selfless service to all living beings, including the physically handicapped.7
Kautilya, ‘one of the greatest politicians of his time, made it a special point to employ dwarfs, the hunchbacked and otherwise deformed people as political spies as well as secret agents in the royal places’.8 ‘The coins of the days of Samudra Gupta have a figure of a dwarf near the king. The dwarf seems to have occupied an exalted position in the kingdom’.9
The Fa Hien, who came to India from China in 400 A.D, writes: “ The nobles and householders of this country have founded hospitals within the city to which the poor of all countries, the destitute, cripple and the diseased may repair.”10
188.8.131.52: Identification of disabilities of Disabled:A deformed or weakling child, an incapacitated elder or any person becomes disabled by accident or illness was condemned to physical extinction. In still later times, a physically handicapped person instilled fear, suspicion and superstitious awe in the non-disabled members of his community, who regard him as an ‘incarnation of the devil.’ In the middle ages, myths and legends grew around these fears and fancies of the primitive man.11
“The disabled were regarded as a sub-species of the human race; mere objectives of pity and charity; and were abandoned to beggar and ridicule”.12 A foreign writer has stated that, “In ancient India the physically deformed children were cast into in Ganges”.13
In an adaptation of Talcott Parsons’ sick role, we can say that society assigns the disabled a “handicapped role”. They are viewed as helpless, childlike people who are expected to assume a cheerful and continuing dependence on family members, friends, and health care professionals14.
184.108.40.206: Discrimination against Disabled: The different social, economic, cultural and religious groups in a society must have harmonious relations among them. Only through give and take and mutual help they will be able to make headway in their cherished goals. If some sections of the population make progress at the cost of others then it may be difficult for the latter to achieve rightful place in the society15.
Discrimination refers to specific negative actions directed against the individuals. Discrimination invades society like a disease. Its symptoms include poor communities without clean water and sanitation facilities, health and other basic services; classrooms without children with disabilities; legal systems that turn a blind eye to violence against women and children; and societies that shun people with HIV/AIDS. 16
Ethnic loyalty amounts to discrimination. Boundaries are actually patterns of discrimination like, treatment of fellow group members in a special way17. Discrimination is one of the growing problems of modern civilized man throughout the world. It may take many forms. In India it is generally based on caste, religion, sex, language and region. In U.S.A and Africa it is based on race. It is based on sex is almost universal. Similarly, Discrimination of Disabled is also a universal phenomenon.
According to World Health Organization (WHO) a total of 80 per cent of PWD live in developing countries such as ours, within their homes, hiding from the social discrimination, ostracism and hostility, both from the family and the community. They have often been subjected to cruel and inhuman treatment. In the early 20th century the disabled were frequently viewed as subhuman creatures that were a menace to society. As a result, drawing on similar prejudices against the disabled, Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime persecuted and put to death, perhaps as many as one million persons with disabilities. As a result, many state legislatures passed compulsory sterilization laws aimed at handicapped people18.
The PWD have a wide variety of experiences regarding discrimination, almost every day of their lives. Some individuals may experience few incidences of prejudice while others may experience only prejudice. We live in a society that places high values on traditional and physical attractiveness. In our culture the way one looks makes a difference in the responses one gets. A person who is ‘ugly’ is devalued and set apart. If one happens to look different, one is likely to receive differential treatment and in turn to begin to feel different. To be disfigured is an object of staring, curiosity, pity, rejection, ridicule, remarks and discrimination. These reactions and attitudes are frequently more damaging to the individual’s self-image than the reflection in the mirror. Such persons find it an ordeal to move about in public. Their anonymity is attacked, strangers question them, or they are shunned altogether19.
Facial disfigurement is one of humanity’s most intolerable handicaps. The facially disfigured suffers from the highest stigma in society. Except congenital disabilities or those experienced in early childhood, oblige the affected individual to incorporate the disability into the formation of his body image. Available evidence indicates that there is a considerable degree of resistance to altering one’s body image, especially when the necessary alterations are negative, disagreeable and de-evaluative to one’s self-esteem. The disabled like all other minority groups tend to be evaluated more on the basis of their categorical membership than on their individual characteristics. The disability trait overshadows and qualifies all other traits and abilities.20
One of the common and subconscious errors non-disabled people make when interacting with PWD is to think that a physical disability implies a mental disability as well. This attitude allows for the family of PWD into believing that all decisions regarding the life of the PWD automatically rests with the family. The PWD may be polio affected and confined to a wheel-chair, or have spina-bifida, a limb missing, speech and hearing impaired or be visually impaired cured leprosy but they, in all likelihood will have a normal Intelligent Quotient, experience emotions like you and I, think, act, like you and I are therefore little different. Yet, our minds are so trained to grade “normal” as physically whole, that a person with a physically imperfect figure would be considered “abnormal” and an aberration. Something we are not comfortable with. The discrimination gets harsher for PWD who have a mental illness, developmental retardation cured leprosy and women, who are viewed as soft targets, for use and abuse.21
1.1.3: What Is Disability? Disability denotes the consequences of impairment in terms of functional performance and activity by the individual. A person with restrictions or lack of abilities to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered normal for a human being was treated as having disability.
1.1.4: Who Is Disabled?: The disabled is an individual and integral part of society. He plays an important role in his family, community, peer group and society as a whole. They are not confined to India but all over the world. The “Disabled” means those persons who by reason of any defect or impairment of the mind, senses or body, congenital or acquired are unable to take part in normal education, occupation and reaction, or who by reason of any such defect or improvement require special assistance or training to enable them to take part in normal education, occupation or recreation.
1.1.5: What Is Discrimination? When prejudice is expressed in overt form, it leads to discrimination. Discrimination refers to specific negative actions directed against the individuals. It is contrast, refers to the behavior of treating one person or group in an unfavorable or unfair way. Naturally, prejudice leads to discrimination. It involves the arbitrary denial of privilege, prestige, and power to members of a minority group whose qualifications are equal to those of members of the dominant group.
1.1.6: Discrimination In Relation To Disability: Disability may affect one or more capabilities of an individual that puts him in handicapping condition. It is also the cause of distortions in the human psyche. All human beings are having positive or negative attitudes toward those factors, which affects their physical or sensory presentations in the family or to the society. The disability is the basic cause for a human being to have a different perception, beliefs, values and attitudes. Disability is neither inability nor absence of abilities. It represents a different, exceptional, and special ability in an individual. Since handsome is the well accepted image of an individual, the absence of residual image affects the phenomenology of social beings. Because of the image-distortion of ability, the disability is related to negative adjectives in human’s life. Non-disabled people also have an attitude toward disability or restricted abilities and its disabling impacts on their psyche. Disability makes a person different. It is a major reason to be differentially able. First interface with such people is due to vision—the eye with which we only see the physical entity--and disability disfigures the mental image of an individual.
How an individual sees disability-a disease or impairment or a restriction in body or senses or an activity limitation or an individual perceives a disability a handicap or as disadvantage or face a challenge with indomitable will or convert it into an opportunity to defeat the misfortune of destiny? Disability is a state in health continuum. When PWD lives with it how he perceives and visualizes the disability actually shapes and develops his attitude toward the medical state of disability. If PWD have positive attitude toward disability, he realizes the ability continuum of himself and visualizes the positive implications of that physical limitation. This visualization also opens up the sixth sense, which opens the floodgates of human endeavor and excellence.
1.1.7: What Is Social Discrimination? The social discrimination is a discrimination which effects directly on individual’s psychological development, social development, personality development, which deteriorates and develops inferiority complex.22
1.1.8: Magnitude Of Disabled:
220.127.116.11: Magnitude of Disabled International: It is reckoned that about 500 million people, roughly 10 per cent of the world’s population, suffer from some form of physical, sensory or mental handicap. According to the WHO, the population of PWD is around 10 per cent. At 650 million, they are the world’s largest minority. In the developing countries, the disabled are more among the non-privileged or the poorer classes. Within these sections, it is children that predominate.23
18.104.22.168: Magnitude of Disabled in India: In India it is estimated that approximately 30 per cent of the population is affected by one or the other disability. Data on the disability on a nation-wide basis can be obtained from two sources, namely the Population Census and National Sample Surveys. After a massive public campaign, the Government of India finally yielded and has included disability as a category in Census 2001. Describing this development as a "major victory for the disabled sector in India", Javed Abidi, executive director of National Center for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP), said, "It's like winning a major battle. The damage that the non-availability of authentic statistics has done to the disability sector could now be undone and changed ". The following table extracted from the first census report of disabled, 2001 conducted by the Government of India, under the National Sample Survey Organization.