This is Bhagyalaxmi’s story. Bhagyalaxmi is a 57 year old woman with low vision associated with other medical issues namely neuro-muscular problems, diabetes, and depression. She is currently living alone in a government quarter in Delhi. She has no contact with her single brother who is her only surviving relative. She has been terminated from the office and living her life without any pay or financial gain.

She never got married on the pretext that her brother would arrange a suitable partner for her. She joined the Armed Forces Headquarters, Ministry of Defense in 1983, and has survived three road accidents which occurred in 1987, 1993 and 2005.  The accidents aggravated her health issues and furthered the feeling of helplessness due to lack of appropriate treatment and guidance.

Post the last accident in 2005, she was treated at a private hospital and informed her office about the fact. Since she was not treated at a government establishment she could not submit government Medical Certificate, due to which her absence was considered unauthorized. Furthermore, her office contested that due to her deteriorating eyesight, she was no longer fit to work on a computer.

As a result of this, a charge sheet was filed against her without considering second opinion about her medical condition, and she was terminated from her job. The walls caving in from all sides, namely disability, deteriorating health, financial & emotional insecurity prompted her to call the Helpdesk after listening to our radio show – Eyeway Yeh Hai Roshni Ka Karawan in October 2011.  We apprised her with relevant legal information in accordance with her case. Under Section 33 and 47 of PwD ACT 1995, she has the right to be reinstated and ask for suitable accommodation at her previous job. Equipped with legal information she pressurized her officer to send her for medical review in order to get a Disability Certificate. From here, the journey of advocating for her rights began. She approached many hospitals namely LNJP, AIIMS, RML and Safdarjung for a review of her medical conditions, and knocked the door of every government official from the chief minister to her MLA, she also wrote a letter to the then president of India in 2012 to get support or else permission for Merci- killing.

Her plight increased manifold in 2012 when the electricity supply to her house was officially cut off and the water supply stopped. This continued for almost one year. One cannot even imagine life without these two basic facilities in a city like Delhi. However, Bhagyalaxmi did not break under all this pressure; instead she stood up strong and continued her fight against the unfair government system. She faced series of discrimination from every avenue including CPWD, DESU, BSES Rajdhani Power Limited and NDMC. Thanks to her grit and determination the aforesaid problems were finally solved.

The Helpdesk has provided her constant support throughout this time. She has been provided with all relevant documents at her time of need. Our office staff has also made several home visits to deliver documents to her personally and also to provide assistance in household chores like cleaning and dusting. Because of the medical conditions she finds it difficult to perform household chores and moreover, she cannot afford domestic help.

Till date, the official matter is lingering on which has led her in to depression. In the absence of emotional, physical and financial support, she often cries out of helplessness. Considering these issues, two of our helpdesk counselors visited her in 2013 and discussed the plan for future action which she might need to take. We observed that her living quarters were in serious need of renovation as naked electric wires were hanging everywhere and the cement was falling from the ceiling. All these things are very risky for her life as she is staying all alone.

We struggled to convince her to renovate. We even suggested various options to make her living place clean and safe. With her consent, someone from our office helped her in house cleaning and assembling of loose electric wires. Since a couple of years, she has been running around hospitals for medical review to get a Disability Certificate. Finally after a lot of struggle, she was assessed by the medical board in the latter half of 2013. However, she was not informed about the communication that happened between the medical board and her office.

With our assistance, she filed an RTI to the medical board and got a copy of the communication that took place between both the departments. The Medical board’s report stated that she had been diagnosed as having 40 % disability of visual impairment and suggested her office that as per the section 33 and 47 under PwD Act, she be reinstated.

This finally gave her the assurance that she will soon be reinstated.  After so many years of struggle, she can finally envisage a better quality of life.

Our next step was to address her emotional instability. Thus, with her interest in mind we suggested her that going to Dr Achal Bhagat for counseling and treatment can be helpful for her.  She took this positively and visited him, where she was diagnosed with depression and finally put on medication.

Now, she is hoping for better times to come back in her life and as a passionate learner, she wants to learn computer with screen reading software. She is also willing to narrate the plight of her life to the current President of India so as to highlight the deplorable status of single blind woman in India.