Need to identify the real reasons

Poverty and rising population is a national issue. Large families stricken with severe poverty is an issue in India since Independence. This has threatened ability of the nation itself to meet the social, economic and political demands of the people. Though the demographic trend is changing for good, there is still a lot more to come in control to prevent population explosion. The demographic forecast for our largely populated country is still an upward growing graph in the coming decades. Eyeway has tackled many cases of large families mired in poverty and disability among one or more of the family members. These families either tend to disown the disabled members or blame them for all their misfortunes, while the real reasons behind their hardships remain unearthed.

Bhawanraya Hardekar is visually impaired and belongs to one such large family of six. He is from Solapur, Maharashtra and 24 years old. His parents are daily wage earners whose meagre income is on which the whole family survives. He has been suffering from Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP) since birth which has led to gradual vision loss. One among his siblings, his elder sister, Manjula is also suffering from the same condition. While Manjula is least exposed to the world outside, Bhawanraya is slightly better off. Manjula has only completed primary school education and is extremely dependent on others in the family for her daily survival. Bhawanraya has studied till 9th standard in the nearby village mainstream school. He stopped his schooling in 2011, after 9th class due his challenges in the classroom and the inability of the family to meet his school expenses like tuition, books, uniforms etc.

He joined National Association for the Blind (NAB), Solapur where he underwent basic skills and vocational training courses for the next three years. He got to know about Eyeway during this stint and contacted the Helpdesk in 2017. He wanted to know about various government provisions like disability pension, scholarships, employment opportunities, financial assistance etc. He was seeking employment opportunities but Eyeway counselor informed him that 9th standard is not enough to find employment and he will need to pursue higher education. Procedure to apply for disability pension was also shared by the counselor. But finance was escalating as a problem for him to pursue any ambition. Eyeway counselor suggested a rounded solution where Bhawanraya could enrol for massage training in NAB, Mumbai which could become a potential source of income for him and thus find free accommodation as well in NAB. And once he is finished with the training he can start privately consulting clients for therapy to earn an income. Also simultaneously he could join a night school or open board and finish his education. This solution worked for Bhawanraya, he joined for cane-making training at NAB.

He also applied for disability pension for himself and his sister in the Tehsildar’s office and it was approved in 2018 but the benefits have not yet been disbursed. When he approached us with this grievance Eyeway counselor suggested him to write to the office of Maharashtra State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities (MSCPD). Also it was understood that his sister’s situation is even worse. She had never undergone any rehabilitation programme and was confined to the house for the past several years. Her family expected her to take over the household chores but she is so helpless having no awareness or independent skills to lead her life with dignity. Counselor suggested placing her in a rehabilitation program soon so that she could learn some basic skills to be able to function independently.

This is the condition of many families who are in the lower rung of social strata in India. They are disabled by many issues. Poverty, caste, education, employment, income etc. are only a few disabling factors they deal with every day. Lack of sex education is a major reason for such large families. They also suffer from diminishing income and live in inhuman conditions away from any substantial government visibility. This has become a global threat and especially in the case of India IMF Chief Christine Laggard said the wealth of Indian billionaires have grown tenfold that the poverty of India can be eradicated twice, thus it is not only problem of wealth. Eyeway strongly hopes that Bhawanraya will get through all these challenges and empower his sister as well. For this there is lot more he need to do and has to stay courageous.