TOUCH ..... A short story of reality - by Miss. Susmita De, Secretary, Abhoy Mission

In 2001, on request of first Chairperson of the National Trust, Smt. Alaka Guha an Awareness Program was organized in Agartala Town Hall, the capital of Tripura State in collaboration with the National Trust. The then Hon’ble Governor of Tripura Lt. Gen. K. M. Sheth with other dignitaries and Smt. Aloka Guha, was present in the program. In the page no.78 of the 2nd Annual Report of the National Trust for the year 2001-02, the program was mentioned as “the largest Awareness program, so far, was held in Agartala, Tripura, which had 750 participants”. Expectation aroused in the mind of people, especially among the parents of persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities that something special welfare measures will be taken for their wards. Abhoy Mission was interested to work with the National Trust. The National Trust first time granted Registration to earlier name of Abhoy Mission, All Tripura SC, ST & Minority Upliftment Council in 2001 vide Registration No. 2301/Comp/2001 dated 10th July, 2001. The National Trust, a constitutional body of Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, Govt. of India, was set up under “The National Trust for the Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities Act,1999”. Development of an inclusive society, that provides importance to human diversity, facilitates & empowers full participation of persons with disabilities and offers opportunities to live independently with dignity and equal rights are the vision of the National Trust from its inception. In January, 2002, 1st project of National Trust, “Residential Care Institute” under Reach and Relief Scheme was introduced in Tripura through our organization. In 2003, the National Trust recognized our Institution as Information Centre. Within our capacity and limit, we organized number of Awareness programs to orientate people of Tripura about activities and objectives of the National Trust. A surge in hope was observed among service providers at that time. All Block Development Officers and Sub –Divisional Magistrates started extending their assistance profusely. In 2005-06, the Residential Care Institute under Reach & Relief scheme turned into SAMARTH Project. We took successful action for enrolling beneficiaries of SAMARTH Project in nearby inclusive school. Side by side a SHG group with nomenclature of “Abhoy Self Help Group” was formed of adult beneficiaries of SAMARTH Project. In 2007, the National Trust conferred “Best SAMARTH Project Award” for the year 2006-07 to our institution. National Trust entrusted responsibility of State Nodal Agency Centre (SNAC) of Tripura our institute in 2005. Different programs like Disability Equity Program, Organizational Development program, Awareness & sensitization program, Inclusive Education Program for School Teachers, Inclusive Education for Special School Teachers, Training Program for Volunteers/ Inspectors / stakeholders, Ability Mela, Early Intervention and School Readiness Program were introduced through SNAC up to 2010. Positive rhythms were sensed all around. Many children were enrolled in SAMARTH project. We received plenty of response for enrolment in Niramoy Health Insurance Scheme and appointment as Legal Guardian. Among the enrolled children, many were orphan, many were missing. Missing children even could not tell narratives of their house or family members. Positive development was noticed in number of school going beneficiaries of SAMARTH project. Story of some children has been presented below :- Our beloved Partha, Shanta, Sajal, Ratna & Payel – First of all, let’s start with the story of Partha. He was affected with Cerebral Palsy. He was not admitted in normal school and studied in our pioneer Special School of Tripura “Swabalamban”. He could not speak properly but we could understand his voicing due to our long time acquaintance with him. Knowing his physical and mental condition, everyone became intimate gradually with Partha. He had a keen interest in study and singing as well but it was very hard for him to sing. One day Partha requested our singing teacher, to compose a lyric from Rabindra Sangeet in order to perform on the occasion of Rabindra Jayanti in his neighbourhood. There was a keen interest of Partha to flourish himself before all. He started to learn singing with the lyrics, “Sankocher-o Bihabalatay Nijero Apoman”. The singing was going on but after a while, Partha stopped his signing and started to cry. We all asked Partha, why were you crying? Partha replied “the exam of my sister started very early, so I could not carry on my singing for few more days in the house because my voice rage is very high”. He told that “during the exam of my sister, Baba would go to the school with swadist Tiffin for the sister. But when I used to sit in the exam in my school, my father did not attend me.....”. At the time of exam in Swabalamban, Partha studied at home instead of attending the school as well as always thought when he would appear in the Madhyamik Exam and when he would be self reliant by way of performing a job. But when he could not overcome his thoughts due to different hurdles, an intense uneasiness stirs into him and inspired him to destroy everything. There was another LOVELY GIRL named Shanta who was partially blind and Mentally Retarded. But she intended to attend school every day. She used to go to school by auto rickshaw. One day there was a server storm and the whole city was flooded with water. It was hard for her to move. The water reached to knee level in front of our school. Her father departed her mother and mother was engaged in job. In that day her mother went to office and their house was vacant. In the mean time, Shanta reached to the School alone without her rented auto. We all were surprised to see her. But we were delighted greatly seeing her positive response towards the school and study. However, she was provided with dry clothes and thereafter, asked her heartedly, “Shanta, Why did you come to school in such a foul weather?” Hearing her reply, the eyes of all filled with glittering tears. She replied, “If we did not come to school, with whom would you continue the classes and moreover, I could not resist myself but attending the school”. SAJAL was a deafblind boy. He was deaf. Side by side, he was nearsighted and could see only through a very narrow visual field. He could comprehend a picture or an object by taking it very close to his eyes. His speech was very much incomprehensible. But we had to confront troublesome situations due to his immense curiosity and zeal. In our SAMARTH project, arrangement for solar power supply was made with facilitation from Science and Technology Department and the machines of solar power plant were kept safe in a separate room. One day, Sajal was not found for long time. We all fell into anxiety as because his mother and father were traceless and he was nurtured by his step-sister before his enrolment in this project. In the process of searching, Sajal was traced in the room where machines for solar plant were kept. Most of the parts of the machine were found unfastened and remained scattered on the floor. Sajal was found examining the parts with his limited vision and perhaps trying to understand how the machine came into being. He was also inquisitive about mason work and was found moving around the masons and their assistant who used to come to Abhoy Ashram, where the SAMARTH Project was operated. From time to time, he used to eat, unnoticed, the meal brought by the masons and their assistants. One day, masons constructed bamboo-made platform for mason work and material prepared by mixing cement and sand for plastering was kept in a container. We all became stunned by observing that Sajal was throwing plaster material on wall, under construction, with mason tool (trowel) and providing plaster coating on the wall with his hands very smoothly. We had no other way than to greet the exercise of residual capacity in a deafblind boy. Another day, again Sajal was not found long time. Thorough searching was made and then Police was informed accordingly. It arises in our mind to enquire about Sajal in his -sister’s house. She was residing in Jirania Engineering College area, almost 40 Kilometers away from our project area. We went there and found Sajal in good strength of mind with smiley face. Despite his limitations in using his senses, he could travel to a distant place independently. After some days we made consultation with his -sister to take back him in our home. But it was revealed that he already became engaged as mason-assistant in the ongoing construction work of National Institute of Technology building and it seemed that the society accepted them really …... In the last phase of mosoon season of Tripura, number of children with special needs was being enrolled in Reach & Relief scheme. One of those days, in just after mid-noon, a gentleman was found standing with a special need child on his lap. He said that he was directed by District Disability Rehabilitation Centre (DDRC), West Tripura District to enroll his special need child in the SAMARTH project. The gentle man was a low-vision person and belonged to a BPL family. Name of the child was RATNA. The 05 year old child is suffering from cerebral palsy along with mental retardation. She could not lift her body in straight posture and used to move with use of her all four limbs. After admission, Ratna was brought under physiotherapy treatment. Gradually symptoms of improvement started appearing in her body. She was admitted to nearby inclusive school. At that time she used to go to school in wheel chair. Slowly she learnt skill of movement with use of her lower limbs only. But she was walking with fairly bent posture. Tumbling tendency was prominent at the time of walking in initial stage. Upto senior primary stage, system of no detention of students came into effect. Ratna gradually promoted to standard X in her school. She appeared in the Test Examination and allowed to appear in the Secondary Examination under Tripura Board of Secondary Education. Instead of providing attention to her study, Ratna was more attentive to deal with small children and extending helping hand to old age beneficiaries of Abhoy Ashram. If anybody else provided help to the elderly persons, by feeling hurt, she used to take no meal on that day. Her School made an effort to take approval for taking writer in the examination. Through our long experience we observed that parents took the assistance of scriber to qualify their special need children in Secondary Examination with 1st Division, though such children was not in a position to count properly. So, we did not provide our consent in such effort by the school. Ratna appeared in the Secondary Examination. During examination, writing answer by Ratna used to get completed before all other examinee. On query, Invigilators used to notice that only her name and few lines were written by her in the answer sheet. When result was out, it was noticed that Ratna could not pass the Secondary Examination. But no change in mood was noticed in behavior of body language of Ratna. She kept herself busy in the welfare activities of aged persons. Ratna attained adulthood in 2018. We have been receiving Grant – in -Aid for Old Age Home from Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, Govt. of India for long. In 2018, we proposed name of Ratna for Multidisciplinary staff of Old Age Home to the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment. Ministry provided approval and Ratna received recognition as staff of Old Age Home. Ratna is now our colleague. PAYEL was admitted to SAMARTH project in 2006. Around same time, we took effort to enroll our special need children in nearby inclusive school. Side by side there was provision of special school in our complex. Our special need children were very much eager to go to school. But the teachers always raised the issue of lack of training in their favour to deal such children in inclusive school as an excuse. Verbally, they used to express their inability to manage such children in classroom environment. They were always asking the children not to come to school; rather they should attend the examinations only. One day, we sent the Coordinator of SAMARTH project to the school as our representative. She went there and raised the issue of negative behavior to our children. Teachers told that the ability of our special children for pursuing the course of study was lying at bottom level, that’s why they found little reason for such children to attend the classes on regular basis. Coordinator of the project replied humbly that intelligence and adaptive ability of the most of the children were very poor to follow the course of study, but regular attendance in inclusive school helps to augment their socialization level. But positive development regarding improvement at socialization level noticed after a certain period. Parents who came to meet their wards in the project area, used to hand over minimum amount of Rupees to their children as a token of their affection. Those children accumulated the amount donated by their parents purchased hair clip and bindi, chocolates for their female teachers (aunty) as gift. Mid-day meal is provided in school. One teacher told our special need children, “You are coming to school only to take food of mid-day meal”. They felt insulted and embarrassed. After coming to the Coordinator of the Project, they expressed their unwillingness to go to school. They told “madam aunty, we shall go to school, but never take any Mid-day meal. “Sense of self esteem already developed in number of our children”.