Turning into a literal socio-economic crisis, covid-19 pandemic dealt a massive blow to the financial health of Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs) under department of disability affairs and leaving persons with disabilities devoid of aids and appliances.
The face of disability affairs—Artificial Limbs Manufacturing Corporation of India (ALIMCO) that aims to benefit the persons with disabilities by promoting, encouraging and developing and manufacturing rehabilitation aids and supply them for distribution to the persons with disabilities of the country, could neither produce nor provide these items. Profitability not being the motive, the Corporation endeavors to provide better quality of aids and appliances to larger number of persons with disabilities at a reasonable price. The ALIMCO supple wheelchairs, Tricycle, Crutches and hearing aids for the differently disabled.
During the Financial year 2020-21 till 31.12.2020 the Corporation achieved a turnover of Rs. 139.68 crores (provisional) as compared to the previous year turnover Rs. 336.13 crores in 2019-20. Similarly, the value of production has recorded Rs.140.00 crores (provisional) as compared to the previous year production value of Rs. 316.59 crores in 2019-20, according to the annual report of the department.
ALIMCO started manufacturing artificial aids in 1976, currently has five Auxiliary Production Centres (AAPCs) situated at Bhubaneswar (Orissa), Jabalpur (M.P.), Bengaluru (Karnataka), Mohali (Punjab) and Ujjain (MP). The Corporation also has five Marketing Centres at New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Guwahati.
Despite its efforts to deliver the aids and appliances, the corporations failed due to lockdowns.
“The Corporation has covered 35146 beneficiaries’(provisional figures up to 31.12.2020) equipment-wise in the financial year 2020-21 under Assistance to Disabled Persons for Purchase/Fitting of Aids/Appliances (ADIP) scheme through 100 camps covering 23 States/UTs. Due to covid-19, 39905 appliances though dispatched to destination, were stopped from being distributed,” said the report.
“For ADIP-Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), 75 camps were organized in the Financial Year 2020-21 (provisional figures upto 31.12.2020) in which 14710 children with special needs in the age group of 06-14 years were served covering 22 States/UTs. Due to covid-19, 17859 appliances though dispatched to destination, were stopped from being distributed,” it said.
The Corporation had conducted 53 CSR camps and has distributed 28595 appliances in 2020-21 (provisional figure upto 31.12.2020). Due to covid-19 pandemic, 4821 appliances though dispatched to destination, were stopped from being distributed.
Several other schemes under the ministry of social justice too faced problems. Under Deendayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme (DDRS), the number of beneficiaries continued to decrease for last three years with the number of NGOs supported with 543 NGOs and 41803 beneficiaries in 2018-19, 432 NGOs and 38004 beneficiaries in 2019-20 that reduced to 242 NGOs and 21578 beneficiaries in 2020-21 during the pandemic.
Similarly, National Handicapped Finance and Development Corporation too witnessed a sharp decline in number of its beneficiaries from 18170 in 2019-20 to 8011 in 2020-21. The corporation promotes self-employment and other ventures for the benefit / economic rehabilitation of the Divyangjan.
NGOs working for disabled strived during the covid-19 led lockdowns to function. Udaipur based Narayan Seva Sansthan, a non-profit charitable organisation working for underprivileged, physically challenged faced major challenges in procuring these items. Since Covid-19 hit the country, the organisation hosted more than 100 distribution camps for the differently abled.
“The major issues we faced were related to getting the beneficiaries to the camp location and assuring them that they will be completely safe under the supervision of our medical team. These issues were mainly due to the fear of Covid-19 and lack of awareness regarding the protocols,” said Prashant Agarwal, President Narayan seva Sansthan.
Covid-19 has affected one and all but differently abled people have as usual suffered more than other people. “The impact of covid-19 has been severe on disabled persons. “It is not easy to find jobs as a differently abled person and with unemployment spiking up, many differently abled people have lost their jobs. So, the financial crisis has hit these people very hard and they were in more and more need of any kind of support,” said Agarwal.
“With everything locking down on and off their already meagre access to their social life and mobility has decreased. Many of these people have also gone through extensive treatments and surgeries because of their disabilities, or have health issues because of lack in mobility. These issues and/or medical history make them more prone to being affected by the pandemic,” he said.
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