Around 1 pm on Sunday, Shara Ashraf – an activist based in Delhi – received a video of a little girl who was handcuffed to a wall. The video was sent to her from a concerned resident of Bengaluru, taken near HAL road in the city. Shara immediately called the police, and the 7-year-old was rescued. Initial investigation shows that the girl’s mother – a domestic worker – was trying to protect her, as the girl has speech impairment and learning disabilities, and would wander away frequently.
DCP East Rahul Kumar, who alerted the HAL Police about the incident after he got information from Shara, told TNM, “The inspector immediately went to the spot as the activist had sent us the coordinates for the location. When he got there, he found that the girl was tied up by her mother.”
“The child has disabilities and has trouble speaking. The Inspector says that the girl may also have psychosocial disabilities. The mother informed the police that the girl would wander away from home when she was at work and the girl was tied up so she would not go away from home,” DCP Rahul added.
Police say that the woman is a domestic worker and she works multiple jobs. Several neighbours allegedly told the police that they had seen the mother tie up the girl a few times in the past.
“The mother is a domestic worker and is unaware about what she could do. She says she had to go look for her daughter every time she wandered away. We have not filed any case against the mother, but the girl has been taken into custody and will be produced before the Child Welfare Committee,” DCP Rahul said.
What parents/guardians should do
Speaking to TNM, Commissioner of the Karnataka State Commission for Persons With Disabilities (KSCPWD), Basavaraj says that many a times, parents do not realise that their children have learning disabilities, and therefore do not know how to get help.
"Generally, children who have both physical and learning disabilities are unable to communicate like other children. Hence they generally do various things to get the parent's attention and most of the times parents do not realise this. When a child is behaving in a certain way where it is evident that the child is facing some kind of disability, the first step for parents to do is to seek the help of a counsellor to understand what is happening to their children," Commissioner Basavaraj says.
Several schemes and policies have been drawn out by various governments help families access the right support systems, activists say.
According to Meena Jain, an independent consultant for special schools, one of the primary problems is the lack of awareness regarding the numerous facilities the child can avail from the state government.
How parents can avail help from the government
- Call Parihar or Child Line: Meena explains that when parents are facing difficulties in communicating to their children with disabilities, the first thing they can do is call Makkala Sahayavani – Parihar, or even 1098 - ChildLine. Parihar is located in the compound of the Bengaluru City Police Commissioner’s office and can be contacted on 080 – 22943225 / 22943224.
- Contact the State Commissionerate for Persons With Disabilities: The Karnataka government has implemented its policy for persons with disabilities and the Commissionerate has various schemes for the education, training, rehabilitation, social security, aids and appliances and grant-in-aid to NGOs working with persons with disabilities. “Parents can contact the commissionerate, which is located opposite Coffee Board near Infantry Road, and avail pension benefit of Rs 2,000 per month for the child,” Meena says. Karnataka State Commissionerate for Persons With Disabilities contact: 080-23462625 / 080-23462029
- Approach NIMHANS: Parents can also approach NIMHANS, which will help with rehabilitation and treatment of children with disabilities. Meena says that NIMHANS will provide a certificate for children, which parents can use to avail benefits from the state. “According to the Persons With Disabilities Act 1995, it is the fundamental right of every person with disability to avail the benefits like education, rehabilitation, employment, medical treatment and housing. The problem is, most people don’t know this,” she says.
- Approach the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights: The KSCPCR, which works to protect children is also an avenue parents can approach. KSCPCR will be compelled to intervene and demand that the organisations, which need to work for protection of children with disabilities do the needful. KSCPCR officials can be contacted on 080-22115291 / 080-22115292
- Approach the association of parents for persons with disabilities: Meera says that an organisation named Karnataka Parents Association for Mentally Retarded Citizens based in Bengaluru also helps counsel parents regarding the various avenues they can pursue and help these children obtain the care they need. “KPAMRC has worked with several families and they will also help. Besides, there are numerous NGOs like APSA, Spastics Society of India and others, who run free schools and rehabilitation programmes for children with disabilities,” Meena says. KPAMRC can be contacted on 080 - 22441289
‘Awareness programmes not effective’
However, several awareness programmes that the government has planned have not been effective. Speaking to TNM, an officer with the KSCPWD says that although there are awareness programmes created to speard the word about the benefits persons with disabilities can avail, the reach is very limited.
“The problem is budgetary allocation and also the fact that the message is not reaching as many people as we should. This is something which has to be addressed as 5-6% of the state’s population comprises persons with disabilities,” the official said.
Basavaraj states that the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike, which is supposed to provide infrastructure for various centres to help such children is not doing its job properly.
"They have to provide infrastructure for schools, training centres and rehabilitation centres. BBMP is not doing that. that is also a major set back," he adds.
‘Community must get involved’
Commissioner Basavaraj says that the community surrounding such families must also take up the responsibility to educate the residents on what to watch out for.
"Resident Welfare Associations can create awareness. This is something which every single citizen should work towards so the lives of the children can be better," he adds.