First, they were called handicapped; then, they were called lesser privileged; they are now being called God’s angels and, as time moves, it is not what they are going to be called that is going to matter but how society accepts them and the International Blind Cricket match between India and Sri Lanka, organised by the Goa Cricket Association (GCA), is a pointer to the direction.
“Parents should not hesitate to bring their lesser privileged forward. The days when parents feel ashamed should be over. The cricket match being played here should be an example to all that being blind or lesser privileged is no impediment for them to leave a healthy life,” mulled Subash Phal Desai, Minister of Social Welfare, as he watched the Indian batsmen face Sri Lankan bowlers in the match held as part of the Purple Fest being organised by the Government of Goa.
“Organising opportunities for the boys and girls to compete in sports are to help break the social stigma. These are people who can manage on their own. They do not need pity. They need to break free and this is what is set out to be,” observed Chetan Desai, former president of GCA who was the first to welcome doors of GCA to the All Goa Blind Cricketers Association during his tenure.
“Sympathy,” according to Subash Phaldesai, “lasts for few hours. It is like helping a blind cross the road. The government is not interested in short-term measures. We will see that they have the infrastructure in place to cross roads, to be able to walk from Campal to Miramar without assistance,” admits Subash.
“The Purple Fest is partly a campaign for the lesser able to gain accessibility to places they wish to be in. Forty government buildings are now fitted with systems wherein they can access information through Braille or through talking machines. Ramps have been set in place and the government is in the process of buying ten aqua wheelchairs – to be kept in Miramar- for the handicapped to be able to go to the beach,” disclosed Subash as he kept feeding those watching the cricket match with his visions for the lesser privileged in Goa.
“The problem starts with us. Parents and relatives of children born with deficiencies first refuse to accept their children can get better with help. We start by being in self-denial and this starts making matters worse for the handicapped,” opined Chetan when the discussion veered to the basis from where help should flow first.
“We should stop hiding from the truth and give medical help fast” he added.
“The government is using tactile tiles in forty government buildings and plans are afoot to make a corridor of tactile tiles from Campal to Miramar for the visually handicapped so they will know how to travel by themselves. The government is thinking in terms of infrastructure for the handicapped to make them self-reliant,” said Subash as the cricketers on the pitch entertained the audience.
“The government has brought school children to watch the match to teach them that all are equal in God’s eyes. This is a lesson for society and not just a section of society. This is for all and it is then that changes will be noticeable,” opined Subash as his vision amplified that there is more to this government than meets the eye.
“Any private school with a minimum of nine lesser privileged students can apply to the government for special grants. The government will provide a special teacher and physiotherapist and help the students with financial support during their schooling and create infrastructure in the school,” claimed Subash as the blind cricketers from India and Sri Lanka were enjoying their day on the pitch.
“Sagar Salgaocar has sponsored the table tennis tournament and GCA is sponsoring this cricket match. Our aim is to get many more companies to contribute through CSR. Suresh Mahadevan will be performing on January 6. He has sent his scouts to pick and train artists with handicaps to be part of his group,” disclosed Subash.
“The initiative to help the lesser privileged was started by Chetan Sir (Desai) and GCA will keep taking it forward with his guidance. The GCA per se cannot take a call on how to work towards helping the lesser privileged because GCA has to adhere to certain guidelines. However, we will find ways out,” stated Ketan Bhattikar, Medical Director of GCA.
“Everyone should feel that they are part of the universe. That should be the backbone of our belief,” summed up Social Welfare Minister Subash Phal Desai.