Sunday, July 28, 2013

'Communication gap' hits disabled students

In my last blog I shared my letter to Secretary, DDA and Chairman NHFDC on the MoU with inaccessible PNB bank. Today's 'The Statesman' has picked up the story:

'Communication gap' hits disabled students
  • The Statesman
  • 28 Jul 2013  

Kinjal Sharma

NEW DELHI, 27 JULY: A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was recently signed between the National Handicapped Finance and Development Corporation (NHFDC), set up by the ministry of social justice & empowerment, and Punjab National Bank (PNB), to help students with disabilities get educational loans. However, bank officials appear to be clueless about the agreement leaving the students at the receiving end.

 As per the terms of the MoU, educational loans will be made available to persons with disability (PWD)s through  particular branches of PNB. The bank has over 275 branches in the NCR but as per the MoU, the PWD students can approach any of the six retail asset branches (RABs) situated at Anand Vihar, Green Park, Gurgoan, Faridabad, Connaught Place and Karol Bagh, to avail educational loans at concessional rates.

 However, officials at the six PNB branches appear to be unaware of the MoU. Neha Chauhan from Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh,  approached one of the six branches to avail the loan, but was shocked to note that access to the bank was not at all disabled-friendly and she had to struggle to enter. There she was even more shocked as the bank officials where unaware about any agreement between PNB and NHFDC. She returned home disappointed.

The manager of PNB's Green Park branch, Mr Vijay kumar Setia, said he has no idea about the MoU.  "I did not receive any formal guidelines in this regard. I will check with the concerned department. Sometimes, banks receive such information in a particular time span. It may not be received within a week. After getting the orders, further formalities would be completed," said Mr Setia. The branch manager of the Connaught Place branch, Mr Naresh Kumar Jain, also said he has not been informed about the MoU. Several PWD students said the six RABs are either inaccessible or the officials were not aware. 

 "As everyone is shirking responsibility, it is the PWD students who are facing problems. The NHFDC didn't bother to see whether the RABs were accessible. PNB has not implemented repeated master circulars from Reserve Bank of India (RBI), to make banks accessible. Moreover, RBI does not maintain any record on the number of inaccessible banks and ATMs in India and simultaneously, Department of Disability Affairs has no monitoring initiatives," said Dr Satendra Singh, a doctor with disability, at University College of Medical Sciences (UCMS), Delhi.

 "Students with disabilities are caught in this mess and are paying a hefty price. It is high time we strive for our dignity. India has ratified the UN convention whose Article 3 and 9 reserves the right for full and effective participation of PWD as well as accessibility of public places," said Dr Singh.

Source: 'The Statesman' dated 28 July 2013

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