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      Volume 12 |Issue 05| February 01, 2013 |


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Human Rights

Blind Hope

Subir Das and Mizanur Rahman Himadri

Shapan Chowkider - still waiting for a break.

Shapan Chowkider's life hangs in the balance as he struggles to fulfill his long-cherished dream of joining the Bangladesh Civil Service (BCS). Having lost his eyesight at the tender age of three, he had enough reasons to quit dreaming, as there was no scope for visually impaired students to sit for BCS exam.

But he was not a man to resign his life to destiny. Instead, he took the matter to the court and secured permission to take the exam with the help of a dictation writer. His bold decision apparently made a difference to his fate. But bureaucracy did not allow his journey to be so smooth.

His dreams were nearly shattered on the second day of the 33rd BCS written exams when he was expelled from the center only because of a misunderstanding. All that the magistrate found wrong with Shapan was that he came up with a dictation writer who had not been authorised to do the job.

Shapan reasoned with the magistrate, as he soberly argued that his dictation writer could not come due to some urgent work. This hapless student quoted Vivekananda Biswas, director of Public Service Commission (PSC), who confirmed that if the authorised dictation writer fails to come, another person showing his identity card would be allowed as a proxy.

He entreated the invigilator to contact Vivekananda over the phone. But his request only fell on the deaf ears of the authority and he was not allowed to take the exams on that day.

Days later, Shapan went to PSC to meet its controller of examinations (cadre) AYM Nesar Uddin. There he waited for nearly three hours. Heartbroken, he came back, there was no sign that the PSC would consider arranging a make-up exam.

Contacted, Nesar said that the PSC might discuss the issue at its meeting if Shapan submitted a written application in this regard.

Shapan submitted an application without any delay, but the PSC is yet to break the status quo.

His life is now trapped in the cogwheel of bureaucracy; he now finds it very hard to give up the dream he has cherished for years. Is this the rightful behaviour of the administration towards a visually impaired student with outstanding academic qualifications? Having pursued two Masters Degree from Dhaka University – one from the department of Law while the other from Criminology – he has a publication in an international journal.

Mizanur Rahman Khan, chairman of National Human Rights Commission, says, “Shapan is my direct student. Once I personally talked to the university VC whether a part-time job can be arranged for him. But unfortunately, our society is not sympathetic towards visually impaired people. When our society does something for them, it becomes more about charity than about their rights.”

He adds, “What is now Disabled Welfare Act should be actually Disability Rights Act. If rights were ensured instead of charity, the PSC could not bar Shapan from attending the exam. Moreover, you see that most buildings are constructed without maintaining proper code, because of which they do not ensure smooth movement of disabled people. Unashamedly I say that even my office structure is not disabled-friendly. I have failed to do that.”

Shapan is tired and frustrated with the injustice done towards him and is on the verge of losing hope that his dreams will become reality one day.

It gives us hope when we see the spotlight being turned on the disability issue through seminars and programmes. It makes us optimistic when we see colourful processions brought out in the country to celebrate the International Disability Day. But do they really mean anything when we see visually impaired students like Shapan come across such blatant discrimination?


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