“We are dismayed that although the KMC survey includes columns on religion, caste etc, there is no column on disability in the survey form,” activists write in letter to KMC
In the last week of September, Bahni Bhattacharyya Mondal and her 24-year-old daughter with autism tested positive for COVID-19. When no help came from neighbors or the local civic authorities, the family residing in Dum Dum area in the northern fringes of Kolkata, approached the State Health Department which suggested that the mother and daughter would have to undergo treatment at different health facilities. The 61-year-old mother who has been caregiver to her daughter could not accept this proposition from the Health Department.
Finally, after a few more days of search and with the help of a doctor, the family managed to find at a private facility where they could admit themselves with their daughter.
“There is no protocol on how people with disabilities will be treated. People with disabilities like autism cannot be isolated and require more support in fighting with disease like COVID-19,” the mother said.
Several disability rights activists have written to Kolkata Municipal Corporation ( KMC) to include a column on disability in the comorbidity survey that the KMC has been conducting.
“We are dismayed that although the KMC survey includes columns on religion, caste etc, there is no column on disability in the survey form. Our practical experiences in the past months show that when persons with disabilities are getting infected, they need specific requirements,” a letter written by several disability rights organisations said. The letter addressed to the Chairman of the Board of Administrators of Kolkata Municipal Corporation, Firhad Hakim, suggested a “column on disability in your further surveys including on co-morbidities”.
Shampa Sengupta, who runs an organization, Sruti Rights Disability Centre, said that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has pointed out persons with disabilities as one of the most vulnerable populations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are not trying to say that disability is related to comorbidity. But what we are trying to emphasize is that data on disability at ward level will help the policy-makers in being better prepared to deal with natural and health emergencies like COVID-19,” Ms. Sengupta said.
In the letter the activists have highlighted examples of how dedicated medical teams in other parts of the country are taking care of children and people affected with COVID-19, citing an example of a COVID-19 hospital in Bandra-Kurla Complex. Reports have suggested that about 2.2 % of the population in the country suffers from different kinds of physical and locomotor disability, which according to activists, is an understatement.