Disability, as measured by whatever yardstick
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Seventeen years after an Act was introduced to provide equal opportunities to the disabled, inconsistency continues to plague the process of evaluating just how much a person is disabled. Disability is today expressed in percentage terms but a uniform system of certification eludes the country.
A candidate whose locomotive disability was certified at 40 per cent by the Darbhanga Medical College, authorised for this purpose by the Bihar government, ranked 113 in IIT-JEE this year under the general physically handicapped category. Yet, during counselling, he was found unfit for admission because a medical board comprising AIIMS doctors ruled his disability was only 23 per cent.
In 2003, an MBBS student diagnosed with a locomotive disability was denied admission by Delhi University to a postgraduate course, his certificate from the state government's Lok Nayak Hospital notwithstanding. And in 2007, a partially blind student of Delhi University was denied a writer to assist her in exams, though a state government certificate had put her vision loss at 50 per cent.
At the centre of such disputes are candidates who, eyeing the 3 per cent reservation under the Disability Act, invariably have certificates from state medical colleges but then find these rejected by boards appointed by central institutes.
This year, Delhi University abolished its medical board and declared that a certificate from any government medical college would do. Dr Bipin Tiwary, dean of students' welfare in DU's wing for the physically handicapped, says, "A question we raised was that being a government university, how can we doubt the integrity of certificates issued by our own government hospitals? This double examination causes undue harassment for students."
But the IITs and the IIMs, the UPSC, AIPMT, AIIMS, JIPMER, and JNU all insist on a double check. "If we can sit for the entrance on the basis of our existing certificate, why do we need to go through an examination by a separate board after we qualify in the same entrance?" says Amit Kumar, the IIT aspirant who lost out this year. IIT authorities say their rules are advertised beforehand. "If the candidate had a problem with the rules, he should not have applied, or should have protested earlier," says Dr G B Reddy, IIT-JEE chairperson.
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