New Delhi: “Lightning does strike twice and at the same place when it comes to the plight of persons with disabilities,” said Dr Satendra Singh, a polio survivor and assistant professor of physiology at the University College of Medical Sciences (UCMS) and Guru Teg Bahadur (GTB) Hospital, New Delhi.
In 2011, Dr Singh applied for the post of assistant professor (physiology) in the Teaching Specialist sub-cadre of the Central Health Service through the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). His application was rejected on the grounds that a person with disability is not applicable for this job. After seeking intervention by the health ministry, he was allowed to appear for the interview.
Recently, another recruitment call for the same post was advertised by the UPSC, vide Advertisement No. 16/2013, in which it invited applications for 10 posts of assistant professor in physiology. Buoyed by the previous court judgments and ministerial orders in his favour, Dr Singh applied again and was initially relaxed when the online registration process asked for his disability, type and percentage.
However, within seconds, his hope came down crashing when the website during registration flashed, “Sorry you are not suitable for this post.” As the last date for submitting applications for the post is November 15, Dr Singh is again in a fix.
“The UPSC is blatantly refusing to safeguard the legitimate rights of disabled. The Supreme Court has recently given a landmark judgment on fulfilment of posts for disabled applicants. How many lives have been adversely impacted and how many disabled people have lost on jobs due to discriminatory attitude of the UPSC,” slammed Dr Singh.
Dr Singh told India Medical Times, “This is not only a discrimination. Despite repeated orders, the UPSC did not consider disability certificate from a government hospital. They are adamant on their own Proforma V. Moreover, they also want picture of the disabled candidate showing their full disability. Isn’t this discrimination of highest order? You even do not rely on experts and want to humiliate a disabled by posing for you.”
He further said, “Even in the last court case, the UPSC was adamant that these posts are not identified as being suitable for people with disabilities. I would like to draw their attention to the list of posts identified by MSJE (ministry of social justice and empowerment) vide Notifications No. 16-70/2004-DDIII dated January 18, 2007; March 15, 2007 and March 22, 2007 which clearly identifies the post on Page 51, Item number 752 (Asstt Prof, Science, University and College Teachers) for persons with disabilities in Group A.”
“Moreover, all disabled medical students attend clinical postings, operation theatres, OPDs and emergency postings during internship. It’s only after the successful completion of these that they are awarded MBBS, MD/MS degree, who is UPSC then to question us?” asked Dr Singh.
In 2011, when his application was rejected by the UPSC, it was no less than a shock for Dr Singh, as he was already in a permanent government job, on the same post in a prestigious medical college (UCMS). Dr Singh then brought the matter to the notice of the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP), who then brought the matter to the urgent attention of the union health ministry. Since the interviews were a couple of days ahead, he had to approach the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) as well for help.
Dr Singh said, “Back then in 2011, the tribunal scolded UPSC and I was allowed to appear on the last day of the interview. Few days later, Additional Secretary – Health, Keshav Desiraju, also intervened and conveyed his concern over recurring of such cases time and again.”
A fax was sent by the health ministry to the UPSC stating, “It has been decided that Dr Singh and other similarly placed candidates, if any, may be called for the interview. A detailed clarification in this regard will follow shortly.”
Now that the history is repeating itself, Dr Singh is nothing but disappointed over the repeated discrimination that doctors with disabilities are experiencing again. Such applicants cannot apply for these posts in physiology, psychiatry and urology.
This year, Dr Singh also received the NCPEDP-MphasiS Universal Design Award on his disability initiatives. Since 2011, he has filed several RTIs (Right to Information applications) and exposed inaccessible hospitals, ATMs, colleges and post offices.
Perhaps, it’s time that the UPSC brings more transparency and streamlines the arduous process of selection of persons with disabilities.
by Vidhi Rathee