When it comes to people with disabilities, we still have a long way to go to build a society that offers accessibility and equal opportunities for all.
Recently, In a poor village in Jhargram’s Gopiballavpur in West Bengal, Jagannath Mahato a 32-year-old man uses a wheelchair to travel around 15 km to reach his office every day. He works as a casual employee of Jhargram district Collectorate.
After his legs became lifeless shortly after his birth, this is how life has looked like for him. He explains to TNIE, “In school, I crawled up the stairs to reach my classroom, and sometimes, my classmates gave me a hand by lifting me.”
Mahato was always keen on finishing his education until his graduation and thus he went on to receive a pursue a geography honors degree from a college about 55 km from his house.
After completing his graduation, he now had to earn a living in order to support his parents and his wife. He did so by taking private tuitions for over 100 students and traveled over 20 km in his wheelchair every day to reach his students.
He recounted a particular incident in 2012 when he was amongst the crowd who stood at the roadside to welcome Mamata Bannerjee who was touring the state after she had won the election.
Describing the life-turning moment, he told TNIE, “Her convoy suddenly stopped. I was surprised when she came to my wheelchair. She asked my name and about my education. She directed the officials accompanying her to look into my case. Hours after she left, senior officials visited my house.”
But the next three years were tough for Mahato as he didn't get any kind of job from the government. But fate has again got him with Mamata Bannerjee, he says, “I met the CM again in an award ceremony where I was felicitated. She recognized me, and I told her that I was yet to get a job.” He finally received an offer to collaborate as a casual worker in Jhargram’s district collectorate in the year 2015.
Mahato currently earns a monthly salary of Rs. 9,000 and wishes to secure a permanent government job.