Pune: While a number of visually impaired students from the neighbouring talukas and districts come to the city to gain better educational facilities, the number of government hostels available to them in the city is not sufficient. This is leaving many students without hostel facilities at the mercy of private NGOs and good Samaritans who help them get accommodation.
Speaking about this issue, Amol Karche, a visually impaired student and cricketer, who was a part of Team India that emerged as the winner of the Blind World Cup 2014, said, “As far as the educational and hostel facilities for the visually impaired till Std X are concerned, I would agree that they are quite good here. My friends and I studied at the Blind School at Koregaon Park, and we had great facilities there. However, it’s after we completed school that the problems began. There is a very small percentage of reservation for the likes of us at the government hostels, and it’s difficult to get accommodation at this handful of hostels.”
Karche is presently completing graduation at Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU), yet, despite his merit and achievement, stays at a private accommodation arranged by a bunch of good Samaritans.
“We are trying to provide facilities to as many visually impaired students as we can, but we too have our limitations. The situation would be much better if the government could step up to help these students in a better way,” Sunil Nevrekar of Nevrekar Health Home said.
Echoing similar views, Meera Badve of Niwant Andha Mukta Vikasalaya said that after applying for government hostels, by the time the student’s name is shortlisted for accommodation, it’s already December.
“Where are the students supposed to stay for around six months by the time hostels are allotted to them? Also, at many times, the students studying at colleges in the heart of the city are allotted hostels in the fringe areas like Kalewadi, Moshi Gaon, etc. It’s not feasible for them to travel so much every day. The government doesn’t seem to give a single thought to this before the allocation of hostels,” Badve added.
She also stated that despite scoring good marks, there are many who are still not provided with the hostel facility, which according to them works on ‘merit’ system.
Badve also pointed out that the situation is even difficult for the girls, and accommodating girls in private flats is also very dangerous.
Preeti Gade, who is in her final year of graduation at Wadia College, said, “I had applied for government hostel when I came to Pune for my first year, however, despite having good marks, I wasn’t allotted with the facility. I have to stay at a disabled-friendly private hostel in Wagholi, and a lot of my time is wasted in travelling alone.”
Badve, as well as others, suggested that providing more government-run hostel accommodation for these girls would actually save a lot of funds of the NGOs, which could be diverted to helping more students in need.
While reacting to the issue, Nitin Patil, State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities admitted that as compared to the number of visually impaired students coming to the cities like Pune, Mumbai, Nagpur, Nashik, Aurangabad, the government accommodation facility available in these cities is deficient.
He said, “Considering the number of visually impaired students here, there is a need to develop a hostel model to accommodate these students. I will be presenting a proposal for the same to the government. Also, some percentage of the hostels for SC/ST/OBC students in the city could be used to accommodate the disabled.”