Of the 650 districts in the country, Hoshangabad in Madhya Pradesh has been picked for national award “for excellent work in the field of rehabilitation and uplift of differently-abled people in the district”, which will be presented by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a function to be held in New Delhi on Thursday to launch Accessible India Campaign.
Hoshangabad’s district collector Sanket Bhondve (36), a Puneite, will be collecting the award at the function at Vigyan Bhavan in New Delhi, which is being organised by the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities and Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
Bhondve, along with his strong team of officials, is credited with taking the initiative for improving the lives of as many as 25,000 differently-abled persons in a short span of a year.
A 2007 batch IAS officer, Bhondve, who hails from Pimpri-Chinchwad area of Pune, had joined the country’s top service with an “aim to serve the poor, the disabled and the tribal population of the country”. “The country cannot progress if majority of its population either moves in the reverse direction and minority keeps moving ahead. If this disparity is brought down drastically, there is no reason why the country cannot make rapid progress. Remember a vehicle runs on four wheels… if even one wheel is punctured, it cannot move ahead,” Bhondve told The Indian Express on phone from New Delhi, where he is busy organising Thursday’s function.
Bhondve said his team included tehsildars, talathis and the gram sevaks who helped achieve the turnaround in the lives of 25,000 differently-abled persons. “We implemented a number of welfare activities for uplift of the differently-abled people in quick time. There was a sense of urgency in our team which went all-out in identifying and the ensuring that each and every differently-abled person is empowered.”
The focus, said Bhondve, was making differently-abled persons self-reliant. “We provided every kind of help to make them independent and self-reliant so that they could live with their heads held high. Whether the help was related to providing farm equipment, ensuring they got proper jobs, insurance cover or arranging their marriages, we got everything for them,” he said.
“As many as 101 such couples have tied the nuptial knot in the district. In fact, each married couple got a financial assistance of Rs 5 lakh as well. The couples were provided Aadhar cards. The Jan Dhan bank accounts were opened on the spot and sanction orders issued pertaining to Rupay Card and benefits under various government schemes,” Bhondve said.
He said differently-abled persons were given jobs in private institutions and in the government through jobs fairs and special recruitment drives. “We have trained them in multiple trades and ensured self-employment by helping them get bank loans,” said Bhondve, who has written two books, Know Your India and Road to IAS.
Among the biggest achievements, said Bhondve, was construction of obstruction-free ramps in all government offices in Hoshangabad district. “Before we started this campaign, ramps were few and far. But today, ramps are practically available in all government offices in the district.”