Centre for Internet & Society

Quoted as the ‘golden boy of Karnataka’, after winning two gold medals for India in Special Olympics in 2003 in Dublin, once Aslam Pasha quit his last job as a night watchman a week back.

The article by Regina Gurung was published in the Indian Express on December 7, 2016. Nirmita Narasimhan was quoted.

Even as government services allow disability and sports quota, guess what is keeping this man from being employed? The Queen’s language.

Born and brought up in Bengaluru, Aslam was conceived at home to a home maker mother and a fish stall owner father. Hindi is the only language he can speak and read. Despite being born without functional legs, his love for sports was not hindered. He started participating in wheelchair racing competitions and became fond of shot put.

Tracing and reminiscing his past glories, he tells City Express the beginning and abrupt end of his golden career.

While in his teens, he says, he went to Hubli to participate in a wheelchair racing and shot put competition. After his win there, he was taken to Delhi and introduced to the Special Olympics Committee. He made it to the Special Olympics in Dublin in 2003 and secured two gold medals as a part of the eight-member team.

On his return to the country, he was welcomed with great warmth and was felicitated. He says he even met APJ Abdul Kalam, the then President of India, and received `2 lakh as a reward. He gave the entire sum to his parents. They live in a slum near Soda Factory. His popularity was short lived. Sooner than he realized, people forgot him. He wondered what more could he do with his life. The calls from the committee stopped, he was clueless on what to do next.

In his late 20s, he started applying for various jobs but was rejected for having ‘no communication skill’.“I have been looking for a job from over three years now. I even did a one-year course on data entry at Intel, but everything is useless as I don’t know English,” says Aslam.

‘’Do you mention that you are a gold medalist?” asked City Express.

“Yes I do but I always get the same reply… “You don’t know English, so what is the use?” Aslam replies.

Aslam did not complete his education since he was always keen on sports, says Neel Lama, Aslam’s school’s friend.

“Following Olympics training, most athletes drop out of educational institutions,” says Nirmita Narasimhan, Policy Director of Centre for Internet and Society, who heads the accessibilty and inclusion programme.

Aslam used to go for his night watchman duty in hiding, after his parents fell asleep.

“They tell me it is okay, but I know the difficulties they face,” says Aslam. G N Nagaraj, founder of Karnataka State Disabled and Care Giver’s Federation questions that when cricketers and other Olympians are showered with sponsors, why is the Paralympian who is “five times more deserving”, not offered a job?

On Saturday, Aslam Pasha, had gone to an institution to enroll himself in an English language speaking course.

He was told that he needs to pay `24,000 for the course that also includes the auto fare of the tutor. “How can I pay so much to learn English and then look for a job?” questions Aslam. “But still I desperately want to learn the language,” adds the 30 something Aslam.

“A wheel chair accessy (person who uses wheel chair) is considered 75 per cent disabled and those who are more than 75 per cent disabled can avail for a government pension of `1,200 per month,” says Nagaraj who is working towards the passage of the Rights of Persons with Disability bill.

“The procedure is tiring. A disabled person is expected to travel some 40-50 km and the office stays open from 10am to 12 noon only, so many don’t claim it,” Nirmita adds, who is also visually challenged herself.

“I had approached other institutions, but for reasons unknown they don’t approve of my enrollment, probably because of looks. I had to lie to the English instituition that I would be going to England, and only they they agreed,” Aslam says.

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