ABU Otsuki Award
“Advocating for disarmament and utilizing funds thus saved for promoting the interests of persons with disabilities”
India P.S. Sreenivasan(40/male)
Photo: P.S. Sreenivasan

The entire world has become a battlefield and the so-called “comfort zone” in which we often seek shelter seems to be battered beyond recognition due to the proliferation of arms.Weapons and war have not only become synonymous, but are also inextricably linked with one another.The serious threat posed by weapons of mass destruction to the inhabitants of planet Earth and the large sum of money being spent on acquiring them deserve to be examined closely by all those who believe in the doctrine “the greatest happiness of the greatest number”.
If there is a sharp increase in allocation of Defence, we can take for granted that there will be a drastic reduction in the outlay for developmental and welfare scheme meant for “the lowliest and the last”.It is well-known that persons with disabilities (hereafter referred to as PWDs) benefit, to a large extent from such schemes.
Disarmament—what and why:
Disarmament means giving up one’s weapons.It also implies reducing the size of or abolishing one’s armed forces.Since peace and tranquility are the primary objectives of most of the people on Earth refraining from wielding weapons and resorting to negotiated settlement of vexed issues are the easiest ways to achieve it.Amassing weapons in the name of establishing peace is like entreating Satan to show us the way which leads to heaven.
Relying upon inanimate objects called arms in an effort to protect ourselves from our adversaries sounds absurd.Can anyone ever be oblivious of the tragic, agonizing and harrowing experiences of the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki when Atom bombs were dropped during World War II?It inflicted on 160,000 men, women and children death, mutilation and irreparable loss.Unless Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) are ratified by all the countries, Nuclear disarmament will remain a distant dream.
Indians are entitled to speak on disarmament more than anyone in the world, as we demonstrated during our freedom struggle that we could achieve independence without resorting to the use of arms.No one seemed to have realized that it was feasible to wage war without weapons, until Mahatma Gandhi adopted nonviolence as an effective alternative in his fight against the British rule.Disarmament is, indeed, a solution and panacea to our quest for World peace.If our Governments can make an earnest effort to disarm terrorist groups, I am sure, the scourge of terrorism and extremism will be completely eradicated from our soil.
A bird’s-eye-view of Defence spending:
Governments all over the world accord top priority to ensure Defence preparedness and to strengthen their army by way of hefty budgetary support.While presenting the interim budget in parliament on 16.02.2009, the Hon’ble Finance Minister of India stated that 23.65% of the total outlay for the financial year 2009-2010 amounting to Rs. 1,41,703 crorewould be allocated for Defence.A clearer picture of how much money is spent for the above mentioned purpose by various countries would emerge only when we are able to take a close look at the figures in a particular financial year.
According to estimates for the year 2005-06 The United States with a population of approximately 25 crore tops the table by allocating a whopping 20 lakh crore rupees.England, Japan and China occupy the second position with Rs. 2 lakh crore each.Saudi Arabia contributed Rs. 1 lakh crore and India earmarked Rs. 78,000 crore during that year.Pakistan provided Rs. 13,000 crore.If we can succeed in urging our Governments to cut down Defence expenditure by 25% to 30%, and utilize the funds for catering to the needs of PWDs, we will, literally experience, a Heaven upon the Earth. Weapons can only disable and not enable (or ennoble) us to lead the life of our choice.The plight of disabled veterans is, indeed, a cause for concern and Governments owe them more than to any other citizen.
Ameliorating the lives of PWDs I was shocked to learn that according to the U.S. Census Bureau, unemployment among Americans with visual impairment was as high as 84% in 2005.If this is the scenario in developed country, we can very well imagine the pathetic situation prevailing in developing and under-developed countries.
Bringing down the allocation for Defence by 30% during the current fiscal year will yield Rs. 40,000 crore, which can be effectively utilized by the Indian Government for educating, training and rehabilitating the disabled.It is estimated that there are 282000 children with visual disability enrolled in special and regular schools to whom our Government is obliged to provide Braille textbooks, other educational aids and appliances.Helping PWDs to lead an independent and dignified life by enabling them to be gainfully employed is another constructive measure which the Government must initiate.
Special district-level training centres must be set up in which all categories of the disabled can be accommodated.It will go a long way in imparting special skills which will brighten the prospects of securing well-paid jobs.
Even though 14 years have elapsed since the PWD Act came into force, many of its provisions are yet to be implemented for want of financial resources.We want them to be executed in letter and spirit by utilizing the above-mentioned Rs. 40,000 crore.The disability grant of the central Government is far too low, when compared with the social security benefits enjoyed by our counterparts in USA.The grant must be increased substantially in keeping with the rising cost of living.
Besides providing job opportunities and evolving strategy to take care of the destitute disabled, the Government must launch a sensitization campaign to create awareness about the abilities of the disabled in order to put an end to discrimination.
Disarmament is a double-edged sword—in positive sense.It not only contributes to peace and stability but also provides the much-needed funds which can be utilized for promoting the interests of PWDs.If schemes for the welfare of the differently-abled are implemented in full vigour, I am sure, the blind shall “see” the deaf shall “hear” and the lame shall “walk”—though not in a literal sense, figuratively, it is possible.“Where there is a will, there is a way”.


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