New Cell for Disabled People by Punjab University
All universities and colleges should form an equal opportunity cell for SC, ST, OBC and PWD students according to the University Grants Commission (UGC) guidelines, while the SC/ST Cell is already functioning at PU, there was only an informal arrangement for disabled students under the Department of lifelong learning. Punjab University has finally launched a formal equal opportunity cell for people with disabilities (EOC-PwD) on the lines of the SC/ST Cell.
The plight of the Students
Students said they have been struggling for the past two years to get the cell established as it exists in other top universities such as Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University. Through a three-member core committee, including the EOC-PwD coordinator, and a six-member student executive body, the varsity will now route all its plans for disabled students.
The cell is located adjacent to the SC/ST Cell in Aruna Ranjit Chandra Hall. The university has set up an online portal eocpwd.puchd.ac.in that will soon be updated with all the information on PWD students and schemes available for them.
Formation of the Cell
The Registrar, Dean, University Instructions (DUI), Dean, Students’ Welfare (DSW), SC/ST Cell Coordinator, Chairperson of the Department of Lifelong Learning, Chief Architect and a representative of the computer centre were present during the meeting. To discuss issues related to PWD students in the university, the cell was formed on April 3 after some PWD students and professors met the authorities
Earlier, the service was free only for disabled students of economically weaker section (EWS). To make e-rickshaws free for differently-abled students on the campus, the university has planned. The Chief Medical Officer will certify the disability and issue cards for availing the facility. While the Panjab University Campus Students’ Council (PUCSC) has repeatedly submitted representations to the DSW to construct ramps and make e-rickshaws free, PWD students said it was only after the formation of the cell that the work on both the projects started in the university. Now Karanbir Singh Randhawa, Joint Secretary of PUCSC, has submitted a representation demanding special walking sticks for visually impaired students and 24×7 helpline during the examination.
The chief architect has formed plans to make them accessible to older buildings. We have also appointed the deputy registrar to coordinate with the cell for better functioning. The university has prepared plans to make hostels and social spaces more disabled-friendly on the ground level. “We’re first looking at accessibility under which the new buildings already have all the facilities. Right now, we’re spending our own money, but in time we will also look into the proper allocation of funds,” said Col G S Chadha (retd), Registrar, PU. Prof Gautam said it was great that the university had opened a proper channel of communication with PWD students to address long-standing issues.