Encouraging the idea of celebrating life with all its challenges, the first ever Regional Abilympics in Mumbai brought around 450 People with Disabilities (PwDs) from Maharashtra and Gujarat at the 2-day grand event at World Trade Centre in Mumbai, competing with their vocational skills and underscoring their potential for employment across the industry spectrum.
The commercial capital of India for the first time witnessed the talent and competitive spirit of PwDs on such a massive scale with 18 promising PwDs securing their place in the National Abilympics, which will be held later this year, to further qualify for the International Abilympics in Moscow in 2020. The Mumbai round saw 5 participants winning Gold, 7 Silver and 5 Bronze in various categories like E- Sports Gaming, Bakery, Floral Arrangement, and Cooking.
The event hosted by the National Abilympics Association of India (NAAI), under the aegis of Sarthak Educational Trust with the support of The Hans Foundation was an eye-opener for Mumbaikars with national competitions, Job Fairs for PwDs and hard-hitting discourses on the self-sustainability of PwDs in the country. Over the years, Sarthak has trained and secured lucrative placement for over 15,000 PWDs across the industry segments through its 18 centres in India.
The highlight of the event was the Job Fair for the PwDs which attracted country’s renowned brands like Flipkart, Croma, Reliance Retail, McDonald, Capgemini, Sutherland, Puma, Citibank, Aegis, Vividhata, Eureka Forbes, Sodexo, Chai Garam, Wipro, and Komfort Furnishing.
“We have tried to provide jobs through Abilympics, so that the PwDs can live their life as a confident young workforce, maintaining their self-respect and dignity. We are very confident that hard work and persistence will take differently abled people to higher levels of confidence, and we will be reaching out to villages to reach out to more and more PwDs in the country. We are very pleased that with first-ever Job Fair held at Regional Abilympics in Mumbai 60 promising youth have bagged lucrative jobs”, said Dr. Jitendra Agrawal, Founder & CEO of Sarthak Educational Trust.
Mr. Krishan Kalra, President, NAAI at the inaugural panel voiced, “Sarthak and NAAI have been trying to highlight the issue that nearly 30million PWD’s in the country are looking for jobs and empowerment and not charity and sympathy. There are many jobs that they can do better than the able bodied personnel, today’s event should be of great help in the endeavour”
The event also hosted a panel discussion on ‘Mainstreaming of Disability Issues in Media Discourse’ in the presence of renowned filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt and actor Pooja Bhatt. ” I urge corporate houses to provide employment opportunities to disabled people in the country, and fulfil our corporate social responsibilities in the truest manner”, said Mahesh Bhatt, adding that “We should support and take forward people from disabled categories because if we are not able to do that then, we will be doing injustice to ourselves. I feel if a society will not include so-called vulnerable people in its progress, then that society will not be able to reach anywhere.”
A Regional Conference on ‘Corporate Progression Toward Inclusion and Diversity’also saw the who’s who from several Government officials, NGOs, Corporates and their CSR heads, discussing prospects and scope of empowering and providing sustainable livelihood to PWDs in order to help them lead a dignified life. Mr. Asis Patnaik, Head HR, Reliance Retail shared, “We have to change our mindsets, when we are dealing with PwDs. We as a company support the empowerment of PwDs, but in most cases the lack of education, hampers our process of hiring them. There should be ample of social support for PwDs”. He further added, ” We have 65-70 plus positions at Reliance Retail and currently1450+ PwDs are working with us”.
N V Chandramouli, Management Consultant, also said, “Unemployment rate for PwDs is 70-80% in the country. We need to implement the policies which will benefit those and sensitization of the society is the key to change our outlook. Companies fear that the PwDs are not trained or educated which may hamper their productivity. Attrition is at 8% for PwDs as compared to 70% attrition for able-bodied personnel, and that’s a big advantage that corporates must capitalize on.”
“Prejudices should end”, opined Ms. Sunita Wazir of Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL), and added that “We want to make a real change like for example using/learning signs at work place to help our hearing impaired colleagues”.
Addressing the valedictory session, Mr. Hemant Bhargava , Managing Director LIC shared, “PM Modi had once said I won’t give anything free, I don’t want a dependent nation. I want a self-confident nation standing on its feet. Sarthak is enabling PwDs to be independent and empowered which makes be very happy to be here today”.
Abilympics are skill-based competition that provides a platform for the differently-abled to compete among themselves. Organised every year, the events test competitors’ mental, physical and creative abilities. Participants get a chance to display skills at everything from computer programming to floral arrangement. An enthusiastic participant Virendra Rana who was Orthopaedically challenged won a silver medal in floral arrangement skill test for the second consecutive year and was more than happy to get his wife, a polio patient along with him for the first time as a participant in the same skill test. Likewise Sarvya Haresh, has been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug after having won a Gold in ‘Food’ competition. He now only aims to start his own restaurant some day.
The event was supported by The Hans Foundations, IHG, World Trade Center, Nodwin Gaming, ATDC, NAB Mumbai, Lakme Saloon, Mindtree Foundation, Bombay Chapter Ohara School of Ikebana, Via design.
After concluding the Mumbai Abilympics on 15 June, the following Regional Abilympics will be held at New Delhi on 4 and 5 July, Chennai on 19 and 20 July and finally Kolkata on 9 and 10 August.