28 June 2010
By Nirmala M Nagaraj
HC Orders 3% Quota In Medical Admission, Other Institutions
Rajalakshmi with her mother Dr Shobha MurthyTrained in classical and Western dance, and an aspiring model, this Oxford Dental College graduate’s dreams of higher studies were almost dashed after she met with an accident that left her completely immobile. But her grit, and more so her mother’s spirit, changed her life and that of many others for the better.
S J Rajalakshmi’s is an inspiring story. She was travelling to Chennai to present a paper at a national conference when she met with a road accident, resulting in permanent loss of mobility in both her lower limbs.
She completed her graduation and internship in a wheelchair, and also topped her college in orthodontics and community dentistry. Barely a month out of a major surgery in 2009, she wrote her P–G entrance exam and passed with a good score.
Battle For Reservation
Though the government of India had reserved 3% seats for persons with disability, the Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences had reserved only one seat for a physically challenged candidate in 2009.
Since the university was supposed to reserve 3% seats, Dr Rajalakshmi approached the then state commissioner for disabilities Das Suryawanshi, who issued a order to reserve 3% seats. Surprisingly, the university ignored this order.
Not one to give up, Rajalakshmi’s mother Dr Shobha Murthy filed a writ petition in the high court. After a year–long battle, the court issued a historic order, making 3% reservation mandatory for disabled students in government and private educational institutions.
Her battle enabled 24 disabled students to pursue their dreams in medical and dental PG courses this year.
‘My Life Changed’ "When I suddenly became disabled, my life completely changed. It was shocking for us to know that an Act enacted 15 years ago was not implemented, and people with disability were denied their rights all these years. My mother was struggling to get justice for me and I was worried about her health. On several occasions, I wanted her to give up, but she was confident and fought till I and many like me got justice. I thank my mother and brothers for being my pillars of strength," Rajalakshmi told TOI.
"All her life, my daughter has been a meritorious student and when I knew she rightly deserved the seat, I had to fight for her rights. I have argued my daughter’s case alone in court. But I am happy the struggle benefited the entire disabled student community. From the current year, it is mandatory that all educational institutions reserve 3% seats as per the PWD Act," said mother Shobha Murthy.
"The government turns the disabled into beggars by only distributing wheelchairs and clutches. They should empower them by efficiently implementing the PWD Act," she added. Since the state government had failed to implement the Act, Dr Rajalakshmi lost one year. But not really – the plucky girl did a course in fashion designing and pursued her Masters in Psychology through distance education.
Always Wanted To Be A Doctor
With her grandfather and parents being doctors, Rajalakshmi wanted to be a doctor as well as a model. "As a trained dancer, singer and walking on the ramp regularly, I wanted to be a model. Now, with this struggle for justice, I have become a model for disabled students not to give up," said Rajalakshmi. From June 2010, she joined her postgraduation at the Government Dental College.
"Since I am still a student, I don’t want to continue the legal battle with the university, claiming compensation for a year’s loss and the mental turmoil I went through. I want to complete my postgraduation with peace and without any trouble from the university or government," she said.