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«SIMM ® EDUCATION A N D E M P L O Y M E N T OF THE BLIND - THE CASE OF WEST BENGAL Bikas C. Sanyal, P. K. Giri, M. Roychowdhury, A. K. Pati,. ...»

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Out of 225 respondents, 76 persons (33„8%) stated that they had worked in sub-contract workshops before regular placement«, Out of these 76 persons, 41 (54%) think that the jobs they did in those workshops have positive relations with their training. All of them agree that the experiences they gathered in those workshops helped them not only in money matters, but also in retaining the working habits and skills.

Table 5.2.

Stop-gap job and its relation with training

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These sub-contract jobs are stop-gap arrangements as the candidates for regular placement are mostly chosen from among the trained workers working there. In their places, newly-trained blind persons are absorbed*

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do odd jobs completely unrelated to their education and training, like selling lottery tickets and incense sticks or giving private coaching.

Those who cannot make even such arrangements, simply sit idle and wait for their call from the Rehabilitation Officer of their institution or from the Special Employment Exchange.

5.3 Method of recruitment and the role of the Special Employment Exchange We wanted to ascertain the degree of importance of various methods of recruitment in the State and to see what role is played by the Special Employment Exchange in economic placement of the blind«, The regular-employed persons were asked to say what was the mode of getting their job* According to their responses, the Special Employment Exchange was credited for employment of 3o9% of -che respondents. Both newspaper advertisements and letters of recommendation were considered of value by only 3.3%, but 83,3% of the respondents regarded persuasion (i.e. personal contact) by rehabilitation workers, family, friends, etc. to be the factor behind getting their job.

The data obtained is self-explanatory. It proves that personal compassion, sympathy and charity being the main props of rehabilitation, an impersonal and automatic system of transition from education to work has not yet developed. The truth of this is also revealed by the insignificant part played by the Special Employment Exchange established by the Government of India in 1965»

Table 5e3a Mode of getting a job

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(73.4) (20.3) (5.5) (0.8)

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It has been seen that the percentages of urban blind getting regis­ tered v r t the Exchange is higher than the rural blind (see table A2 in the

-ih Appendix). The rural blind are either not interested in the Exchange or they try to avoid the troubles associated with registration. The District Regional Employment Exchanges generally do not take any interest in han­ dicapped persons and do not take the trouble of forwarding names of the blind to the Special Employment Exchange in Calcutta. Moreover, the rural blind find it very difficult to come to the district towns for renewal, reminder, etc

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When we go through the weight given to the items in the list of selection criteria, we find some curious facts revealed by the answers.

Criteria like interview, past experiences and letter of recommendation were considered to be very important or important by 86%, 91.8% and 89.7% of the respondents respectively, but 83=3% of them got their jobs through persuasion.

This seems to indicate that almost all the candidates had to appear before some sort of selection board with all the papers they had with them though matters were settled beforehand»

Table 5 e 5. Factors in getting a job for a blind person

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According to the Heads of the institutions, particularly the Rehabilitation Officers, the general procedure is: the Rehabilitation Officer approaches the Personnel Officer or the Manager of a private or public sector industry, who specifies the number of blind workers they may employ; the Rehabilitation Officer selects the candidates according to the nature of the jobs from among his waiting list and those names are sent to the Managers. Since the announcement of 3% job reservation for the handicapped (1% for the blind) by the Government of India in 1978, it became a common practice with -the public sector or autonomous bodies to set up a selection board before appointing the handicapped workers. The State Government announced 2% job reservation for all categories of handicapped. Such a procedure is not followed in other sectors»

In small-scale industries where personal relation is the main factor, the letter of recommendation plays a vital role, but such appointments are very limited in number and scope. By past experience the respondents, it seems, meant the period spent in the sub-contract workshop or whatever jobs they were provided with by the institutions before sending them to

- 59 regular employment. In fact, the Rehabilitation Officer, among other things, generally takes that period into consideration before recommending the names for regular employment, 5.4 Waiting period to get a job The uncertainty about earning a living after finishing education is not peculiar to the blind adults in West Bengal. Unemployment and underemployment have become almost a way of life here. In this situation, it seems natural for a blind man to wait indefinitely for his turn to get a job»

But it will be oversimplification of a complex situation if we think that the uncertain period that a blind man has to suffer is simply a reflection of the general unemployment picture of the country.

To understand the complex problem of employment and unemployment of the blind we have to remember the following factors, apart from economic stagnations

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Now let us join the fragmented factors stated above to get the real picture of the problem« The large number of illiterate and dependent blind persons in the society obliterates the small number of trained personsa The unproductive role of the majority colours the views of the employers.

It takes a lot of time to convince the employers about the abilities of the educated blind«, The number of openings that the Rehabilitation Officer finds in this way generally falls far short of the number of intending candidates» So he chooses among those who come first. Sometimes, he has to

- 60 make a choice from among multiple factors like intensity of family needs, special skill of the candidate and urgency of the particular job«, In whatever way the choice is made, the rest have to wait for their turn. Due to these uncertainties, a blindman does not have any choice regarding the nature of the job - whatever comes to him, he has to accept it as a "manna from Heaven"„ Table 5 e 6 0 Length of waiting period (for open-employed)

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The time spent in pre-employment programme should not be taken as a waiting period, because it is a necessary adjunct of the training programme.

But the time afterwards is long and it is uncertain that the trainee won't relapse into ignorance for want of practice of what he has learnt. If the person is lucky, he may get some sort of stop-gap job which may or may not have any relación to his traininge We find that the waiting period has no relation with the duration of education and training programmes (see table A 3 ). It gives rise to the notion that education and training is just to keep the blind in good humour, it has no real bearing on the regular employment.

The idea is, whatever be the content of training, a blind man may ultimately get a job - not by dint of his merit, but because he is blind.

In the field of rural vocation, the waiting period for self-employment is not so gruelling о During the period under consideration, 43 trainees were trained and 33 of them were gainfully occupied in the business of their own - the period of transition from training to work was short. This spec­

tacular result was possible because:

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All these factors are responsible for the success of the rural selfemployment programme«, Right now it is difficult to say what would happen if and when the numbers of training centres and the clients increase in the futureb Due to the economic condition and limited training facilities, there exists a positive relation between the number of blind job-seekers and the period of waiting. If the number increases, the period of waiting also increases. The contents and methods of training and education seem to have no impact on waiting for regular employment„ 5e5 Usefulness of education in getting a job It does not require any investigation or research work to say that some sort of prior education and training makes it easier for anybody to get a gainful occupation. But in the case of a blind man, the negative social attitudes in the forra of sympathy, compassion and charity generally make this axiom redundant in getting a job« Nothing counts where charity reigns suprême« The notion of infirmity and helplessness is so firmly attached to blindness that whenever a blind man does anything it evokes amazement, admiration and praise in the society. In whatever way we look at a blind man, as a miracle or as a parasite, we tend to take an indulgent view of his ability and qualification as a worker«, So, in most cases his education is overlooked? he is given a job not because he is duly qualified, but because he is blind«,

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(с) academic education up to junior high standard with vocational training. Most of the blind workers belong to the last two categories. If we compare the ratios of educated sighted and blind workers with the total working force in their respective categories, we will find that the percentage of educated blind is higher than that of the sighted workers.

In the seIf-employment sector like vending stalls, agricultural farming, poultry, etc«,, the banks advance loans on easy terms to those blind clients who are trained and have a minimum of general academic education.

The causes behind high percentage of educated blind persons1

employment may be summarised as follows :

(a) The blind workers come from those institutions which are mainly concerned with education and training. The Rehabilitation Officers recommend only those persons who have received education. In this respect, the illiterate blind man who is not attached to any organisation does not get any opportunity at all to approach the employment mar­ ket.

(b) It may be said that a blind man who is generally considered to be incapable of doing anything needs additional qualifi­ cations to attract the attention of others. Education, to some extent, acts as an insurance against his supposed helplessness. An educated blind man may weigh more than an illiterate sighted worker in the eyes of the employers.

(c) The recent trend shows that, in some cases, the employers are genuinely interested in trained blind workers. In these cases, education (and training) is essential and commensurate with the job. From table 5.7 we find that nearly 89% of the regular employed persons thought that education was essential or useful in getting their job.

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601 Introduction In the previous chapter we have discussed the phenomenon of tran­ sition of the blind from education/training to work. Once the blind person has landed on a job he/she faces a new world with new problems and challenges.

These vary from one type of employment to another, namely, open or regular wage earning job and self-employment« These also vary from different types of firms, namely, public, autonomous and private; for different occupational categories the blind holds as a profession, namely, professional, adminis­ trative, clerical, sales, service, agriculturist and production workers;

for different categories of jobs, namely, skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled, etc, The main questions we could attempt to answer in this chapter are what type of training leads to what type of employment, how is the stop-gap job (see Chapter 5) related to the present job, how is the blind person's employment related to his/her income, and what factors make a blind person seIf-employed? We have also attempted to identify from the unemployed blind persons the reasons for their unemployment. The responses might lead to formation of policy implications in respect of defining a just employment for the blind, a better transition of the blind from education to work, a just reward system for the blind» We shall first discuss the distribution of the employed blind respondents by some of the above-mentioned characteris­ tics,

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between the public and private sectors of the economy (51.1% and 38.6% res­ pectively), the autonomous institutions having a very small share (10,2%).

Given the size of the private sector employment in the State, it would be observed that the private sector is doing more than its share in employing the.blind« Another characteristic of the regular employees survey is that nearly 90 per cent of them are on permanent jobs« Among the regular employees the "service" and the "professional", technical and related activi­ ties as occupations cater for 78% of the individuals surveyed, whereas among the self-employed, agriculture as an occupation caters for three out of four respondents. The production activities cater for slightly more than one out of ten regular employees. More than half of the employed (regular and self/ are involved in semi-skilled j o s which would mean that not all of

-b those working in technical and related areas and in "service" are fully skilled» Only one out of seven of the employees are working as skilled workers »

Table б02„ Employed blind, persons classified by category of job

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