Cellphone-savvy blind Dalit laments government apathy

Itahari, July 6:

Ramanand Sagar Khatwe, 24, is a Dalit with a difference. A resident of Bhokraha VDC in Sunsari, he is blind but he can type SMSs to his wife and others in a jiffy. Talking to this correspondent, Khatwe said, “It is now a year since I began using a mobile phone. Life is easier now.” He is a role model for other people.

He lost his eyesight at the age of 10 while he was undegoing treatment for an eye infection. The impoverished boy was waiting for a miracle and it actually happened. He was admitted to Gyanchachhu School in Dharan where he studied till class VII. An organisation associated with the school noted his abilities and took him to Pokhara where he was admitted to Amarsingh secondary School. He completed his studies and came off with flying colours in the SLC exam.

Recalling his feat, Khatwe said: “Then I got admitted to the Prithvi Narayan Campus in Pokhara where I worked hard and was awarded a merit certificate.” According to Pushp Bhattarai, the dorector of a Sunsari-based NGO, it was an astounding achievement for a blind Dalit boy.

Khatwe is also the Sunsari district vice-chairman of the National Disabled Association and the association’s programme organiser in 15 VDCs of the district. Apart from that, he is a member of the district’s Progressive Writers’ Association.

Khatwe lamented that the government, political parties and leaders have a jaundiced view of disabled people. Recalling an old incident, he said, “UML general secretary Madhav Kumar Nepal once came to Inaruwa. I tried to meet him but none of the local leaders heeded my requests to let me see him. Later, when my plight was reported in newspapers, Nepal himself telephoned and called me.”

According to him, life is made further difficult for the disabled because of the apathy shown towards them. He alleged that most of the organisations claiming to work for the welfare of the disabled usually gobble the funds given for them.

“In government and no-government offices, the staff treat disabled people with contempt. Even the Chief District Officer treated me with disdain,” Khatwe said. He added that only the government can address the problems of the disabled. “Political parties treat us as a dim-witted vote bank,” he said.

Born the eldest in a family of daily wage labourers, Khatwe is not limited to his studies or social activities only. He has penned and published a collection of poems titled ‘Muna.’ Residents of the district know him very well for his stories, poems and songs. “I am sightless. Literature is the only way I can answer anyone who tries to make fun of me,” he said. “It is the only weapon I can wield to attack aberrations in society.”

He also runs a music school near the place where he lives. His lifestyle has become a subject of discussion and admiration in the entire district.