Not one to take insults lying down, Rishi Raj Bhati, who was asked to leave the post of public relations (PR) director of the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) within hours of joining the post by none other than its own vice-chairman Udai Pratap Singh on January 10 – because he has polio and walks with the help of crutches – has now refused the DDA’s second letter requesting him to rejoin as director. The authority and its head had drawn a lot of flak for treating a person with a disability with such apathy.
Bhati’s responses to the DDA
Bhati responded to a January 16 letter sent by the DDA in which the commissioner (personnel) noted that a delegation of disability rights groups, led by Javed Abidi, had met Singh and voiced their concerns over Bhati’s treatment. Post which the commissioner had stated that “DDA again very sincerely regrets any inconvenience caused to you in this matter and request you to join the post of Director (PR)”.
However, Bhati responded saying, “I feel that your decision to offer me to rejoin as Director (PR) has been influenced by media reports and the protests staged by human rights groups against the act of discrimination by DDA.”
He also observed how the first letter urging him to rejoin had in fact offended him even more instead of appeasing him. Bhati said though the letters were “meant to undo the grievous hurt caused” to him, the first of the two had actually done just the opposite as it had carried an “incorrect statement” that he had been relieved by the DDA with his “consent”.
Bhati said though he was enthusiastic about and delighted at joining the DDA in the challenging position of PR director, and would have never lost an opportunity to prove his competence as a public relations professional, the manner in which he was removed from the post and how that was later billed as his own decision had caused him “hurt” and eroded his “faith in the policies of DDA”.
In the letter sent to Commissioner (Personnel) M.K. Gupta, the seasoned PR professional recalled how “when DDA advertised the vacancy of Director (Public Relations) in April 2016, it was nowhere mentioned that a person with disability was unfit for the job. Since I have been efficiently performing similar duties as public relations professional for around last 16 years with Delhi Vidyut Board and then with Delhi Transco Limited, I carried no doubts about my capabilities and so I applied for this job.”
Giving his reasons for opting for the position, he said, “having acquired multitude of educational and professional qualifications besides having extensive working experience in the field of public relations I wished to join a larger organization.”
Bhati, who has 16 years of experience in public relations, said since the DDA did not ask for caste, religion and physical disability to be stated specifically on the application, these were not mentioned by him. “The criteria and method of selection was decided by your organisation and I or my parent organization had no role in it,” he said.
Stating that he was “selected by DDA through its own selection process on the basis of my present position of PRO, education qualifications and performance records”, Bhati, who earned a doctorate, lamented that after he had joined, “in violation of the rules and policies” he was relieved the very next day.
He claimed that DDA officials categorically told him “that I was being relieved only because of my physical disability. Though I explained to you my outstanding working capabilities to discharge the duties and functions as Director (PR) of DDA successfully and smoothly without any limitations but still I was handed over the relieving letter.”
He noted that the manner of “blatant discrimination and undignified treatment” meted out to him by the officials had left him “aghast” and before leaving the office he had handed over to them his “protest letter”.
The issue had also deeply saddened and irked disability rights activists, who called the actions and conduct of the DDA’s top brass shameful and demanded that the vice-chairman be sacked for discriminating against a person with disability.
Talking to The Wire, Abidi, who later led the delegation to the DDA, had stated that “it is the V-C who is unfit for the job and not Dr. Bhati.”
He stated that he had even written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking action on the matter. “I have demanded that Bhati should be immediately reinstated with full honours and the vice-chairman must be sacked and immediately removed from the job. The incident has exposed his mindset, he is unworthy of this high position,”said Abidi.
On why he chose to approach the prime minister, Abidi had stated: “I want to say that this is a test case which would really show the political will of the government. If you really mean what you have said in “Mann ki Baat” on three separate occasions, and if you stand by what is the purpose of the Accessibility India campaign and the Rights of Persons with Disability Act 2016, then the V-C has to go.”
However, let alone action against the erring official, there is not even a word of criticism on the vice-chairman’s conduct from the powers that be.