NEW DELHI: Ritik, the son of a daily-wage earner, lives in a one-room house with his family of five in a narrow lane in old Delhi’s Sadar Bazar. The 16-year-old recently became the first person in the country to get a prosthetic limb from the government by invoking the Right to Education Act.
The Class 12 student, however, is just happy that he can now use his artificial arm to write and draw. “I felt like playing cricket and drawing when I first wore it. The hospital handing over the arm to me is a memory I will cherish forever,” the boy told TOI. Ritik was born with a congenital deficiency, bilateral elbow disarticulation, which meant both his arms were not fully formed. Despite that, the doughty teenager has won several state-level drawing and painting awards using his feet and toes.
“All he needed was a little help,” said advocate Ashok Agarwal, who was instrumental in getting Ritik relief from the high court. In a PIL filed before a bench of acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar, the lawyer cited RTE along with Section 17 (g) of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016. Section 17 (g) stipulates that the appropriate government and the local authorities shall take measure for providing books, other learning materials and “appropriate assistive devices” to students with benchmark disabilities free of cost up to the age of 18.
Agarwal had argued that Ritik, a Class XII student at Heera Lal Jain Senior Secondary School, had 100% disability. The lawyer said RTE provides for persons with disabilities to avail benefits for the purpose of education. “The right to education is a fundamental right. So, the means required to achieve and materialise the right are also covered by the Act,” the PIL had stated. For the family, however, the battle for getting Ritik an artificial arm — both inside and outside the court — has been a testing one. It faced multiple rejections from all corners, including more than a dozen schools refusing to give Ritik admission. His father, Mahender, is the sole bread winner for the family and earns a meagre Rs 8,000 monthly.
“For getting a prosthetic arm, we knocked on doors of several hospitals. Our efforts took us even to Rajasthan, but there too we faced rejection,” said his mother Usha, while trying to fit the new arm on his son.
It takes some effort at the moment for Ritik, a naturally gifted artist, to move the artificial arm. Till a few days ago, he used his toes for writing, sketching and cartooning, his favourite hobby. He uses the arm to write a few numbers, even if it means a few failed attempts and beads of sweat dotting his forehead. Getting the right grip for now is a challenge, but when he does get the grip, he goes on jotting down numbers, his name — all with total abandon. Ever since the boy got his new arm at VIMHANS on June 23, Ritik has been practicing to use it for at least a couple of hours every day.
Mastering movements is in no way easy, but Ritik is determined to make the best use of it. The boy is soon slated to get another prosthestic limb for the other arm. During the hearing on November 1, 2017, the high court was informed that Dr J C Passey of the Lok Nayak Hospital had written to the Delhi government about the money for the prosthetic limb to be made available through Delhi Arogya Kosh.
The letter also stated that the limb would be fitted within two months. The HC had accordingly disposed of the matter and ordered for abiding by the contents of the letter. Though Ritik got the limb fitted only a few days ago, he wants others like him also not to get discouraged. “I never got disheartened, never lost hope. All I need to worry about now is to keep my arm away from water,” he said.