Life’s war does not win only with the hands and feet but is won by the mind-boggling power and Steely intentions : Dr. Sharma (Social Warrior)
In spite of facing the challenges of serious Disability in his right foot and left hand, the contribution of Dr. D.P. Sharma is admirable for human welfare and the welfare of people with disabilities at national and international level. Prof Sharma, son of a small farmer, Ninua Ram Sharma, was born on 1 May 1969 in a small village, Samona, situated on the banks of the Chambal River ravines of eastern Rajasthan (usually in a bandit affected area). He was the second youngest in the number of 5 brothers and 3 sisters. At birth, he was normal and healthy, but at the age of 5 he suffered from fever and at that time due to the injection given by an untrained physician, he got paralyzed in the left hand and right leg. Due to lack of proper treatment, he became a victim of disability forever because his family was not able to afford the heavy medical expenses at that time.
In the native village of Prof. Sharma, there was only one primary school till the age of 5, so after completing his primary level education, he used to travel a long distance of 18 Kilometers from his village Samona to the small town Rajakhera, every day, on foot, on the rough tracks while doing secondary and higher secondary level schooling.
Being a talented student, he always topped the school level education and received two scholarships (1) RRMI Merit Scholarship (Reader’s Research Modern Institute) Foundation, India and (2) Disability Scholarship from Rajasthan Government.
Another critical challenge to his educational pursuit was an unfavorable atmosphere of the village. None of his five brothers and three sisters had been educated up to high school and the parents were also not educated. Because the environment of his village and family was unfavorable, and therefore it was impossible for him to get higher education. But due to his strong will and determination, he passed all the challenges in the way of achieving higher education. He demonstrated how with a strong will and determination, a small amount of scholarship could make impossible for him bypassing all the obstacles to continue his education. After schooling, he completed his degree level education (BSc) from Government College, Dholpur. Later, he received his Master of Computer Application (MCA), Master of Technology in Information Technology (M.Tech.) and Ph.D. (Intranetwares) from the University of Rajasthan- India.
He also received certification in WSAD and DB2 from IBM USA. In 2013, he was selected as International Fellow of the International Association of Computer Science and Information Technology, Singapore. In 2015, he was declared International Fellow of Free Software Foundation of Europe (FSFE), Germany.
In this continuous journey of struggle, so far he has been conferred with 47 national and international awards and accolades including one of the highest civilian Honor of India; Sardar Patel Life Time Achievements International Award (Sardar Ratna), Peace Ambassador International Award, Godfrey Philips National Gallantry Award (Red& White Bravery Award), Civil Services Chronicle National Award and The TGMC IBM Award in Leadership Institutional Capacity. Dr. D.P. Sharma is also serving as the International Expatriate Consultant (IT) to the ILO of the United Nations. Dr. D. P. Sharma, the author of 22 books, has traveled several dozen countries including Canada, North America, China, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Geneva, Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, Egypt, Ethiopia, Yemen and Dubai. The Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi also invited him for the support of Swachh Bharat Mission in September 2017 as a national brand ambassador. Apart from this, Dr. Sharma has been serving as a Professor and Supervisor of Ph.D. scholars/researchers under various international schemes/projects in the universities of the India, Belgium, Germany, USA, and Ethiopia. Despite being in a foreign service for more than a decade, Dr. Sharma is also associated with Maharishi Arvind Institute, Rajasthan Technical University and Maharishi Arvind University as Professor. He has written and published more than 127 research papers, articles pertaining to salient scientific and technological issues. As a freelance luminary writer and authorized columnist, he has written and published a good number of editorial articles in national newspapers and international news portals like Rajasthan Patrika, Dainik Bhaskar, INVC, and Daily News etc.
It was 1994’s when he met Mr. Praveen Behl, a renowned social activist from Gurgaon, Haryana. He was struggling at the national level for the rights of the Disabled people as well as disclosing various scandals by non-governmental organizations for the rights of the Disabled people. This was the time when Prof. Sharma joined the organization called the Indian Disabled Welfare Association (IHWA), later registered as a Rajasthan state unit of the Indian Handicapped Welfare Institute (IHWI) with a new name. Since then, he is constantly providing voluntary services to rehabilitate the Disabled people of society through education and training.
In 1994, Prof. Sharma became part of a National Advocacy Campaign, which was struggling for a new draft of Disabled Ordinance/Law in India. After a long struggle, the Government of India passed it as a new law “(Equal Opportunity, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act 1995”. But unfortunately, it could not be effectively implemented with sensitivity. In the year 1999, he wrote a letter to the Chief Minister of Rajasthan to appoint a Commissioner for the disabled people under the PWD Law-1995 and informed the government that if his request was not accepted, he would go on a hunger strike with his associate activists. After two weeks, Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Shri C.K. Mathew, IAS started negotiations with the delegation to solve the issues. As a result, Shri Damodar Thanvi, who was then a social worker and politician, was appointed for the first time in the Rajasthan State and in India as the first commissioner for persons with disabilities.
When the United Nations was inviting suggestions from all over the world for the Disability Convention 2006, then Prof. Sharma was invited by the Rajasthan State Government under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment to forward his advisory and suggestions in the state-level meeting. After that, he prepared an advisory note with a list of deep rooted suggestions to be incorporated and forwarded to the United Nations through the State Government of Rajasthan and the Govt of India.
He also fought for the Beneficiary Master Card for the people of Disability in the state. He also organized a Social People’s Court in Jaipur (2004-5) for hearing the day-to-day complaints, challenges and obstacles in the life of Disables and suggesting their solutions to the government and non-governmental agencies. He also forced the government and fight for the making provision of disabled selection in A and B grade services in government organizations. He firmly said that when a person with Disability in heart, lung or other invisible illness, can be selected as President, Prime Minister and Ministers, why are people with visible disability not qualified? Fortunately, his efforts provided some relief in government jobs at national and state level, but still, the problem was not fully solved.
In 2006, he established a Patan Girl’s College in Keshav Rai Patan, District Bundi Rajasthan-India, and was devoted to free education to disabled girls with inclusive education, provided by his wife, Mrs. Anurag Sharma. The college is providing free education to poor-disabled girls in rural areas. This is the college which is being run every year despite losses. Prof. Sharma has also been providing online voluntary support and services to NGOs working for the education and rehabilitation of Disabled people in India for a long time. He has also supervised and guided many small self-help group projects under the voluntary service programs of the United Nations.
In 2005, he developed a “Job Search Engine” for the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment of India, which was designed to help in the search of jobs based on the suitability of working conditions and the physical limitations of the disables. The innovative idea of “Job Search Engine” was published in March-April 2008 as a prestigious IT innovation on the Cover page of the SMB edition of PC Quest International Magazine.
Prof. Sharma also struggled with society for another cause “why Disabled girls should marry with the Disabled people only?” This human discrimination hurts the sentiments of the disables and should be wiped out from the traditions as an obstacle. He himself married a normal and qualified girl and set an example in society. Later, he started a mission to organize a marriage ceremony to encourage such equilateral marriage in society. In the month of July – August in the year 2007, a national matrimonial meet was organized for the people of disability in Jaipur together with then a well-known activist Manoj Bhardwaj under the banner of the Nupur Sansthan. He also worked for the promotion of the design and the development of technologies which transform the disabled people into skilled and respectable manpower for the society.
Even today, his mission is to create an environment where the people of Disability can get the right to livelihood with equal opportunity and respect. He still takes risks on many occasions today, and battles for judicial rights and powers for the Disables. In his own life, he has experienced many difficulties, especially those who face while studying as a Disabled and therefore, he wants to help them to overcome such challenges. He firmly believes that the careers made with the help of assistive devices and technologies such as information and communication can give them a better life of social dignity and economic self-sufficiency.
His dream is to establish a special education and rehabilitation university in Rajasthan, which can educate, train and transform disabled people as potential human assets and productive manpower in the country. For the purpose of this mission, he prepared a draft proposal for establishing a university and presented it to the Rajasthan government in 2017. Mr. JC Mohanty, then Additional Chief Secretary, Rajasthan and the Director, Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry, Mrs. Anupama Jorwal invited him to officially discuss the proposal. In September 2017, upon discussing the project in the presence of higher officials and finalizing the university’s law and potential courses, the university was announced by the then Chief Minister of Rajasthan, Mrs. Vasundhara Raje in the public meeting. After being invited by the Additional Chief Secretary to visit the proposed site for land acquisition, Professor Sharma visited the site at Jamdoli Jaipur and agreed with the feasibility of the site, but after that, the assembly elections in the state took place and the government changed and the project is still pending.
Some of the other social activities and important contributions of Professor Sharma are: 1) Cooperation and support for the social audit of Jaipur city’s buildings, making them Disabled-friendly (2001-2004), 2) Accessibility provisions at railway stations for providing awareness about wheelchairs and other support systems for the disabled people (1999- 2013), 3) Supervision and development of visual aids technologies for people with disabilities such as text to speech and speech-to-text systems (2008), 4) Supported Nupur Sansthan in organizing the Disabled Job Fairs, 5) Support and assistance to Jaipur Cycle Marathon (2013-2014), 6) Support to start courier services with Nupur Sansthan so that employment can be generated for Disabled people (2004-2011), 7) Assistance in organizing bicycle races for Disabled people and 8) Rajasthan Telephone booth distribution to 200 disables by various telecommunications companies like Tata Tele, Airtel, and BSNL.
He says that –
The story of one’s success can only be understood by those who have seen his struggle or else people just understand it as a fate game”