Pre-Independence–Changing Life Styles
dentification of persons with mental retardation
and affording them care and management for
their disabilities is not a new concept in India. The
concept had been translated into practice over
several centuries as a community participative
Changes in attitudes towards persons with
disabilities also came to about with city life. The
administrative authorities began showing interest
in providing a formal education system for persons
with disabilities, particularly for families which had
taken up residences in the cities.
The status of disability in India, particularly
in the provision of education and employment for
persons with mental retardation, as a matter of need
and above all, as a matter of right, has had its
recognition only in recent times, almost after the
enactment of the Persons with Disabilities Act
Changes in the lifestyle of the persons with
mental retardation were also noticed with their
shifting from ‘community inclusive settings’ in
which families rendered services to that of services
provided in ‘asylums’, run by governmental or
non-governmental agencies (Chennai, then
Madras, Lunatic Asylum, 1841).
It was at the Madras Lunatic Asylum,
renamed the Institute of Mental Health, that
persons with mental illness and those with mental
retardation were segregated and given appropriate
Historically, over different periods of time
and almost till the advent of the colonial rule in
India, including the reigns of Muslim kings, the
rulers exemplified as protectors, establishing
charity homes to feed, clothe and care for the
destitute persons with disabilities. The community
with its governance through local elected bodies,
the Panchayati system of those times, collected
sufficient data on persons with disabilities for
provision of services, though based on the
philosophy of charity. With the establishment of
the colonial rule in India, changes became
noticeable on the type of care and management
received by the persons with the influence from
Special schools were started for those who
could not meet the demands of the mainstream
schools (Kurseong, 1918; Travancore, 1931;
Chennai, 1938). The first residential home for
persons with mental retardation was established in
Mumbai, then Bombay (Children Aid Society,
Mankhurd, 1941) followed by the establishment
of a special school in 1944. Subsequently, 11 more
centres were established in other parts of India.
Indian Education Commission, 1964-66
The Indian Education Commission,
1964-66 made a clear mention of the presence of
only 27 schools for persons with mental retardation
in the entire country at that time.
Establishment of Special Schools
Article 41of the Constitution of India (1950)
embodied in its clause the “Right to Free and
Compulsory Education for All Children up to Age
In 1953, training teachers to teach persons
with mental retardation was initiated in Mumbai
by Mrs. Vakil.
Many more schools for persons with mental
retardation were established including an
integrated school in Mumbai (Sushila Ben, 1955).
In 1971, special education to train persons
with mental retardation was introduced in Chennai
at the Bala Vihar Training School by Mrs. M.
Notwithstanding this obligatory clause on
children’s mainstream education, more and more
special schools were also being set up by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in an attempt to meet the parents’ demands.
In the same year, the Dilkush Special School
was established in Mumbai initiating special
teachers’ training programs.
The various Acts passed and the policies
touching the lives of the disabled are dealt with in
Chapter 11, Policies and...
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