S. Sankara Raman

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2006


This profile was prepared when S. Sankara Raman was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2006.
The New Idea
Sankara is transforming the role of India’s disabled from being a fragmented and powerless segment of society to become a strong civic body of capable citizens interacting with the government, benefiting from their rights, and contributing to the Indian economy. By creating a scalable state-level federation of self-help groups that inform and support the disabled in their civic participation, Sankara is equipping India’s disabled with the wherewithal to not only monitor and manage their rehabilitation, but to also independently drive their own advocacy as a united front. 
Until recently, India’s disability movement has been primarily an urban phenomenon, where government resources had not filtered down to affect the rural disabled. Despite a recent series of scattered grassroots efforts to reach the rural disabled, the movement’s expansion lacks the coherency and strength to reach most of the population. Sankara’s strategy takes advantage of the current rural activity, by developing a greater federation that encompasses grassroots efforts and works with the rural disabled to generate capability, confidence, and change from within. 
At the core of Sankara’s approach, self-help groups at the micro level monitor rehabilitation and provide follow-up after institutional care to reinforce capacity and confidence among the disabled. In the next phase of strengthening and organizing self-help groups into a state-level federation, Sankara is creating a common platform for the disabled to confidently assert themselves as a capable and productive segment of society.
The federation creates linkages with local and state-level governance to strengthen their political power as a collective force. Sankara envisions disabled citizens becoming able to demand their rights in the public arena, equipped with the legal support entitled to them by The Persons with Disabilities Act (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) of 1995. Collaboration with government bureaus, financial institutions, and various professionals will enable the federation to lead the disability movement to ensure a more accessible and productive life for the disabled in India. Through interaction with the local panchayat and state governments, Sankara envisions his grassroots movement will reach a national scope.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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