Obituary for Shri Prasanna Kumar Pincha | ActionAid India
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Obituary for Shri Prasanna Kumar Pincha

Date : 27-July-2020

New Delhi, 27 July | All salutation to Prasanna Kumar Pincha

Condolences on the death of veteran leader of civil society and the disability rights movement

Shri Prasanna Kumar Pincha passed away on the 26th of July, 2020. The champion of disability rights was 69 years old. With a legacy spanning almost four decades of committed activism – PK Pincha was admired and beloved for his mentorship and vision. Pincha’s activism is a testament to his phenomenal intellectual force and commitment.

Celebrated for his tenure as the first disabled Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disability from 2011 to 2014, he also served as the Special Rapporteur for Persons with Disabilities for the National Human Rights Commission and as the Chairperson for the National Trust for the Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and multiple disabilities. He was a pioneer as the only person with disability in the India to have headed two statutory bodies. His legacy far exceeds the offices he held.

PK Pincha, who studied at a school for the Blind in Kolkata, went on to do his Bachelor’s in Law in Assam, a Masters in English, and was the founding Principal of Jorhat Blind School (now Government Institute for the Blind) in Jorhat, Assam. He was Joint Director in the Department of Social Welfare in the Government of Assam and then joined ActionAid Association, where he played a key role in setting up the regional office in Guwahati and expanded ActionAid’s work into the North-Eastern states with his commitment to work for securing the dignity and rights of the poor and the marginalised.

At ActionAid he worked as a Senior Manager and National Theme Leader, managing its work on the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. It was when he was at ActionAid that he also won the right of blind persons to sign cheques and access banking services without discrimination through the judgement in Prasanna Kumar Pincha v/s. Union Bank of India & ors.[1] He insisted that “The biggest problem a disabled person faces is attitudinal. People shouldn’t equate one’s disability with inability — this makes the person believe that he or she is only capable of being a passive recipient of benefits. There is a deeply entrenched belief in our society that a disabled person needs charity and pity. This needs to change, and I have devoted my life to this cause.”[2].And he spent his life contributing to mammoth strides in realising a productive and dignified life for the disabled. His vision for the treatment of Persons with Disability as rights bearing individuals was realised through his tremendous activism. In speaking of the enabling supportive legal capacities for the disabled he once said that “The fact of the matter is that all of us whether disabled or not do need support, for example one needs the support of a doctor during sickness, or for that matter of a legal counsel to deal with a legal litigation. It also highlights the fact that life on earth is neither about dependence nor independence; rather it is about interdependence.”[3]

Mrinal Gohain, who heads the Northeast India Regional Office of ActionAid, which PK Pincha helped set up, fondly remembers him saying: “He was quite extraordinary, a polyglot and an intellectual whose passion and understanding of law was deep, his sensitivity to languages was intense and then he was a philosopher who sought to provoke people away from the mundane.” His activism was humane and deeply sensitive to the human conditions that law generated and his approach to the law was reflective of a larger vision of life.

Sandeep Chachhra, Executive Director of ActionAid Association, remembers him and says that: “PK Pincha lives on in the service that he did to the poorest and most excluded in India. He inspired many young people including me, we have always remembered and so have so many others across India. Pinchaji was a brave soul and we are all lucky to inherit his love and  legacy. May his soul rest in peace.”

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[1] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/5051930.stm

[2] https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/blind-not-differently-abled-new-commissioner-for-persons-with-disability-with-calcutta-link/cid/450756

[3] Pp 30; https://thenationaltrust.gov.in/upload/uploadfiles/files/eventreport.pdf