World Disability Day, also known as International Day for People with Disabilities was observed on December 3 and this year’s theme: Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality, declared by the United Nations (UN) focuses on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and pledges to leave no one behind. This year also marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Executive Director Arman Ali of National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) and the American India Foundation (AIF), gave a call for unification across the categories of disability, region and class.
Ali stated that People with Disabilities do not need wheelchair distribution, no substandard products and services. They want political participation, inclusive schools in the neighbourhood, they should have a choice as to where are kids will study and must speak now for our future generations.
It may be reminded that about two months back, the Election Commission assure to conduct intensive mapping aiming at getting the maximum number of differently-abled voters to exercise their franchise including in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and later, an official releases stated on September 1, 2018. Special arrangements, including engagement of volunteers were always made in most of the polling stations for the differently-abled eligible voters. The election authorities would conduct a study whether any polling station was missing in arranging the special arrangements for them.
According to the 2011 census, there are 2.68 crore differently-abled people, which is 2.21 per cent of total of 121 crore population. Among the disabled population 56 per cent (1.5 crore) are men and 44 per cent (1.18 crore) are women. The Election Commission has directed conducting of a special summary revision of the electoral rolls of all states and Union Territories with January 1, 2019, as qualifying date of age.
Whereas, both the central and state governments are yet to implement the December 14, 2016 resolution, which is remembered as a Red Letter day as Rajya Sabha, by voice vote, passed the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2014, which expands the list of disabilities from 7 to 19 and makes accessibility to public buildings, transport, polling station a mandatory requirement besides providing for a national fund for the welfare of the disabled. The Bill which will give more rights to People with Disabilities (PwD), also raised the reservation for government jobs from three per cent to four per cent.
The Bill, which replaces the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, has been brought in to comply with the United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which India signed in 2007. However, while moving the bill, Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment, Thawar Chand Gehlot said that a campaign is on to fill vacancies related to the disabled.
It may be reminded that the legislation was pending in the Rajya Sabha since February 2014 as the term of the erstwhile UPA government ended soon after it was introduced. The Central Government has announced to set up Divyyang University in Kerala which will start functioning from the next session.
In the midst of a ruckus in Parliament as the Opposition Members were against the implementation of demonetization as the general public is suffering, in the case of Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2014, Rajya Sabha was in one voice. Supporting the Bill, Congress member Karan Singh reminded the August House that by passing it, Parliamentarian not only fulfill an international obligation, “We are fulfilling an obligation to citizens of our country.” The bill was long overdue and will honour India’s commitment to the UN treaty on the subject.
Singh also stated that the government must ensure that their reserved seats are filled and also called for a public education campaign to teach people to treat the disabled with respect. This is the civic value which we must develop.
Naresh Agarawal of the Samajwadi Party stressed that the disabled must not be harassed and should get more quota in jobs, while Satish Chandra Mishra of the Bahujan Samaj Party demanded that the measure should be known as the Rights of the Differently-Abled Bill.
Communist Party of India-Marxist’s Sitaram Yechury while supporting the bill said this bill needs to be strengthened. The quota should have been raised to 5 per cent instead of the proposed 4 percent in his opinion.
In Meghalaya, most of the special schools are managed by private parties, the state government practically has none, and for health care, there are demands to set up special health care for the PwDs in all the districts and sub-divisions, making health care more accessible for this section of the society. Whereas even in Shillong Civil Hospital, the post of Psychiatrist remains vacant and has been so since January 31, 2014, after the retirement of Dr R Rana even though a Clinical Psychologist joined on March 10, 2014.
The vacancy came to light due to the recent incident of the hardship faced by PwDs due to non – availability of a Psychiatrist in the District Disability Rehabilitation Centre (DDRC), Shillong Civil Hospital; three people were running from pillar to post just to get their Disability Certificate, which they got only after the intervention of an NGO.
More than that there is shortage of doctors across the state with the worst hit being the rural areas, where many doctors refuse to serve due to poor infrastructure.
During the budget session 2010 of the state assembly, the then Chief Minister Dr Mukul Sangma informed the House that the qualified doctors refused to serve in the rural sectors, hence the shortage, which could be termed as an artificial shortage created by the unwilling doctors who have violated medical ethics and their pledge to serve and save human lives.
Introspecting into the entire episode leading to the hue and cry over the doctors passing MBBS through the government quota and refusing to serve the government - run hospitals, mainly in rural villages, is just camouflage, while in the ground reality, the first to refuse seeking consultancy from such doctors are the bureaucrats and most of the NGO activists, who prefer to seek treatment outside the state and some even abroad.
One can imagine the poor health care in the state, worst so for the PwDs, most of whom hail from economically weaker sections of the society. In the absence of a gazette doctor, many specially – abed children have been denied to their Right to Education, in the absence of a mere certificate.
If the state wants a clean and proper health care system, one needs to streamline the Health Department and especially the screening committee such that deserving candidates are the future to shoulder the Health care of the state, as every citizen deserves healthy medical care, more so the PwDs.
If such a Bill is implemented in letter and spirit, then the motive of the Election Commission to achieve maximum number of differently-abled voters to exercise their franchise including in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and later will be more meaningful. Hence, the list sought by the EC could also serve as the data for respective state governments to extend their services to this section of the society.