Hindustan Times, June 5, 2017
The editorial raises concerns about the underreporting of the number of the differently abled in India, according to the Census of India 2011. The article suggests that not much has been done to change the situation, without elaborating on the reforms already underway.
The editorial criticises the present government for anomalies in the enumeration process of disabled people in India, despite the fact that the last Census was conducted way back in 2011 under a different government. There is no disputing the fact that there were flaws in the erstwhile method, and the current dispensation has acknowledged that. Moreover, the article, while mentioning the Right of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 and Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan, does not elaborate on these schemes. Nor does it deal with a slew of other initiatives undertaken to change the status quo.
Let us take a look at some of the measures taken in the last three years:
Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Bill, 2016
- Types of disabilities increased from the existing 7 to 21
- The Centre will have the power to add more types of disabilities
- Speech and Language Disability and Specific Learning Disability have been added for the first time
- Acid Attack Victims have also been included
- The Bill provides for penalties for offences committed against persons with disabilities. Special Courts will be designated in each district to handle such cases.
- Reservation in government vacancies increased from 3% to 4% for certain persons or class of persons with benchmark disability.
Accessible India Campaign
- ‘Inclusiveness and Accessibility Index’ was launched as part of this campaign. It assesses the readiness for making the workplace accessible to Persons with Disabilities in organisations. It acts as a guide for taking progressive steps to make the workplace more accessible and inclusive.
- 50 cities selected as part of this campaign. Out of these 50 cities, 39 are also among the shortlisted Smart Cities.
- 50 Accessibility Clubs in IITs, IIMs and other institutes set up for encouraging innovation and investment in Accessibility Solutions.
- Ministries implementing the Swachh Bharat Mission requested to ensure that adequate numbers of unisex accessible toilets are constructed in each block.
- Efforts are being made on the accessibility of government websites and the Public Procurement Policy for mandatory accessible provisions in the purchase of IT hardware and software.
Other important initiatives
- Swavlamban Card: “Unique ID for Persons with Disabilities” project is being implemented with a view to creating a National Database for Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) and to issue a Unique Disability Identity Card to each person with disability.
- National Job Portal for Persons with Disabilities was launched on January 27, 2016. This will make it easier for PwDs to avail different facilities, such as self-employment loan, education loan, skill-training, etc. It will also link to scholarships and provide information about jobs in a single-window platform.
- Sugamya Pustakalaya: An online library for persons with visual disabilities was launched in August 2016 as part of Accessible Digital India.
- Assistance to Disabled Persons for purchasing/ fitting of aids/ appliances (ADIP) scheme: Distribution of Free Aids and Assistive Devices to Persons with Disabilities nationwide happens on a regular basis through ADIP camps.
The RPWD Bill, 2016 seeks to overhaul the current method of counting disabled people by increasing the number of disabilities threefold from 7 to 21. At the same time, it makes sure that anomalies due to the aggregation of different disabilities clubbed under a single head will be avoided in the next Census. Swavlamban Card is a potential scheme that can successfully create a national database of PwDs. This would eventually reduce irregularities in the counting process in future.
The RPWD Bill, 2016 also makes it punishable to discriminate against PwDs by ensuring justice through the provision of special courts. This will target any form of discrimination and bias against the differently abled and also ensure justice. Another flagship scheme is the Accessible India Campaign, which seeks to make infrastructure and technologies more accessible to the differently abled. Thirty-nine out of its 50 selected cities are also proposed Smart Cities. The Inclusiveness and Accessibility Index will help assess the accessibility of workplaces and provide a framework for making them more accessible and inclusive. Free Aids and assistive devices are regularly distributed through ADIP camps organised in different locations across the country. Other initiatives like Sugamya Pustakalaya seek to make the Digital project more accessible to all.