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Citizens' Report on four years of

the NDA Government 2014-2018

Civil Society Initiative

Coordinated by : Wada Na Todo Abhiyan


Persons with Government's

Disability: baby steps


are not

Focus on the
enough

sector a must
Statistics lays reality bare. A good 2.21 per cent of India's population comprises persons with disabilities, shows
Census 2011. About 63 per cent of them are non-working. Women with disabilities form 44.10 per cent of the total
population with disabilities. Of this, 40 per cent have not attended any kind of school, while 3.44 per cent have
studied till the graduation level. Data also shows that 69.49 per cent of the population with disabilities lives in rural
areas, with 2 million households consisting of more than one person with disability.

After India ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in 2007, the
process of enacting a new legislation in place of the existing Persons with Disabilities (PWD) Act, 1995 began in
2010. On December 28, 2016, the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act was notified. This Act is a
paradigm shift in the way disability is perceived. From a social welfare concern, the Act makes it a human rights
issue. It lays stress on non-discrimination, full and effective participation and inclusion in society, and respect for
difference and acceptance of disabilities as part of human diversity. The Act emphasises the right of children with
disabilities to preserve their identities, and talks about equality in opportunities and accessibility.

It was encouraging when the Sustainable Development Goals 2015 were framed in consultation with the global
disability sector. Of the 17 goals, disability found mention in 11 goals.

Together, the CRPD, RPWD Act, and the SDGs should ensure a multi-sectoral and rights-based approach to include
disability in government schemes which are, at present, replete with marginalisation.

BJP manifesto
In its 2014 election manifesto, the Bharatiya Janata Party had a separate section for the “specially abled”. When it
came to power, the BJP kept its promise and enacted the RPWD Bill. State governments framed Central rules in this
regard. The manifesto stated that the government would use technology to deliver low-cost and quality education
to specially-abled students through e-learning. Data on its progress is not available yet.

The government initiated the Accessible India Campaign to make public places disabled-friendly. It promised to
make at least 50 per cent of all government buildings in the national capital and all state capitals fully accessible to
persons with disabilities. As many as 50 cities have been selected for the campaign. However, no step has been
taken as yet to make public facilities and public transport easily accessible to the disabled.

The BJP manifesto promised maximum economic independence to the disabled by creating more income
generation models for them. No data is available on this at present.

The BJP promised support to voluntary organisations working for persons with disabilities, but has not enacted
any new scheme.

In its manifesto, the BJP stated that it would identify each special needs person across the country, establish a web-
based disability registration system, and issue them universal IDs. This would help them avail government benefits
in healthcare, jobs, education etc. This project has started in Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Maharashtra,
Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Gujarat.

The government promised higher tax relief to the family member taking care of the disabled. There has been an
increase in tax exemption of Rs 25,000 under Sections 80DD and 80U of the Income Tax Act for families having
persons with disabilities.

The government has taken its political manifesto forward with some key initiatives. It has scaled up programmes

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such as skill development and provision of accessible environment into the government's flagship programmes. It
has set up the Sign Language Research and Training Centre, and released the Indian sign language dictionary
comprising 3,000 words. In 2016, it launched the Sugamaya Pustakalaya, an online platform that makes content
accessible to the visually disabled and people with other print disabilities. The library offers over 2 lakh books in
diverse languages and integrates libraries across the globe, including the largest international library Bookshare.

The ministries of health and family welfare, human resource development, rural development, information and
communication technology, and labour and employment have specific programmes that target persons with
disabilities.

On the other hand, steps have been initiated in state-level institutional structures and legislation. States and Union
Territories have appointed state commissioners for persons with disabilities. As many as 24 states have declared
district collectors as deputy/additional commissioners, disabilities. All the state governments and UT
administrations have constituted medical boards for issuing disability certificates in all the districts. The number of
persons with disabilities who have been given disability certificates has improved. State rules associated with the
Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2017 have been notified by four states — Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh,
Meghalaya and Bihar.

Concerns and challenges


In four years of rule, the government's adherence to the manifesto has been minimal. The list of unfulfilled
promises is long. Some are as follows:

lIn 2014-15, the government promised that currency notes would come out in Braille.

lHeritage sites were to be made accessible to persons with disabilities in Goa, Maharashtra, Karnataka,
Rajasthan, Gujarat, Varanasi, Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab and Hyderabad/Telangana. The promise was
made in 2015-16.

lThe government announced in 2016-17 that senior citizens living below poverty line would get assistive
devices.

lCertain assistive devices, rehabilitation aids and other goods for persons with disabilities, and Braille
paper was to be exempted of custom duty. This was promised in 2016-17.

lIn 2017-18, the government announced that 500 railways stations would get lifts and escalators.

The apart, there are some key areas in the disability sector that need urgent attention.

Urban focus : With 69.49 per cent people with disabilities based in rural India, a strong rural and grassroots
focus on disability inclusion in all government schemes is critical. The skill development programme, designed to
cater to one lakh population in one year, is implemented in partnership with NGOs. But these NGOs are
concentrated in towns and cities. The skill development programme also needs to address accessibility and
reasonable accommodation as persons with disabilities are experiencing high restriction in participation.

Accessible India Campaign is yet to address rural and semi-urban areas. At present, only a few buildings are being
audited for accessibility standards in urban areas. Modification of infrastructure to meet the universal design and
accessibility standards is still pending.

Greater focus is required to create accessibility in processes and procedures around government schemes and
programmes.

Budgetary allocations : The country is witness to two landmark legislation — RPWD Act and the Mental
Health Act. However, the corresponding overall increase in budget allocation has been marginal. Budget
allocation to the department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities has increased from Rs 855 crore last
year to only Rs 1,070 crore this year.

The budget statement regarding women with disabilities also shows a disturbing trend.

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Implementation of RPWD Act: At both national and state levels, the rules of the Act must reflect clear
implementation strategies. However, till now, rules have been notified in only Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh,
Meghalaya and Bihar. The Act lacks specific mention of sensitive and crucial provisions such as legal capacity
(Section 13) and support to exercise one's legal capacity (Section 15). This may result in continuation of the existing
discrimination.

The new legislation extends the number of disabilities from seven to 21. But the assessment procedures and
allocation of resources for each of the 21 categories under RPWD Act are yet to be worked out.

Another proactive measure promoted by the Act is to provide speedy justice. Except in Assam, special courts have
not been set up anywhere in the country.

Awareness drives to make persons with disabilities know their rights and to empower them must be initiated at
state and national levels.

Information and technology such as websites, documents, circulars and notifications generated by the
government must be made available in a format accessible to persons with disabilities.

Access to benefits and schemes : Registration of the Universal Disability ID (UDID) is a challenging
exercise for many persons who have high support needs. The process mandates Aadhaar enrolment number, but
acquiring it remains a strenuous process for many.

A recurring problem is denial of benefits of government schemes such as poverty alleviation programmes,
disability maintenance allowance, and scholarship for children with disabilities.

The implication of GST is an overwhelming burden on persons with disabilities. Products and services that are
required daily, and which minimise dependence on others are slowly becoming unreachable. For instance,
products for communication and personal mobility such as battery for wheelchair, smart phones, writing material
used by the blind, and walking canes are more expensive now.

Gender and disability : United Nation's Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against
Women, or CEDAW, includes women with disabilities in its concluding observations for India. The focus is on
accessible education and toilets in schools and public spaces. Since 2014, no proactive action has been taken to
include women with disabilities in government programmes, policies or flagship campaigns. Swachh Bharat
Abhiyan and Accessible India Campaign are two glaring examples.

Worse, women with disabilities lack access to justice in cases of gender-based violence and sexual abuse despite
legal reforms and provisions since 2013.

Engagement with DPO : Some states engaged District Programme Officers (DPOs) to draft rules for the
RPWD Act 2016. This helped attain a perspective on key issues for persons with disabilities at the grassroots level.
Attention was given to areas such as health, education, housing, and economic empowerment.

So far, the focus has been on accessibility and skill development. Now, expansion is required and specific attention
needs to be given to design vis-a-vis grassroots. This can be achieved by creating space for, and ensuring
meaningful participation of persons with disabilities in planning and implementation processes at all levels.

A positive step is the incorporation of the recommendations by Apno Sansthan, DPO in Rajasthan, in the draft
prepared by the government. These are currently under review. Some of the recommendations are:

lFormation of a drafting committee and inclusion of Apno Sansthan as its core member.

lGovernment to be responsible for ensuring houses to persons with disabilities.

lAppointment of a nodal person to handle issues related to education of children with disabilities.

lAllowance to persons with disabilities who have not received employment in two years despite being
registered with the employment exchange.

lMonthly pension of persons with disabilities to be linked to inflation.

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lTrain government officials on the rights of persons with disabilities.

lGovernment to ensure awareness on the rights and entitlements of persons with disabilities across all
districts.

lEstablish special employment exchange offices for persons with disabilities.

lThe post of State Disability Commissioner to be held by a person with disabilities.

lEqual opportunity to persons with disabilities in private companies with less than 20 employees.

lRepresentation of persons with disabilities in all government committees, be it at the state, district or
block level.

Recommendations have also been made by a shadow reporting consultation on the United Nations CRPD with
women with disabilities in Madhya Pradesh in April 2018. These are:

lSeparate treatment to women with disabilities as their problems are different.


lSchools to be made accessible to persons with disabilities. These should have special teachers and books
in Braille.
lRamps in government and private schools, hospital, banks, bus-stands and all buildings.
After the RPWD Act increased the types of disabilities from seven to 21, members of DPOs and disability rights
activists in Odisha demanded an increase in the number of trained professionals for the disability sector. Following
this, the State Disability Commissioner directed the institution of a department of Disability Studies in all state
universities. The Commissioner has also recommended that the “government should establish a training institute
to produce special educators in the state to provide and promote inclusive education to differently-abled children
with special needs.”

Key recommendations
lSince the primary responsibility in ensuring the rights of persons with disabilities lies with the Department
for Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, effective convergence with other ministries and
departments is critical. There needs to be a mandate to ensure that this department functions as a nodal
department to review government policies and programmes on disability inclusion. This also points to the
need to develop a mechanism to ensure that all the policies and programmes in all departments and
ministries are responsive to the issues experienced by persons with disabilities in accessing schemes and
policies.

lEven though eight ministries have specific mention of persons with disabilities in their programmes, there
is no data to understand their actual performance in disability inclusion. A policy needs to be developed
that mandates all allocations towards persons with disabilities, which is disaggregated and presented as a
separate statement at both the Union and sub-national levels.

lA multi-sectoral approach and specific focus is needed to tackle the issues of women with disabilities and
their families and care givers. Convergence is essential in all departments under the ministries of human
resource and development, social justice and empowerment, women and child development, drinking
water and sanitation, health, urban development, and rural development. Interlinking of all their schemes
is essential. Regardless of their disability, community, caste, and economic status, women with disabilities
should get 5 per cent reservation in all Central and state government schemes. To ensure access to justice
and compensation associated with gender-based violence and sexual abuse, it is important to implement
the 2013 amendments, such as providing police and judicial trainings to create an enabling and
supportive environment for the survivors with disabilities.

lIt is crucial to converge all ministries and departments for the Accessible India Campaign. This apart, the
accessibility compliance should be mandatory. Other flagship campaigns such as Swachh Bharat Abhiyan,
and Education for All should run in consonance with the Accessible India Campaign as accessibility is not a
mandate of the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, and the Ministry of Social
Justice and Empowerment alone.

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lAccessibility should not be agenda only in the urban areas. In fact, it should be made mandatory in rural,
semi-urban and slums as majority of the people with disabilities live in rural areas and are below poverty
line. Accessibility to them means enhanced opportunities to education, livelihood, health facilities and
quality life.

lThe procurement policy should be amended to ensure that all procurement of works, goods and services
are accessible to all persons with disabilities, including the creation of posts for sign language interpreters
across all offices and services along with concrete guidelines and monitoring systems.

lThe government should relook at the existing social protection programmes, including cash transfer
programmes. The programmes should be reframed to include the disability additional cost and designed
in such a way that it leads to social participation.

A policy that focusses on community-based inclusive development that addresses the issues concerning majority
of population living in rural areas where services are not available.

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