The government recently released a new draft policy for persons with disabilities (Divyangjan), 2021. Although the draft proposes multiple measures for the welfare of persons with disabilities, it has been criticized for only talking and not do nothing on the necessary budget allocation front.
The Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD) of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India has released a draft National Policy for Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan), 2021. The draft policy is open to public comments until July 09, 2022. Comments on the draft policy can be sent to [email protected] and [email protected] before July 09, 2022.
The policy was drafted following a 2006 review of existing policy to bring India’s policy in line with developments that have taken place since then. India has signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) of 2007, enacted the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act (RPwD) of 2016 and adopted the National Education Policy of 2020. India is also bound by international protocols such as 2030 Sustainable Development Goals agenda, Incheon Strategy for the Asia-Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons, Sendai Framework, etc.
Persons with disabilities constituted 2.2% of the Indian population according to 2011 census
According to the 2011 census, there are 2.68 million Persons with Disabilities (PwD) in India, accounting for 2.2% of India’s population. This number is expected to increase significantly with the coming into force of the Disability Rights Act 2016, under which the government has added other types of disabilities, increasing the number of types from 7 in the Disability Act. 1995 to 21.
The census also revealed that 20% of people with disabilities have a movement disability, 19% have a visual disability, 19% have a hearing disability and 8% have multiple disabilities. In addition, almost 55% of the total disabled population, or about 1.46 crore disabled people, were literate. This proportion was 62% for men and 45% for women. Only about 8.5% of literate persons with disabilities had a diploma. The census also revealed that 36% of the total number of people with disabilities were working. Among men with disabilities, 47% were working, while among women with disabilities, only 23% were working.
The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social Justice have legislation dealing with persons with disabilities
At present, there are four major national laws which deal with persons with disabilities, namely; Indian Council of Rehabilitation Act 1992; National Trust for the Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities Act, 1999; and the Disability Rights Act 2016 implemented by the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment, and the Mental Health Act 2017 implemented by the Department of Health and Welfare family.
The new draft policy calls for interventions in the areas of disability prevention, education, healthcare, social security, sports, culture, recreation and accessibility. Some of the key measures suggested in the policy have been discussed in this article.
According to the draft policy, the programs implemented at the national level for the prevention and control of disabilities by the Ministry of Health focus only on “traditional causes of disability” such as poliomyelitis, iodine deficiency, leprosy, fluorosis, deafness and blindness. . However, there are also many other causes of disability such as medical negligence, malnutrition, socio-cultural factors, disabilities caused by disasters, malnutrition, etc.
Measures to speed up the certification process
The draft policy calls for a comprehensive national disability prevention program that not only covers disabilities covered by the RPwD, but also other medical conditions that can manifest as any form of disability. Indeed, a third of disabilities in children were preventable. It also emphasized research-based surveys in all locations to ensure necessary socio-medical interventions. A roadmap for the development of Cross Handicap Early Intervention Centers (CDEIC) in each district was given. These centers will also have access to the Unique Disability ID portal to assist people with disabilities in disability assessment and certification. He also added that the district medical authorities should ensure that the disability certificate is issued within 30 days of receiving the application. He also suggested that mobile disability certification teams be formed at the district level to organize certification camps for rapid certification of disabilities in a nearby locality.
RPwD compliance is mandatory to grant permission to educational institutions
With respect to education, the draft policy suggests that States/UTs should add a provision on compliance with RPwD law when granting authorization/recognition to educational institutions. In addition, he suggested that each government/government-subsidized higher education institution should ensure the implementation of 5% of reservations for the disabled. Indian Sign Language should be included with subtitles in Ministry of Education educational videos. He further suggested that a system be developed to track the progress of each child with a disability based on learning outcomes. The development of a disability-friendly curriculum and assessment system was also suggested.
The policy suggests that a disability module be included in MBBS and other medical courses. Further, it states that Ayushman Bharath-PMJAY should be aligned with the purpose of the RPwD Act and provide universal coverage for persons with disabilities, including therapeutic services. In addition, all health facilities should be linked to a common disability database under the UDID project and a mechanism should be developed to advance disability-specific health status in the country.
A job exchange portal for people with disabilities will be developed
A job portal for people with disabilities will be developed with information such as vocational training in different locations, vacancies, nature of work, eligibility, recruitment, etc. All public and private establishments must report their vacancies to the Ministry of Labor who will update them in the portal.
Considering India’s performance in the Paralympic and Special Olympics, the policy calls for the establishment of dedicated sports centers in each area with state-of-the-art facilities. The Ministry of Culture should develop a program to encourage fine and performing arts among people with disabilities. The accessibility of cinemas, shopping malls, theatres, parks, museums, tourist places, etc. must be ensured. A board for Republic Day showcasing the Divyangjan Empowerment Initiative by the Disability Empowerment Department was suggested.
MoRTH will issue guidelines for making modifications to personal vehicles used by people with disabilities.
With respect to accessibility, the policy states that all bodybuilding bylaws must incorporate accessibility standards specified in the National Building Code or existing guidelines. New government buildings must meet accessibility standards from the planning stage itself. New passenger buses, railway and metro coaches, airports, etc. should also have accessibility features. Taxis at airports, stations, etc. should be made available to people with disabilities. In addition, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways will issue the necessary guidelines to make modifications to personal vehicles used by people with disabilities in accordance with the requirements.
The policy also called for a dynamic database that provides real-time information such as the extent of the problem, level of reach of government programs and programs, insufficient representation of vulnerable classes at different levels, etc. . This information is important for decision making. manufacturing. The policy, while emphasizing research, also calls for promoting Atmanirbhar Bharat in the disability sector for the manufacture of assistive devices.
The draft policy has also drawn criticism
Although the draft national policy is in line with international protocols and instruments, it has also drawn criticism for multiple reasons. The National Platform for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (NPRD) has published a Press statement stating that significant parts of the policy document reiterated what was already specified by the UNCRPD, the RPwD Act 2016 and other existing schemes. He added that “a genuine attempt to inject new direction and initiatives seemed to be lacking”. As mentioned in the policy paper, the disability allowance was only 0.0039% of GDP and no measures were mentioned to improve this. The Centre’s contribution to the disability pension is Rs. 300 per month, and no increase in this amount has been suggested in the policy. The statement notes that no concrete poverty reduction measures were suggested in the policy, although the link between poverty and disability is recognized in the draft policy. The NPRD also said a policy document alone is not enough. It should be supported by budgetary allocations and monitoring mechanisms.
The featured image: Draft National Disability Policy