Monday, 10 February 2014

Protest against Passing of “The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2014” in Current Form

Protest against Passing of “The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2014” in Current Form

As it is well known that the Government of India had tabled an older version of The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2014 in the Rajya Sabha on Friday. In spite of lots of pressure from across the country wide disability rights activist, DPO’s, NGO’s as well as disability matters expert, Government willing to pass the bill in the current form, under a conspiracy and pre plan, which is in against off the Disabled community. 

Mr. Madhba Bisoyi, Assistant Regional Director, IGNOU and Chief Advisor of Milton Charitable Foundation for the Visually Handicapped told that the definition of the blindness at Sl. No. 2 of the schedule to the Bill is not clear and further will create more confusion with the regard to certification of blindness and low vision. Section 33 (2) is also reducing the rights of the differently - abled by mentioning that the employer is allowed to appoint a person without disability after one year, if the vacancy could not be filled by a person with disability, which was earlier not allowed. 

On the other hand Mr. Harsh Chandra Rath, president of the Milton Charitable Foundation for the Visually Handicapped blamed that in the name of empowering the differently - abled, the Government is planning to snatch their rights. He said in the existing PWD Act 1995, there is provision of age relaxation of 10 years, which has been reduced in the current bill by just 5 years for groups C & D. It will have a negative impact not only to the 2.68 crore population of differently - abled but also to the future generation. This provision will affect their social as well as financial empowerment.

Mr. Rajnish Kumar Arya, Assistant Professor mentioned that the current draft also violet the United Nation Charter of Rights Persons with Disabilities. Being a signatory it is India’s obligation to compile a bill according to it. He referred some of the most important provision of the UNCRPD as – the adoption of the social model of definition of disability in Article 1, the right to accessibility under Article 9, the right to fill legal capacity under Article 12, the right of independent living under Article 19, the right to inclusive education under Article 24, and the most important right, right to participation in political and public life under Article 29, have all been either diluted or outright ignored in this Bill.

Mr. Arya expressed his protest against the provision of education for persons with disabilities in the current bill. He told that as per Article 24 of UNCRPD the children with disabilities have the right to access an inclusive, quality and free primary education as well as secondary education.  He mentioned that Section 30 of the proposed Bill actually creates a non-obstante clause, which excludes the application of the RTE 2009 Act to Children with ‘benchmark disabilities’ i.e. more than 40% if a ‘Specified disability’. The second part of the clause states that every child with benchmark disabilities has a right to education in a neighborhood school, or in a special school, “if necessary”. There is no clarity as to who is to determine the necessity.

Mr. Ranjan Kumar Biswal, General Secretary of the Foundation for the Visually Handicapped, expressed his protest against the manner of the Government. He told that the draft Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill was shrouded in mystery since its notification on the website of the Ministry of Social Justice and Welfare in 2012. For a Bill that was touted to be framed by an inclusive process, the version of the Bill cleared by the Cabinet was only made available to the public just a fortnight before the proposed parliamentary session which seeks its introduction and passing. 

Mr. Biswal also mentioned that Section 10 of the proposed Bill deal with “accessibility in voting” and states that the Election Commission of India and State Election Commission shall ensure that all polling station are accessible to persons with disabilities and that all materials related to the electoral process are easily understandable by and accessible to them. This is severely limiting the scope of Article 29 of UNCRPD, which recognise the right and opportunity to stand for elections.

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