Enforcing rights of the divyangs

| | in Oped

The rights enshrined in our Constitution for the disabled must be implemented by Government agencies across the country. The Rights of Persons with Disability Bill 2016, should remove hurdles in realising the goal

The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) which is facing flak for turning down appointment of a differently abled man recently, seems to have, either taken too lightly or preferred to ignore the core of Prime Minister  Narendra Modi’s Mann Ki Baat, shared with the countrymen on December 27 last year.

Addressing the 15th edition of Mann Ki Baat,  the Prime Minister had urged the nation to address the persons with disabilities as divyang, meaning divine body, saying they are endowed with extraordinary power in certain other ways.

He also spoke about the recently launched ‘Accessible India’ programme to make transport, hospitals, school buildings, parkings and lifts disabled-friendly.

However, instead of taking a cue from his heart-to-heart talk, aiming to seek empowerment of the people with special needs, senior officials with  the DDA under the Union Ministry of Urban Development, did not blink even once when they discharged Rishi Raj Bhati within 24 hours of him joining the agency, citing that he would be unable to carry out his duty as Director (PR) as it required ‘field work’.

However, what they forgot to appreciate is that Bhati, who is polio-afflicted, had not only been efficiently working with the Department of Transco Limited, Delhi Government, for the past several years, but also earning accolades from his seniors for his performance.

The incident needs to be seen in a larger context, for the discriminatory attitude cannot said to be limited to the DDA only.

Instead of becoming a role model for the private sector in providing equal job opportunities to the sector, even  Government organisations like Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) too have been in the news for being insensitive to their cause.

It is only after that the job aspirants have fought, taken the authorities to the court, that they have got their rightful claim. Some were lucky, others weren’t.

For instance, professor-turned-IAS aspirant Ajit Kumar, a visually challenged had to fight a three year battle to claim his rightful place in the Civil Services Examination (CSE).

Rigzin Samphel, a 2003 batch Uttar Pradesh cadre IAS officer, secured the chair he was entitled to, after a long legal wrangle.

His right leg damaged in a childhood accident, Samphel had ranked second among the Scheduled Tribe  candidates in 2003. In 2005, he was allotted the Uttar Pradesh cadre.

M Satish, who passed CSE-2001 with 249th rank, was not allotted a post, cadre or service even after waiting for months.

It took an order from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) for the DoPT to make him an IRS. Perumal Ulagnathan, ranked highest among the physically challenged in CSE-2005, too had to fight for his rights.

Similarly, the journey of Ira Singhal, topper of the CSE-2014, has not been easy. Four years back, in 2010, her candidature was cancelled for the Indian Revenue Service, due to her disability. Ira has scoliosis, or curvature of the spine, since birth.

According to the 2011 Census, the country’s disabled population has increased by 22.4 per cent between 2001 and 2011. The number of disabled, which was 2.19 crore in 2001, rose in 2011 to 2.68 crore —1.5 crore males and 1.18 crore females.

Most of the disabled are those with movement disability. According to the census, 20.3 per cent of the disabled are movement disabled, followed by hearing impaired (18.9 per cent) and visually impaired (18.8 per cent). Nearly 5.6 per cent of the disabled population is mentally challenged, a classification introduced in the 2011 census.

It is hoped that the Rights of Persons with Disability Bill, which was passed in December 2016 by Parliament, will ensure rights and dignity to those who were ignored and stigmatised all these years, as been pointed out by Prime Minister Modi.

Soon after the passage of the Bill, Modi described it, and rightly so, as a “landmark moment”, saying that it will add tremendous strength to ‘Accessible India Movement’.

The Act, whose rules are being framed by the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, also has provision, among many other rights.

“Under the Act, the types of disabilities have increased, and at the same time provisions for additional benefits have been introduced,” Modi had tweeted.

 He said, there are strict provisions for penalties for offences committed against persons with disabilities, and violation of provisions of the new law.

However, right messages need to be send from the PMO itself, everytime Government officials are found violating the rights of the divyangs.

For charity begins from home. Unless, rights and respect of the people with special needs like that of Bhati are secured as envisaged under the new legislation in right earnest, coining words like divyangs, and launching programmes like ‘accessible campaign’ will just remain a lip service for them.

(The writer is Special Correspondent, The Pioneer) 

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