May 29, 2016

NPRD Demands Withdrawal of Notification

THE National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD) has written to prime minister Narendra Modi on May 25 urging him to withdraw the notification renaming the department of empowerment of persons with disabilities as the “department of empowerment of persons with disabilities (divyangjan)”. They had written to him earlier on January 22, 2016 urging him to shelve any plan that the government may have to use the term “divyang” to address people with disabilities. Many other activists and organisations working among disabled persons have also raised objections to the use of the term. However, the government has ignored these valid objections. The gazette notification of May 17, 2016 has renamed the department of empowerment of persons with disabilities as the “department of empowerment of persons with disabilities (divyangjan)”. In the December 27, 2015 ‘Mann Ki Baat’, the prime minister had referred to persons with disabilities as “Those in whom Paramatma has created a deficiency in the body, those for whom some part of the body does not work properly, we call them ‘viklaang’…….……..‘Why don’t we, in our country, replace the word ‘viklaang’ with the word ‘divyaang’?’ These are those people who possess divinity — divyata — in one or more parts of their body; whose bodies are possessed by divine power (divya shakti)…..” It was presumed it to be a one-off remark, emerging from some stray thoughts. The NPRD pointed out that invoking divinity will in no way lessen the stigma and discrimination that persons with disabilities have been historically subjected to and continue to encounter in their daily lives. Exclusion and marginalisation cannot be addressed by using patronising terms like ‘divyang’. Mere change of terminology is not going to bring about any change in the manner in which people with disabilities will be treated. In recent years there have been innumerable examples of persons with disabilities, proving their mettle, overcoming various odds and multiple hurdles. It would be fallacious however to conclude that this is due to any divine attribute. The NPRD apprehends that such invocations would only tend to create myths, even while squarely failing to address the issues that the disabled face. Dignity, accommodation and recognition of their rights as equal and productive citizens are what persons with disabilities long for and not any change in nomenclature. NPRD reiterates that disability is not a divine gift. And the use of phrases like ‘divyang’ in no way ensures de-stigmatisation or an end to discrimination on grounds of disability. What needs to be addressed are stigma, discrimination and marginalisation that persons with disabilities are subjected to on account of the cultural, social, physical and attitudinal barriers that hinder their effective participation in the country’s economic, social and political life. Mere change of terminology is not in any way going to alter this. The NPRD therefore has urged the prime minister to withdraw the notification No. S.O. 815(E) of May 17, 2016 amending the government of India (allocation of business) Rules 1961, renaming the department of empowerment of persons with disabilities.