December 08, 2019

Successful Struggle by NPRD

A PLANNED protest dharna by disabled persons turned into a victory rally when the government under pressure of the month-long countrywide campaign met most of the demands raised in the course of the campaign.

The National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD) had at its July executive committee meeting decided to conduct a countrywide campaign beginning November 1, 2019 protesting against the non-implementation of various provisions of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, which was passed on December 16, 2016.

The campaign focused attention on the myriad problems with the issuance of disability certificates; the denial of reservation in employment to the new categories of disabilities; the delay in updating and publishing of the list of identified posts for employment; educational system not being inclusive; non-implementation of the mandated five per cent reservation in institutions of higher learning etc. On top of it is the inadequate budgetary provision for the implementation of the Act.

This campaign was to culminate in a massive dharna in Delhi on November 25.

However, as protesters from various states started moving towards Delhi, the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities has issued Gos(government orders) and had also written to all states and UTs addressing most of the demands concerning the implementation of the RPD Act. The department while conceding that “most of the states/UTs are yet to take concrete steps to ensure implementation of all the provisions of the RPwD Act, 2016, in letter and spirit” has asked the states to “arrange to issue appropriate instructions to all concerned authorities so as to ensure effective implementation of the RPwD Act, 2016”.

It has instructed the states to report back to the department on action taken by December 15, 2019 in the matter of issuance of disability certificates and UDID cards in a time bound manner; making education inclusive; implementing five per cent reservations in higher educational institutes; providing support to women with disability for livelihood; enhancing the quantum of disability pension and providing care-giver allowance. It has also advised states to “consider making policy decision to provide reservation for PwDs or nomination of PwDs in urban/local bodies”.

The department has also issued a GO wherein it has conceded that “provisions of the RPwD Act as well as instructions of DoPT are yet to be implemented by all ministries/departments” with regard to the provision of four per cent reservation in employment and also requested the DoPT to issue instructions to all ministries/departments to conduct special recruitment drives to fill up backlogs. The DoPT has also been advised to look into the issue of reservation in promotions for PwDs.

In another GO it has asked the Finance Services and Insurance Regulatory Development Authority to “issue appropriate instructions to all insurance companies to ensure that PwDs are given insurance cover on equal terms and conditions”, a long-standing demand of disability rights organisations.

The issuing of these orders and letters to the states seeking an action taken report returnable by December 15, is a victory for the campaign and movement that the NPRD conducted.

Even while welcoming these orders, the NPRD regrets that the government has made no commitment on enhancing budgetary allocations for the implementation of the Act; has not accepted the demand to repeal section 3(3) of the RPD Act that legitimise discrimination or amend Article 15(1) and 16(2) of the Indian Constitution to prohibit discrimination on the grounds of disability. The government has also not accepted the demand for extending reservations in employment to the private sector. The NPRD will continue to campaign and fight on these issues.

At the victory meeting held at Jantar Mantar on November 25, more than two thousand disabled people from various parts of the country participated. Speaker after speaker, while welcoming the orders issued by the government also cautioned that we will have to keep track of the implementation of the Act as well as the follow up on the GOs in various states as also at the centre, relentlessly. They also warned that they would not hesitate to resort to agitation once again if the provisions of the Act are not implemented in “letter and spirit”.

Leaders of various mass organisations also spoke at the rally and extended their support.

After the meeting, a four-member delegation met the minister for social justice and empowerment, Thawar Chand Gehlot at his office in parliament house. 

The minister reiterated the assurances that the department of disabilities affairs had given two days earlier, to implement various provisions of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act that the NPRD had highlighted during its countywide campaign.

The delegation consisted of president Kanti Ganguly, general secretary Muralidharan, joint secretary Gireesh Kheerti and EC member K R Chakravarti.