June 19, 2022

Paschimbanga Rajya Pratibandhi Sammilani Resolves to Intensify Struggles

THE ninth conference of Paschimbanga Rajya Pratibandhi Sammilani, an affiliate of the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled, was held in Krishnanagar, Nadia, on June 11-12, 2022.

The conference was attended by 650 delegates, including 125 women from 22 districts.

Representing a membership of one lakh fifty-three thousand, the conference kicked off with a huge procession where more than 6,000 people turned up braving the sweltering heat.

Slogans pertaining to the issues affecting the lives of disabled people reverberated in the rally and permeated the conference. There was not a moment when this enthusiasm was found waning among the delegates.

Bikashranjan Bhattacharya, MP of the Rajya Sabha, inaugurated the conference.

Kanti Ganguly, general secretary of Paschimbanga Rajya Pratibandhi Sammilani, placed the report of the work done since the last conference held in 2017.

The role of the central and state governments in implementing the provisions of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 was critically analysed. The impact of communal politics on disabled people was also discussed in the report.

A total of 26 delegates participated in the discussion on the report.

The delegates raised some very important issues like the failure of the West Bengal state government to issue UDID cards, the failure to effectively implement the social security provisions in the RPD Act, the neglect to create an infrastructure to successfully implement the blueprint of inclusive education for the disabled people, and also many instances of apathy as far as special education are concerned. Growing instances of sexual harassment of women had also come up during the discussions.

Eight resolutions were moved and adopted at the conference. The resolutions passed are; the Implementation of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, by the state and the central governments.

Resolution against communalism, also on increasing the amount of disability pension given by central and state governments.

The conference was greeted by Muralidharan, general secretary of the National Platform for Rights of the Disabled, who dwelt on the impact of policies pursued by the central government on the lives of disabled people. Namburajan, general secretary of TARATDAC, also greeted the conference.

The ninth state conference elected a new state committee comprising 165 members, of whom 40 are women. The new state committee elected a 43-member secretariat, that includes seven women, with Anirban Mukherjee as president, Mani Chakraborty as treasurer and Kanti Ganguly was re-elected as the general secretary.

The conference ended with a clarion call to intensify the ongoing struggles and make the movement more inclusive and broad-based.

Merely Having a Policy Document Would Not Suffice, Act Now

THE NPRD welcomes the thrust of the Draft of the National Disability Policy which views disability from a right-based lens. However, coming after a 15-year long wait since India signed the United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), much more was expected from a policy document that seeks to address issues of one of the most marginalized sections of our society. Especially so, since the review of the 2006 policy that was to be undertaken after a period of five years didn’t take place.

In the nearly 100-page document, major portions are devoted to reiterating what is already spelt out in the UNCRPD or mandated by the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 (RPD Act) or programmes/schemes already operating. A genuine attempt to inject new directions and initiatives seems to be missing.

The draft candidly admits that “budget allocation was only around 0.0039% of the GDP for the persons with disabilities”. It would have been expected that the draft would call for remedying the situation. However, it does not do so, even while implementation of the mandates of the RPD Act would require substantial allocations. No increase in the centre’s contribution towards disability pension is recommended, which continues to be at a pittance of Rs 300 per month.

Even while the connection between poverty and disability is acknowledged in the draft, no concrete measures are suggested for poverty alleviation. The draft, even while taking cognisance of the burden of disability-related costs, does not push for the 25 per cent additional allocations that the RPD Act mandates or for providing other means of support.

For the record, the implementation of various provisions of the RPD Act has been tardy. In fact, the central government had even exempted certain central police forces from the purview of job reservations, giving a go-by to the concept of “reasonable accommodation”. The offices of the chief commissioner for persons with disabilities, the National Trust and the Rehabilitation Council of India are without chairs for the past many years.

Merely having a policy document as a reference point would not suffice. It has to be backed with budgetary allocations and monitoring mechanisms to track its implementation.

The NPRD in consultation with other disability rights organisations will be submitting a detailed response to the draft.