July 16, 2023

Disabled Persons Protest Non-Revision of Pensions Since 2011

HUNDREDS of disabled people from various states in India assembled at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, on June 10, protesting against the union government’s refusal to enhance disability pensions, provide other social security measures or Antayodaya Anna Yojana cards, or jobs under MNREGA, etc. 

The protest was organised by the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD), an affiliating body of state-level disability rights organisations.

A six-member delegation met the secretary of the department of empowerment of persons with disabilities (DEPwD) Rajesh Aggarwal, and submitted a detailed memorandum to him.  

They raised the issue of the non-revision of the Indira Gandhi National Disability Pension since 2011. They said that the Rs 300 they receive in pension is meagre and added that the strict criteria to be eligible for the pension, i.e., to have 80 per cent disability and to belong to a below-poverty line family, has left many disabled persons out of its gambit. They also brought to the notice of the DEPwD secretary that only 3.8 per cent of the disabled population identified in the 2011 census is covered under the pension due to this reason.  

They demanded a minimum pension of Rs 5,000 with a guaranteed periodic revision in accordance with the cost of living. They also sought the government to revise the criterion to cover all those with 40 per cent disability and above under the scheme.

They also demanded allowance for caregivers who give up their jobs and careers to attend to disabled persons. 

The exemptions in biometrics granted to the disabled are not followed in many places, leading to hardships in procuring Aadhaar for the disabled. The mandating of Aadhaar for availing benefits of schemes is leading to many disabled people being deprived of various schemes, they said and sought the government to de-link Aadhaar from various schemes.

They said that the non-provision of additional allocations of foodgrains to the states has led to many states expressing an inability to include the disabled. Given the cap on the number of beneficiaries that have been imposed due to inadequate allocations, in states like Tamil Nadu, where thousands of disabled applied following the state releasing applications for the same, officials at the ground level have refused to entertain such applications as that may lead to the striking off of already existing beneficiaries, they said.

They stressed that additional allocations have to be made to ensure that the government complies with the orders of the Delhi High Court.

There are complaints galore of the disabled not being provided job cards under the MNREGA. The Operational Guidelines-2013 of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) places persons with disabilities at the top of the special/vulnerable categories.  The operational guidelines also direct the state governments to make special efforts to enroll persons with disabilities adequately in this scheme and for that, states have to identify specific works that can be undertaken by them.

As per the ministry of rural development as of August 6, 2021 only 23,73,336 disabled have been issued job cards. However, no data is available with regard to the number of people who had registered or the total number of days work provided. Currently, only seven categories of disabilities as against 21 recognised by the RPD Act are covered under the scheme. They demanded all the recognised 21 categories be covered under the scheme.

The National Mobile Monitoring System, apart from other issues, is creating problems for the disabled, who at times owing to their disability and connected mobility issues may not be able to report on time for duty and stand to lose the day’s work.  Therefore, the NMMS App attendance system should be scrapped immediately, they said. They also demanded that the working days under the scheme be increased to 200.

Roughly 70 per cent of the disabled population lives in rural areas. Many of them depend on this poverty alleviation scheme for their survival.  Reduction in budgetary allocations also adversely impacts disabled job card holders. Hence, they sought additional allocations to be made for the scheme to take care of the increasing dependence on it and also for increasing the working days.

As per the DEPwD Annual Report of 2021-22, out of a total disabled population of 2,68,14,994 identified by the 2011 census, only 1,74,25,905 have been issued disability certificates as of January 19, 2022. From among those certified also, a mere 67,09,894 have been given UDID cards.

Rather than mandating UDID, the effort of the DEPwD should be directed towards making the card valid and acceptable across all government (central and states) ministries, departments, boards and agencies, they said.

Railways have refused to accept UDID, and those seeking to avail of the concessions for rail travel, have to procure a separate certificate/ID issued by the railways. This defeats the very purpose of the UDID. The railways should be prevailed upon to accept UDID, they said.

The centralisation of the certification and UDID issuing process is leading to a variety of problems, including those connected with e-literacy, the non-availability of facilitation centres and the hefty charges that some of these centres levy as also connectivity issues in many places, they said and demanded that camps are regular intervals should be conducted for speedy issuance of the UDID.

While there has been some improvement over the years, even the targets set under the Accessible India campaign have not been met year after year, they pointed out.

The railways has not been extending concession to all categories recognised by the RPD Act. All those with benchmark disabilities should be extended concessions, they demanded.

Despite the RPWD Act mandate for making all transport systems accessible, most of the railway station platforms, bogies, ticket counters, toilets etc, are inaccessible, they said and demanded more allocations for this purpose.

Privatisation of services like buggy etc has made these services no more available for free at many stations. Private rail networks are unlikely to continue the concessional fares they get, they said. They added that privatisation should cease as private firms do not provide reservations for them. 

The protest was addressed by former union minister Ajay Makhen and Lok Sabha MP,  Kanimozhi and leaders of the NPRD. Former MP and kisan leader Hannan Mollah also addressed the gathering. All of them, while deploring the plight of the disabled, promised to put the latters’ issues on the agendas of their respective political parties and the governments they head and also to raise the issues in parliament.

Executive director of the National Centre for Promotion of Employment of Disabled People, Arman Ali, also addressed the gathering and extended support to their demands.