Volume 9 Issue 3 - April 15, 2012

Where is the money?

If we go by the latest World Health Organisation and World Bank estimate, 15 percent of India’s population is affected with a disability. Yet, this huge chunk of the population is not visible in the policy making sphere of the country. Other than the nodal Ministry of disability and one or two others, most Ministries do not even have a component on disability in their budgets! For decades, the disability sector has been constantly complaining about the lack of resources and done nothing about it. Without evidence based advocacy, the Government will not even bat an eyelid. But who is going to collect that evidence for us? National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (N.C.P.E.D.P.) has recently taken up the task of Disability Rights Budget Analysis. The results are more than shocking. They are nerve wracking. Dorodi Sharma of D.N.I.S. gives an idea of how dismal the resource allocation on disability is in this country and why this is wake up call for the disability sector.

The wish list of services and facilities needed for the 100 million people with disabilities is a never ending list. But what we conveniently tend to overlook is that everything needs money. If we take the last Five Year Plan, the total outlay of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (M.S.J.E.) was Rs. 1900 crores. And that is all the money that the Government of India had allocated to make education inclusive; all schools, colleges and universities accessible; all public transport and infrastructure barrier-free; etc. If it sounds impossible already, the proverbial last nail would be the fact that even this Rs.1900 crores was/is wasted on obsolete schemes like distributing bad quality aids and appliances to people with disabilities, funding archaic ‘vocational’ trainings carried out by N.G.O.s which never lead to any job, and so on.

The disability movement in India has not been able to mature into a strong and vibrant movement like other rights based movements primarily because of its apathy towards honest and genuine advocacy. The kind of monitoring that the sector needed to have done in keeping a close eye on policies, budget allocations, spendings, etc. is conspicuously missing.

National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (N.C.P.E.D.P.) in collaboration with Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability (C.B.G.A.) and supported by the International Disability Alliance (I.D.A.) has taken up a project on Disability Rights Budget Analysis (D.R.B.A.). This is a part of the larger Parallel Report process on C.R.P.D. implementation being undertaken by the National Disability Network (N.D.N.) and Disabled Rights Group (D.R.G.).

As part of D.R.B.A., Meenakshi Balasubramaniam, a known disabled rights activist from Tamil Nadu and Sudha Ramamoorthy, earlier associated with Vidya Sagar, Chennai, are now working with N.C.P.E.D.P. in Delhi. Both of them are currently wrapping up the 3 month orientation and training on budget analysis with C.B.G.A.

The D.R.B.A. team has so far analysed Union Budgets and budgets of individual Ministries over the last 5 years. C.B.G.A., which is a leading organisation at the national level doing such work, brings out an Alternative Budget called the ‘People’s Budget Initiative’ and does a thorough analysis of the Union Budget once it is presented in the Parliament called ‘Response to Union Budget’. Because of the collaboration between N.C.P.E.D.P. and C.B.G.A., for the first time, a separate chapter on disability has been included in both these documents.

All this work has already unravelled many astonishing facts.

The analysis of the total expenditure incurred by M.S.J.E., the nodal Ministry on disability, in the 11th Five Year Plan reveals that it was able to allocate only 75.98 percent of the recommended allocations for people with disabilities.

Analysis of various programmes and schemes of M.S.J.E. reveals lack of allocation for ensuring habilitation and rehabilitation at community level towards holistic development. On the contrary, huge amounts of money is being spent on National Institutes where the possibility of ensuring the various rights of people with disabilities is limited to a few thousands all put together. Further, these National Institutes are not engaged in community outreach programmes in any significant way.

The analysis of the budgets of other relevant Ministries reveals an even more dismal picture. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare spends some huge amounts on the ‘welfare of disabled’. A closer inspection of the schemes will reveal expenses only on ‘mental asylums’.

The National Mental Health Programme was formulated in 1982 and still exists without many changes to its objectives. The District Mental Health Programme is restricted to only 123 districts. The total outlay for the National Mental Health Programme for the 11th Plan period was 622.93 crores. The budget statements of the Ministry reveal that only 340.59 crores has been spent.

While the Government spends crores in establishing, running and maintaining institutions that can at best cater to a few hundreds of people with disabilities, there is no change whatsoever in the lives of people with psychosocial disabilities who constitute 2 percent of the country’s population, as per the Ministry’s own data. Most importantly, people with psychosocial disabilities do not want to be in institutions and it is the responsibility of the Government to ensure community living.

While the disability sector and its leaders harp on ‘community living’ and the latest buzz is on the term ‘community based inclusive development’, how on earth will it ever succeed if only a handful of under-resourced N.G.O.s and disabled people’s organisations (D.P.O.s) are the ones providing such services.

There was no commitment made by the Government in the 11th Plan to look at the general and specific healthcare needs of persons with disabilities. There was no focus on children and women with disabilities and their healthcare needs.

Let’s now look at another important Ministry, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (M.H.R.D). As people argue over special education versus inclusive education versus home-based education, 98 percent of children with disabilities are far far away from any kind of education! And when one analyses the budget of M.H.R.D., one realises why.

The outlay for children with disabilities in school education and higher education is a dismal 0.2 and 0.02 percent respectively of the total outlay of M.H.R.D. in the past couple of years. The component of inclusive education under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (S.S.A.) is so negligible that the Ministry does not even record it. M.H.R.D. does not consider inclusion of children with disabilities as one of its success indicators.

Other Ministries such as Ministry of Rural Development, Ministry of Urban Development, Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, Ministry of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Ministry of Information Technology, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and so on do not have any direct disability component in their budget. This is so inspite of the fact that the 11th Plan clearly mandated that “each concerned Ministry/Department shall reserve not less than 3 percent of their annual outlay for the benefit of disabled persons as enjoined in the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995”.

Another revealing fact that has been unearthed by following the money is that most of the expense incurred in the name of ‘welfare of the disabled’ by other Ministries comes from the coffers of M.S.J.E. For instance, M.S.J.E. funds educational institutions under M.H.R.D. for making their infrastructure accessible. Similarly, expenses incurred for providing aids and appliances for children with disabilities under S.S.A. on inclusive education also come from M.S.J.E.

An analysis of the State Budgets will not reveal anything better. If at all, things may be even more dismal at the grassroots.

In a sector that is always neck deep in service delivery, this should serve as a wake up call. Most of the people who are into service delivery complain about the lack of services or the pathetic quality of whatever services that do exist. The Government has washed its hands off disability while unsuspecting N.G.O.s and D.P.O.s, with their limited capacities, have tried to fill in the gaps. Good quality services will not drop down from the heavens. They will require resources. And this analysis lays bare the fact that there are no resources for the 100 million or so people with disabilities in the country.

Shout we may from the rooftops that India has done away with the charity model of disability, but the bitter truth of the matter is that disability issues are still far far away from being a cross-cutting human rights issue. N.C.P.E.D.P.’s and D.R.G.’s advocacy may have led to the announcement of the Department for Disability Affairs but the Union Budget that followed a few days later did not mention any resources being set aside or allocated for making this Department a reality!

It is high time that the disability sector gets its act together and demands its share of the pie. Disability Rights Budgeting should become a norm on the lines of Gender Budgeting. And we should demand a separate Disability Sub-Plan in the 12th Five Year Plan on the lines of the S.C. /S.T. Sub-Plans. And while many would say that all these are pipe dreams, we at N.C.P.E.D.P. have seen many ‘impossibles’ turn ‘possible’. We are trained to remain eternally optimistic.

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