Volume 6 Issue 10 - November 01, 2009

“The reason we want a new law…”

Dr. Arbind Prasad from M.S.J.E. at the National Consultation
Dr. Arbind Prasad from M.S.J.E. at the National Consultation

Disabled rights activists from across the country were in New Delhi for the National Consultation on The Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Respect for Dignity, Effective Participation and Inclusive Opportunities) Act, 2010, organised by N.C.P.E.D.P. The demand for a new law was unanimous.Dorodi Sharma of D.N.I.S. caught up with a few of them with the poser, The reason I want a new law From vehement demands for a rights based Act to strong voices for accountability, the views were mixed but not different.

Shampa Sengupta, Sruti Disability Rights Centre, Kolkata: The reason I want a new law is because amendments to the old will not be able to cater to the diverse needs of persons with ALL kinds of disabilities.

Sameera Shamim, Talking About Reproductive and Sexual Health Issues (T.A.R.S.H.I.), New Delhi: The present law has many loopholes and does not look into the day to day lives and problems of people with disabilities. The definition of disability is very narrow, as is the understanding of other issues vis-a-vis disability. As someone who believes completely in affirmative rights towards sexual and reproductive health of all people, the present law completely neglects this area. Also post U.N.C.R.P.D., the existing law can be thrown away.

C. Mahesh, Community Based Rehabilitation (C.B.R.) Forum, Bengaluru: India needs to have a new and comprehensive Act that clearly defines all the rights in the context of people with disabilities. The current law is inadequate on how inclusion, participation, and exercising legal capacity by persons with disabilities in the areas of living in the community, accessing services, education and employment can be made possible. There is also no accountability and enforcement mechanism in the old Act.

Amitabh Mehrotra, S.P.A.R.C. India, Lucknow: We need a new law in line with U.N.C.R.P.D. that will look into the ground realities of our vast country. The concerns of the unheard voices need to be addressed immediately. Justice needs to be done to people who are intentionally or unintentionally segregated from the mainstream.

Arun Rao, The Deafway, New Delhi: The new law with U.N.C.R.P.D. as a base document would put deaf issues and concerns in a position where positive progress is possible. There will be a lot to consider naturally but the retrogressive thinking in the Disability Act of 1995 will be negated. This will open up fresh approaches to the future. On another track, the old Act has made us insecure, there is also a tendency to be very narrow minded and grabby about things. I guess any oppressed community is reactive and defensive without consciously wanting to appear so. As the broad scope of the new Act sinks in, people will put down their individual agendas and apprehensions and truly embrace inclusion in the spirit in which it deserves to be talked about and engaged.

M. Srinivasulu, Network of People with Disabilities Organisation, Hyderabad: The present situation demands that any disability legislation needs to be on the basis of U.N.C.R.P.D. To achieve this, the old Act has to be repealed. As a grassroot activist, my opinion is that if justice is to be done to all sections of the disabled population, we need a new law and not amendments.

Suhas Karnik, National Association for the Blind (N.A.B.), Mumbai: It is almost 14 years since we got the old Act. Amendments were due for a long time. But with India ratifying U.N.C.R.P.D., we have a different frame of reference now and mere amendments would not work. Although the Government has started the process of amendments, the concerns of the disability sector have not been taken into consideration. The most glaring drawback of the amendments is that it does not take into account 18 Articles of U.N.C.R.P.D. There is no mention of legal capacity, accountability and punitive measures. Having more than 100 amendments makes no sense. It is time to go for a new law which is in consonance with the U.N. Convention.

Gautam Chaudhary, Sanchar, Kolkata: There has been a major paradigm shift towards rights based approach since 1995. U.N.C.R.P.D., which has been ratified by India, gives us an appropriate frame work from the rights perspective to the issue of disability. When the whole framework of reference has undergone a vast change, it is rather futile to try to amend the old Act. Many of the significant chapters are not taken into consideration in the present process of amendments. One simply cannot include all the aspects of U.N.C.R.P.D. in the present law in its present format and if one is talking of changing the format, one is obviously talking of a new law. I strongly feel that we have no other alternative but to have a new law."

Rajiv Rajan, Vidyasagar, Chennai: The old law was enacted when the sector was still following the welfare model of disability. Now we should go for a rights based law that will reflect the letter and spirit of U.N.C.R.P.D. However much we try to incorporate the provisions of the U.N.C.R.P.D. into the old law, it will just be patchwork.

Kanchan Pamnani, a visually impaired Advocate from Mumbai summed up the general feeling about the Disability Act of 1995: I am fed up of the charity mindset that the old law projects. I think we all are.

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