Volume 4 Issue 10 - May 15, 2006

C.I.I. reiterates its commitment to mainstream disability

D.N.I.S. News Network - On 2 May 2006, the disability sector was witness to the first ever corporate initiative – in the form of a Conference - to mainstream disability through employment in corporate/industrial sector. To create awareness and to harness the resources of Industry, Confederation of Indian Industries (C.I.I.), in partnership with I.B.M., National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (N.C.P.E.D.P.) and Action Aid organised a one day Conference on "Disability: Mainstreaming the Marginalised” at Hotel Taj Mansingh, New Delhi.

The aim of the Conference was to:

  • To create awareness about the status of disabled in the country
  • To discuss issues of inclusion and access
  • To understand skill training needs
  • To use feedback from companies working with the disabled
  • To provide a networking platform for organisations working for the disabled and corporates.

The highlight of the Conference was the acknowledgement by its Chairman, C.I.I. Core Group on Disability, Sujit Gupta, that disability is a cross-cutting issue that did not find mention in the Prime Minister’s address to the corporate sector imploring for affirmative action for the marginalised sections of Indian society. He further said that C.I.I. has more than 5,000 employers who employ 5 million people. These 5,000 employers have the potential of hiring at least 5 per cent of the disabled work force.

Subodh Bhargava, Executive Trustee of N.C.P.E.D.P., demanded that in order to motivate the private sector to employ disabled work force, the Government must announce incentives. It may be recalled that N.C.P.E.D.P. had proposed a Draft Incentives Policy to the Government of India in 2004. This Draft Policy has been gathering dust in the Finance Ministry for over two years now. Shri Bhargava appealed for solutions beyond exceptions like Titan, I.B.M. and Progeon.

Ashwini Kumar, Minister of State for Industry, Government of India, was the Chief Guest. He regretted that though the legislation for job reservations for disabled people was passed ten years ago, the Government has not been able to meet the three per cent quota in public sector jobs for the disabled. He stressed that in this era of globalised economy one of the primary roles of the States is to impact on areas such as disability. While expressing ignorance about the existing figures of disabled population (70 million), he said that the most meaningful corporate social responsibility would be in the area of disability.

The opening session was followed by presentations from some of the corporates like I.B.M., Progeon, Balloons and Cybermedia who shared their experiences vis-ŕ-vis inclusive employment practices.

The conference concluded with suggestions regarding the way forward. Javed Abidi, Executive Director, N.C.P.E.D.P., said that the private sector cannot escape responsibility, more so because Section 41 of the Disability Act 1995 mandates that the private sector has to ensure that more than 5 per cent of its workforce consists of disabled people. Time has come to move beyond workshops and conferences to some concrete action.

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