Volume 3 Issue 13 - July 01, 2005

D.R.G.’s demand for separate Ministry, a step in right direction: Justice Anand

DNIS News Network - Winds of progressive change may yet blow away the blinkered attitude with which most people approach disability issues. A softly-spoken statement at a national conference on disability in Delhi, if pursued to its logical end, has the power to irrevocably transform the disability sector. That statement is: a declaration of support for Disabled Rights Groups (D.R.G.) demand for a separate Ministry to look into the demands of persons with disability, by no less an entity than the National Human Rights Commission (N.H.R.C.).

In his inaugural speech, (Dr.) Justice A. S. Anand, Chairperson, N.H.R.C., stressed that despite international and domestic action, persons with disability in our country are unable to live their life with dignity. Participation by persons with disabilities in all key institutions of democracy is crucial, Justice Anand declared. This alone would make our laws, policies and practices reflective of the disability experience necessary for a genuinely inclusive society. He then said that the D.R.G.s demand for a separate Ministry would be one such step in the right direction.

Support for a separate Ministry was voiced also by (Dr.) Shivraj V. Patil, Member, N.H.R.C. In his summing up of the first session, he remarked that the demand for a separate Ministry was a valid one. It is only when a separate [dedicated] department is set up do we see changes being affected.

Organised by N.H.R.C. on June 23, the conference brought together senior officials of concerned Ministries of the Government of India, State Commissioners for Persons with Disability, Secretaries in charge of Department of Welfare from all States and Union Territories, Vice Chancellors of many universities, as well as representatives from the Planning Commission, State Human Rights Commissioners, Bar Council, University Grants Commission, and National Council of Education Research and Training. Apex institutions in the field of disability were also represented.

In a statement to the press earlier in the week, D.R.G. Convenor Javed Abidi had decried the fact that the Social Justice Ministry has been ignoring the rights of disabled people and instead concentrating on issues involving the Scheduled Castes and minorities, who form a major vote bank. The Minister, Meira Kumar, is invariably a prisoner of vote bank politics, as a result of which her first priority concerns the Scheduled Castes followed by the minorities and finally disabled people, if at all any. In fact, during Maneka Gandhis tenure, we saw that issues concerning animals preceded the subject of disability, he said. Also, there was no implementation of the Disability Act and the National Policy on Disability announced last month was a watered-down version of the decade-old law which proves that disability figures nowhere on the Ministrys agenda.

D.R.G. had also demanded that if a separate Ministry was not possible immediately, the sector should be shifted from the Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry to the Human Resource Development Ministry.

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