Volume 4 Issue 13 - July 01, 2006

M.S.J.E. comes up with its own proposal for amendments to the Disability Act!

D.N.I.S. News Network - The Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment (M.S.J.E.) has suddenly come up with its own proposal for amendments to the Disability Act, 1995, and in what a clandestine manner! It has posted the “proposed amendments to the Persons with Disabilities Act 1995” in a quiet manner on the Ministry’s own website. And some of the proposed amendments are shocking, to say the least!!

One recalls that in 2005 around the same time, the Ministry had invited suggestions for the Draft National Policy for Persons with Disabilities and then came up with its own document without consultations with concerned people. This time round, on May 26, the Ministry did the act again. It had invited suggestions from “interested individuals and organisations” for amendment in the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995. This announcement was also made solely on its website. But if the Ministry’s interest was genuine regarding such an important move, it should have been widely publicised, to begin with. While one wonders if the disability sector is even fully aware of this announcement, the Ministry does a hat trick.

What is more shocking is the fact that the Ministry’s so called “proposed amendments” have come even before the July 31 deadline for suggestions given by the Ministry itself in its invitation! We’re far away from that deadline! Having waited ten long years to even think about amendments to the Act, why the sudden hurry in putting together a document of such importance? And why has the Ministry failed to circulate it widely?

In its call for suggestions the Ministry had vaguely mentioned that the “amendments will be carried out in consultation with the stakeholders.” The question is: Who are the stakeholders involved, and have they been consulted? If yes, then it is definitely not reflected in the document of the Ministry or anywhere on its website. There is an absolute lack of transparency in the whole process.

Even when asked about the call for suggestions from people for amendment to the Disability Act, leaders in the disability movement had been upset about the manner in which it had been done. They felt that the process was being rushed. Many also saw the need for the Government to wait till December to see if the Disability Convention was ratified by the United Nations (U.N.). Other rights activists had also wondered about the lack of consultations with the N.G.O. sector which would have very valid suggestions. Not a single right-based or other disability N.G.O. has been consulted so far with regard to the amendments.

And now, the “proposed amendments” by the Ministry itself, even before the given deadline for suggestions!! For whose benefit?!

It’s high time the disability sector shrugged away its lethargy and took up the cudgels on its own behalf. It is up to the sector to nail the Ministry on its ‘stakeholder’ peg and force the Government to listen, before it hurriedly makes amendments to an Act that is all important to millions of disabled people in the country.

To read the “Amendments Proposed to the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995 by the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment” please follow the link below:

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