Volume 3 Issue 14 - July 15, 2005

Ministry of Social Justice makes mockery of selection process of National Trust’s Chairperson

DNIS News Network - In a major setback for the disability sector, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has unceremoniously cancelled interviews slated for 26th July for selection of the Chairperson for the National Trust for the Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities, to replace Aloka Guha, who has been continuing on the post despite her term getting over more than a year back.

This brazen mockery of the concerns of the disability sector to end suspense over the selection process has stunned the sector and evoked sharp reactions.

After confirming this news from Deputy Secretary Sarvesh Rai, officially responsible for advertising the post and receiving applications, DNIS spoke to prominent activists and parents from across the country to gauge their reactions to this development.

Sarvesh Rai gave a standard reply of I cant tell you, to all questions put to him. On being quizzed on reasons for the interviews being cancelled at the last minute, on when will they be held or if at all they are held, he had the same reply. When his attention was drawn to the trouble undertaken by people who have come all the way to Delhi to attend the interview, he said: Yes they have but I cant comment.

Poonam Natarajan, Director of Chennai-based Vidya Sagar, said: The behaviour is shocking, especially because no reason has been given. She had flown in to Delhi from Chennai, and less then 24-hours before the interview, she received a call from Rais office saying that the interviews were off. No particular reason was given.

We spoke to J. P. Gadkari, President of Parivaar -- a national body of parents of children with mental disabilities -- and National Disability Networks Karnataka state partner. He regretted the sudden cancellation of the interviews.

Citing a letter he had written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, he said: I firmly stand by our position that a parent of a person with disability should be appointed to the post. It has been over a year now and the Government has not been able to appoint a suitable person.

The National Trust Act itself has a lacunae that has allowed Aloka Guha to continue on the post despite her term having lapsed, he told DNIS.

We also contacted Sajad Hussein Ali of Dwar Jingkyrmen School in Shillong, who has been active in the disability sector for over 30 years. He said the advertising and now cancellation of the interview process for the post was detrimental to the cause of disability rights.

He was of the view that the post should not be filled through an application process as such a senior post can only be occupied by a person who has served the sector. The Government knows who these people are, he added.

G. Syamala, Executive Director of Action for Abilities Development and Inclusion (A.A.D.I.), and Merry Barua, Director of Action for Autism, were also requested for a response. However, despite several attempts they did not come on the line.

Disabiled Rights Group had written to Meira Kumar, Minister of Social Justice, to make the selection process transparent and requested for the names of the shortlisted candidates to be made public. It had also asked for information on whether any of the applicants were parents or professionals. The Ministry has not given any reply so far.

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