Volume 3 Issue 17 - September 01, 2005

Victim of systemic neglect, C.C.P.D. without a head for over a year now!

D.N.I.S. News Network - As the disability sector battles for the implementation of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, even almost a decade after its enactment, the apex institution for the protection and furthering of the rights of disabled people remains without a head.

The Office of the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disability (C.C.P.D.) is vested with the power of a Civil Court under the Code of Civil Procedure and the proceedings before the Chief Commissioner are rated as judicial proceedings under Section 193 and 223 of the Indian Penal Code. This makes it without any doubt a very powerful administrative office for redressing grievances of disabled people.

Therefore it is nothing short of a shock to the sector and disabled people at large that the office has been vacant for over a year. Both have started feeling that the non-seriousness shown by the current Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Meira Kumar in addressing the issue is merely a reflection of the systemic neglect that disabled people have been subjected to since she took charge of the office.

The tenure of the previous C.C.P.D., Dr. Uma Tuli ended in April 2004. She was given a three months extension till July 2004, which was further extended by another three months till October 2004. The post has been lying vacant since then!

In December 2004, an advertisement was given in the ‘employment’ sections of the newspapers to invite ‘applications’ for the post of the C.C.P.D.

The Disabled Rights Group (D.R.G.) immediately wrote to Meira Kumar, Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, drawing her attention to the fact that C.C.P.D. being such an important position should go to a person who is not only competent but also one who has represented disabled people and the disability sector of the country. Therefore, advertising the post in newspapers and that too in the ‘employment’ section will not serve the purpose. Moreover, it will bring down the dignity of the office. Very few senior disabled leaders would apply for the post on their own.

In the letter, D.R.G. drew the Minister’s attention to Clause 57 of The Disability Act that mandates, “A person shall not be qualified for appointment as the Chief Commissioner unless he has special knowledge or practical experience in respect to matters relating to rehabilitation.”

D.R.G. suggested the following method for appointing the C.C.P.D.:

(1) Constitute a high-powered Search Committee.

(2) The Search Committee should have representation from the disability sector.

(3) Circulate the information widely amongst the NGOs, seeking nominations.

(4) Last, but not the least, a person with disability should be appointed as India’s next C.C.P.D.

Despite all this, the Ministry went ahead with the process and shortlisted a nondescript individual from Bihar, a certain Manoj Kumar, as the next C.C.P.D.!

D.R.G. took a serious note of the fact that despite a united opinion of the Disability Sector, the Ministry had ignored the basic demand for appointing a person with disability and wrote to the Chairperson of United Progressive Alliance (U.P.A.) Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh.

Concerns of the disability sector had an immediate affect. The Cabinet Committee on Appointments (A.C.C.), taking note of the disability sector’s sentiment, rejected the Ministry’s first choice and instead selected Dr. H.C. Goel, a senior doctor at the Safdurjung Hospital, a person with disability, as the C.C.P.D. This was sometime in March 2005. It has been almost 5 months since then. The post is still lying vacant. Dr. H.C. Goel had some administrative issues, which the Ministry has not resolved. According to the grapevine, the offer is now going to be made again to Manoj Kumar!

Currently, the office is functioning with just one Deputy Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities - T. D. Dhariyal. He was recently in the news for organising a function for the Ministry, in which several senior figures from the disability sector were left stranded, while he along with the Minister enjoyed their tea in an inaccessible area.

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