Volume 6 Issue 2 - July 01, 2009

Ministerial faux pas – D. Napoleon lets slip his ignorance on disability issues

D.N.I.S. News Network, India: Disability comes under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, or so we are made to believe. Because apparently, the Union Minister of State, D. Napoleon is yet to find out some key information about this sector.

The Minister from Tamil Nadu recently visited the National Institute for Empowerment of Persons with Multiple Disabilities (N.I.E.P.M.D.) in Chennai, where the Director of the institute, Dr. Neeradha Chandramohan made a presentation before Napoleon. She unveiled the institutes plans to conduct camps in Lakshadweep and Andaman to identify the population living with disability.

Napoleon, under whose ministry the institute functions, asked the director, Why are you conducting camps in other states? Instead, conduct more camps in Tamil Nadu. He even went on to hint that he would be happier to see more camps in his constituency!

The director had to hesitantly remind Napoleon that the N.I.E.P.M.D. was a national institute and had jurisdiction to conduct camps all over the country.

His goof ups did not stop there. At the press meet after the presentation, when asked about reservation for people with disability in the private sector, his response was, We cannot force the private sector to employ disabled people in their organization.

I will send 50 disabled people to your organization. Will your company employ them? he asked the reporter.

When asked if he would recommend tax benefits for the private sector to encourage them to come forward to employ people with disability as part of the budget recommendations, he said, Offering tax benefits is the finance ministrys job, not ours.

The responses were shocking since the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has written to the Finance Ministry to keep people with disability in mind while preparing the budget.

A few of their recommendations include better incentives for private firms that employ people with disabilities.

An Union Minister making such remarks about issues that 70 million disabled people in the country has entrusted him with is not only shocking but also disheartening to numerous groups who are working across disabilities in the country. Incidents of such nature compel us to seriously consider the demand for a separate ministry for disability.

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