Volume 3 Issue 20 - October 15, 2005

The Disaster Management Bill 2005 leaves 70 million disabled people endangered

D.N.I.S. News Network - In what has now become a routine, so far as the national policies are concerned, the Government of India has forgotten about its approximately 70 million disabled citizens while framing The Disaster Management Bill 2005. This unfortunate omission of disability related concerns have greatly irked the disability sector.

As if in a providential act of a sad warning, the recent South Asian earthquake has once again revealed vulnerability of the old, young and disabled people during times of disaster. But these warnings seem to be going in vain, as the Government and its agencies fail to address the issue of focus on disability in its disaster management mechanisms and now the Bill itself.

It is surprising for the disability sector that in the aftermath of the Asian Tsunami disaster the impact on people with disabilities, both the immediate and long-term, was emphatically and empirically highlighted, using research studies, yet the Government has failed to take cognisance of these inputs and demands.

National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (N.C.P.E.D.P.) in association with Disabled People's International - India and Vidya Sagar had launched a campaign to get disability issues included in the relief and rehabilitation work for the victims of Tsunami. As part of their efforts to gather facts and information, they visited Andaman & Nicobar Islands, which has suffered the heaviest loss in India. Following this a report was produced that clearly highlighted the issues and problems of people with disabilities.

To read Tsunami report click here

An All Party meeting was convened on 9 January 2005 to discuss the relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts in the Tsunami affected areas and assistance provided to the neighbouring countries in the region affected by the Tsunami. It is in this meeting that the Government informed that a Bill would be introduced in the Parliament during the coming Budget Session for establishing the National Disaster Management Authority and the Central Legislation on Disaster Management in the country.

Disasters affect over 56 million people and kill over 5000 people in India, annually. The annual economic loss on account of disasters is estimated at 1,884 million dollars.

According to Oxfam, to better the survival chances of people with disabilities during disasters, and to address their long-term needs call for:

• An informed debate that is the responsibility of every constituent of the civil society, especially the media, academicians, activists and other interest groups.

• A “reality check” by humanitarian agencies to ensure that disability is an integral part of their disaster response programme.

• Paradigm shift in disability and disaster related policy making, to endorse the needs and rights of differently abled people.

It is important that the world recognises disaster-affected people not as just passive victims, but as active survivors. Recognising that humanitarian assistance is not an act of charity but a survival right of the affected, may be the first step to break the poverty-vulnerability-disaster-disability cycle.

Further, the media reports are replete with instances of mental trauma and alienation that such high magnitude disasters cause not only to communities but also individuals depending upon their vulnerability. In addition to those who are disabled before the onset of the disaster many more become disabled during the disaster.To read Disaster Management Bill click here

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