Volume 3 Issue 24 - December 15, 2005

A law with no one to implement has been the tragedy of the India's disability sector: Abidi

D.N.I.S. News Network - In a statement issued on World Disability Day, Convenor of Disabled Rights Group Javed Abidi has reiterated the demand for a separate Ministry for disability issues, while recounting moments of heroism and tragedy in India's disability movement in the past 10 years.

It was on a cold December day, some ten years ago, when our Parliamentarians passed 'The Disability Act 1995'. I was one of the privileged few who witnessed this historical moment - dew eyed - from the Visitor's Gallery of Rajya Sabha.

The last 10 years have been like a Magnum Opus, with its due share of heroism, tragedy, and even a few comical moments as well. The Legislation gave the Indian disabled people the power to 'Act'. And act they did. They got united, they raised their voice, they came out in the open and demanded their due share. The two landmark victories were to get enumerated in the National Census and to be able to cast our vote in an accessible way in the General Elections. In other words - first, the Nation was forced to recognise that we existed and then, it was made to realise that we did not merely exist but that we were citizens too!

To have a law with no one to implement it has been the tragedy of the Indian disability sector. First, for as long as 3 years, the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities (C.C.P.D.) was not even appointed! And then, in recent years, while the office has a decorative head, she/he is more a puppet in the hands of the Ministry of Social Justice than the watchdog that she/he is supposed to be.

If we want 'The Disability Act 1995' to not merely exist on paper but to get enforced, we will have to free the office of the C.C.P.D. from the shackles of the Ministry of Social Justice.

Infact, we need a radical paradigm shift.

If we want the entire issue of disability to be not viewed from the 'Welfare' looking glass, then we definitely need to take away this subject matter to another Ministry. The dream scenario would be to have a Ministry of our own - the Ministry of Disability Affairs! But for some more reason, if that is not possible, then for sure the subject matter of disability should be shifted from the Ministry of Social Justice to the Ministry of Human Resource Development.

Ministry of Social Justice has been headed by a person either representing the SC/ST or the Minorities. The Minister's heart beats for the vote bank that she/he represents. But if you are a SC/ST Minister, you can't possibly neglect the Minorities (even in the BJP/NDA Era!); and if you are a Minority Minister, then for sure you can't ignore the interests of the SC/ST. The remarkable tragedy however is that both can neglect the disabled. And they do!

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