Volume 8 Issue 3 - February 01, 2011

State Consultations planned on the Working Draft of the proposed new disability law

D.N.I.S. News service, India: The Committee drafting the new disability law seems to be rushing through to make up for lost time. In January itself, it met twice: on January 2 and then on January 13 and 14. In the latter meeting, the Committee besides discussing the content of the law also decided to go for State level Consultations on the draft in February. The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has been requested to expedite this process and write to all the Government authorities (the State Disability Commissioners!) who will be responsible for organising these consultations. Poonam Natarajan, Chairperson, National Trust and an ex -officio member of the Committee presented a list of coordinators for these consultations at the 13 and 14 meeting. These so-called coordinators are all State Nodal Agency Centres (S.N.A.C.) under the National Trust!

It may be noted that post the meeting with ‘Civil Society’ in September, several disabled activists and leaders had raised a strong demand for Regional and State consultations. In the earlier plan, the Committee was to come out with a Working Draft by November 30 and then plan State Consultations from December 15 onwards. As per this plan, the Committee was also to have a meeting with ‘Civil Society’ on December 8 and 9. However, as the Committee went from one blunder to another, these plans were scrapped. The Working Draft of November was ripped apart by experts following which the Committee went on the back foot claiming it to be a ‘work in progress’ and not a Working Draft. The meeting with Civil Society was also cancelled as the Ministry refused to pay for the travel and accommodation of the invitees.

Following the September meeting, Natarajan had also sought a list of Civil Society organisations in the States and Union Territories from National Centre for Promotion of Employment of Disabled People (N.C.P.E.D.P.). These organisations were originally supposed to have been coordinators for the State consultations. Incidentally, Natarajan had even contacted these organisations requesting for help. Most of them had willingly agreed. However, when and why this idea was dropped and pro - Government N.G.O.s were roped in, no one knows. This has raised serious doubts on whether these will truly be Consultations in the real sense of the term or a mere eye wash.

The question that the sector is now asking is the reason for the hurry. After having taken double the time given to them initially, the Committee now seems to be in a face saving mode. But, to have State Consultations in February and finish the task of compiling all suggestions from these Consultations by March 31 (the latest deadline of the Committee) seems to be a near impossible task. After all, the Working Draft has to first come out and this Working Draft will then have to be translated into regional languages for meaningful State Consultations. But, the Committee did not seem to have kept translations in mind at all. If that is the case, then these State Consultations will be nothing but a sham!

The sector now is hoping against hope for the scenario to emerge clearer at the next meeting of the Committee on January 31, February 1 and 2.

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