Volume 2 Issue 9 - May 01, 2004

Incidence of disability declining says NSSO survey

DNIS News Network -- The National Sample Survey released a report saying that the incidence of disability in India is declining. It gives reason for cheer with the overall decline in disability, but there is also a reason for concern about rural areas where the incidence of disability has been found to be higher than in urban areas.

An estimated 18.53 million people in India suffer some form of disability. More than 10 per cent of the country's population suffers some form of disability.

Category Rural Urban
Male 2.12% 1.67%
Female 1.56% 1.31%
Total 1.86% 1.56%

Disability among people in rural areas is estimated to be slightly higher than in urban areas. According to the survey, the prevalence of disability is markedly higher among males across the country.

The causes of disability are cited as poor nutrition, limited access to vaccination programmes, poor health and maternity care, poor hygiene, bad sanitation, inadequate information about the causes of impairment and natural disasters.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as many as 50 per cent of disabilities are preventable and directly linked to poverty. It is estimated that only 2 per cent of people with disabilities in developing countries have access to rehabilitation and the appropriate basic services.

The NSS, for the purpose of the survey, categorized disabilities into locomotor (lame/crippled), visual, hearing and mental disability. The results show that locomotor disability is the most prevalent, followed by hearing and visual disabilities. Mental illness including retardation was seen among many people.

While locomotor disabilities affected about 1,008 people per lakh in the country, the rate for hearing disabilities was 300 per lakh people. Visual disability was seen to affect about 269 persons per lakh. Ninety-four people per lakh were found to be mentally retarded, and 105 people in a lakh suffered some form of mental illness. Illness during childhood was reported to be the reason for 42 per cent of cases of mental retardation; about 87 per cent were mentally disabled at birth.

Among the individual disabilities, visual disability was the only exception where the prevalence was higher among women.
At the state level, the prevalence of disability was highest in Himachal Pradesh (2,571 disabled people per lakh), followed by Lakshadweep (2,487), Orissa (2,459) and Kerala (2,235 disabled people per lakh).

The survey also found that 55 per cent of disabled people were illiterate and only 9 per cent had completed higher secondary education. Around 11 per cent of disabled children between the ages of five and 18 years were enrolled in special schools in urban areas. In rural areas this figure fell to less than 1 per cent.

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