The new disability law that is in the process of being drafted has thrown the doors open for debate on issues that a 21st century India is still grappling to handle. While majority in the disability sector is in favour of going in for one comprehensive disability law with all the rights of all people with disabilities, there is still a section which wants to hang onto the old multiple law regime. There is also the issue of Legal Capacity and which way will India stand. In the midst of all this debate is the National Trust whether it should be included under the broad umbrella of a comprehensive new law so that it has more powers and more resources or whether it should stay the way it is with peanuts to work for just the 4 disabilities it caters to now. With the Working Draft of the proposed new disability law out in public domain, the Committee has come under fire for botched up Consultations and an apparently rushed draft. Dorodi Sharma of D.N.I.S. posed some burning questions to Chairperson, National Trust, Poonam Natarajan. However, the responses were vague and not quite specific. Following is the unedited reproduction of the interview.
D.N.I.S.: What are your thoughts on the Working Draft of the proposed Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act? Please give a few positives and negatives (if any).
Poonam Natarajan: I think the Working Draft is a very good document. It has very creatively captured the entire gamut of disability issues. The positives are the twin tracking, which brings in the focus areas at several places and all provisioning covering all kinds of needs, for example there is the minimalist approach where people with disabilities can by themselves access their rights, the hybrid approach where some reasonable accommodations and supports are needed and the proactive approach, where we need to seek out people who are home bound, homeless, abandoned, etc. to ensure support for them in all ways. The negatives are that the language and grammar need to be edited in several places. The chapters reflect the range of aspirations, and each perspective may think, the other has got a larger share, for example I have heard people say about the Education Chapter, that it is all about special schools and another group say that it has left out the special schools completely.
D.N.I.S.: What is your feedback on the State Consultations on the Working Draft and the complaints that have been pouring in from different States, especially the protest in Tamil Nadu where you yourself were present? Where do you think things went wrong?
Poonam Natarajan: The real feedback about State Consultations will be after the 24th. My visit to several States were very positive and we got some very good suggestions from rural and tribal areas. Unfortunately, in Tamil Nadu, there was a lack of communication between the various players and that led to the protest. I will surely be trying to answer some of the questions raised by D.L.U. South, and will also place them before the Committee.
D.N.I.S.: What is your opinion about Legal Capacity? Do you support full Legal Capacity?
Poonam Natarajan: Of course, I support full Legal Capacity.
D.N.I.S.: Are you in favour of one comprehensive disability rights law which will also include the National Trust Act, the R.C.I. Act and rights of people living with mental illness? If yes/no, please give reason.
Poonam Natarajan: I think the present Working Draft is comprehensive and we should try & make it even more comprehensive after taking all the suggestions from the State Consultations. To my mind, this issue has become larger than it deserves to and in the process, other very important issues have got neglected.