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“The government’s commitment towards people with disabilities needs to reflect clearly in budgets”

The increasing inclusion of persons with disabilities in the policies and policy-making processes of the government has been much talked about, especially with many disabled people being on the Steering Committees of the Planning Commission for the upcoming 12th Five Year Plan. But what about their inclusion in the budget? The Union and State Budgets 2012-13 are round the corner. Will they give adequate attention to disability? How can we make these financial instruments more responsive to the disability sector within the rubric of the social sector? Shilpi Ganguly of D.N.I.S. poses these questions to Subrat Das, Executive Director, Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability (C.B.G.A.) to get his perspective on how to make the budgets truly inclusive.

D.N.I.S.: What do you think is the most important thing that needs to be done in order to bring a disability perspective in the Union and State Budgets of India?

Subrat Das: One of the most important pre-requisites for making the Union Budget and State Budgets responsive would be to urge the policymakers in the country (in the executive as well as the legislature) to recognize the fact that their commitment towards people with disabilities needs to reflect clearly in the budgets. Unless the government budgets in the country are responsive to the challenges confronting people with disabilities through appropriate government interventions for them (i.e. such interventions which are designed to address their specific needs and challenges), adequate resources for such interventions, and strong institutional mechanisms for implementation of the same policy pronouncements and legislations alone will not be effective.

D.N.I.S.: What is the major hindrance in doing the above?

Subrat Das: There would be two major hindrances in making our budgets responsive to the challenges confronting people with disabilities the first would be the need for influencing the perspective of the policymakers in the country in this regard (which would require appropriate research and dissemination), while the second (and potentially the more demanding one) would be the need for influencing the sense of urgency of the policymakers to adopt necessary substantive changes in budgetary policies and processes, which would require appropriately designed and sustained advocacy with a range of policy actors.

D.N.I.S.: What is the best way to begin a disability budget analysis?

Subrat Das: One useful way to begin a disability budget analysis would be to assess the design of programmes / schemes across a select set of ministries / departments of the Union Government and some of the State Governments, taking into account the specific challenges confronting people with disabilities, assess the magnitude of budget allocations provided to whatever programmes / schemes for addressing such challenges, and thus highlight the gaps.

D.N.I.S.: Will a disability budget analysis help the disability sector to demand better policies and services?

Subrat Das: Disability budget analysis can be very effective in this regard. It would enable activists and policy advocates in this sector to ask much sharper questions to policymakers and hold them accountable for their responsibilities towards people with disabilities.

D.N.I.S.: How important is a disability budget analysis for disability rights advocacy? Are there enough people within the sector paying attention to this issue?

Subrat Das: In my perception, not many of the activists and policy advocates in the disability sector are paying attention to the need for assessing budgets from a disability lens at present.

D.N.I.S.: How can a disability perspective be integrated in the budget of the social sector, so as to not make it seem like an isolated exercise?

Subrat Das: A disability perspective needs to be integrated into the analyses and discussions pertaining not only to the social sector but also for many of the other sectors being covered by budgets. This would require sustained efforts relating to research and advocacy on disability budget analysis. However, this can be achieved within a couple of years even if just one organisation (or a small group of organisations) makes a concerted effort in this direction.