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“It is high time for the disability sector to demand for a Disability Rights Budget Statement,” Meenakshi Balasubramaniam

With budget analysis for specific sectors, especially minority groups like Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe, women etc., becoming a powerful advocacy tool, it is time for the disability sector to start working on Disability Rights Budget Analysis (D.R.B.A.). National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (N.C.P.E.D.P.), in collaboration with Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability (C.B.G.A.), has now taken up D.R.B.A. as part of the Parallel Report on C.R.P.D. implementation. Meenakshi Balasubramaniam, working on this project at N.C.P.E.D.P., talks to Shilpi Ganguly of D.N.I.S. about disability budgeting and her reaction to the Union Budget 2012-13.

D.N.I.S.: Can you please tell our readers the concept of Disability Rights Budget Analysis (D.R.B.A.)?

Meenakshi Balasubramaniam: This is an effort to analyse the Governments spending on issues related to disability towards ensuring the rights of people with disabilities.

For example, provision of Rs. 200 under the Indira Gandhi Disability Pension Scheme, which is a charity based scheme, as opposed to Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerments (M.S.J.E.) scheme on implementation of the Disability Act of 1995; allocations by Council for Advancement of Peoples Action and Rural Technology (C.A.P.A.R.T.) under Ministry of Rural Development (M.O.R.D.) where the Government is looking at rights in a very small way is part of D.R.B.A.. It is an effort to find out how much is the Government spending and on what and whether it truly is helping people with disabilities.

D.N.I.S.: How important is D.R.B.A. in today's context?

Meenakshi Balasubramaniam: All the social sectors in the country are closely looking at budgets and finding allocations specific to their sector as this analysis is used as a powerful advocacy tool. This results in allocation of money towards the development of the sector. The Government comes out with Scheduled Caste Sub-Plan and Scheduled Tribe Sub-Plan with allocation of 16 percent and 8 percent respectively under different Ministries. Gender Budget Statement reflects the allocations made for women by different Ministries and Departments with schemes ranging from 100 percent allocation to those with 30 to 90 percent allocation. The Child Budget Statement is also prepared on similar lines.

It is high time for the disability sector to come forward strongly and demand for the Government to come up with a Disability Rights Budget Statement which shows expenditure by different Ministries and Departments towards ensuring the rights of people with disabilities. The importance cannot be overstated.

D.N.I.S.: You are someone from the disability movement. How difficult or easy it was to make a transition into what is perceived as a 'number crunching' subject?

Meenakshi Balasubramaniam: It is a misconception that this is just a number crunching exercise or that it is a difficult exercise. It involves analysis of policies, guidelines, legal framework and then the Budget Statement of the various Ministries and Departments of the Government.

D.N.I.S.: What is your reaction to the Union Budget 2012-13?

Meenakshi Balasubramaniam: On the first day of the Budget Session of the Parliament, Her Excellency, the President of India announced the much awaited Department of Disability Affairs under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. However, if we look at the current Budget Statement, it does not have any outlay towards the creation of this Department.

There has been a decrease in the Inclusive Education for the Disabled at Secondary Stage (I.E.D.S.S.) Scheme and the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (S.S.A.) as a portion of the total allocation of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (M.H.R.D.). S.S.A. is the only scheme of the Government that provides for the realisation of the right to education of children with disabilities.

As a token gesture, which seems to be the general trend of this Budget, an increase from Rs. 200 to Rs. 300 per month has been made in the Indira Gandhi Disability Pension Scheme. The criterion for this scheme is exclusionary as it is for a specific category of severely disabled people.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare does not have any allocations whatsoever towards the specific health needs of persons with disabilities. This, in the wake of 2012-13 being the first year of the 12th Five Year Plan, which is being touted as the Health Plan!

On the whole, there is just nothing for people with disabilities or towards disability rights.

D.N.I.S.: Do you expect the State Budgets to be any different?

Meenakshi Balasubramaniam: Right now we do not expect the State Budgets to be any different. We say this based on our initial analysis of the Budget Statements of Tamil Nadu and Odisha.

D.N.I.S.: What more do you think needs to be done during the course of the year to ensure visibility for disability issues in the next Budget?

Meenakshi Balasubramaniam: