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“There should be minimum 5% budget allocation in all sectors for inclusion of disability":G.Syamala

In the context of preparation of the Eleventh Five Year Plan (2007-2012), the Planning Commission has constituted a Steering Committee on the Social Welfare and Other Special Groups. G. Syamala, Executive Director of A.A.D.I. (formerly Spastics Society of Northern India) has been nominated as a Member of the Steering Committee. In an interview to D.N.I.S. she shares her ideas and views.

1. We believe that the Steering Committee on Social Welfare and Other Special Groups for the Eleventh Five Year Plan (2007-2012) has been set up and that you are one of the members representing the disability sector. Comments.

This is the first time that I would be participating in the Steering Committee. I realise the responsibility of this membership. I am looking forward to the process.

2. Who are the other members on this Committee? Are you satisfied with the composition?

There are 31 members in the Committee chaired by Dr. Bhalachandra Mungekar. Apart from senior members from the Central and State Ministries, members include People with Disability, N.G.O. leaders, Ex-Advisers of Planning Commission, Ex-Chairpersons of National Trust and R.C.I., Representation from Academic and Training Institutions, Members representing Medical and Paramedical fields, etc. Though there seems to be a wide range, there are some obvious gaps. Membership from D.P.O.s, Parents Associations/Organisations, geographical representation especially from areas like the North East and a wider civil society representation should have been focused upon.

3. What is your vision for the Eleventh Five Year Plan?

I sincerely hope that the Eleventh Plan addresses disability with a multi-sectoral approach. Unless and until there is convergence, where disability becomes an integral part of all other sectors such as Education, Employment, Health, Poverty Alleviation, Gender, Art & Culture, Industry, I.T., Infrastructure, Urban/Rural Development, Tourism etc., we will not be moving towards an inclusive society.

4. Shouldn't there have been a separate Steering Committee on Disability, rather than disability getting diluted under the larger umbrella of social welfare?

I think every Steering Committee should include disability. There is a Working Group that has been set up on disability and the terms of reference have also been framed.

5. As per the mid-term review of the progress of implementation of various policies and programmes during the Tenth Five Year Plan, merely 31.16 per cent of the agreed outlay has been spent. Your comments.

Its obvious that more attention should have been given to the process of planning, review and monitoring of the schemes and activities. A further analysis shows that the areas that have done poorly are those related to N.H.F.D.C., Implementation of the Persons with Disability Act and the funding of the five National Institutes. Areas that have done reasonably well are related to Assistance to Disabled Persons for purchasing /fitting of Aids and Appliances and the Scheme to Promote Voluntary Action for Persons with Disabilities. This clearly indicates that the planning process is not guided by the rights based approach. Support through the Scheme for Aids and Appliances or Voluntary Action alone will not achieve an inclusive society.

6. Under the Tenth Five Year Plan (2002-2007), the agreed outlay on disability sector was only Rs. 1465 crores. Isn't that insufficient?

I think the emphasis should be an allocation of at least 5 per cent of the budget in all sectors, e.g., Health, Education, Women & Child, Employment, Rural/Urban Development, Industry, Research, Infrastructure, Tourism, Entertainment, Art & Culture etc., for inclusion of disability related issues in their sectors. A serious examination should be undertaken to study the gaps in policies and implementation strategies so that justice can be done to the funds that have been allocated to the disability sector.

7. What are you going to do to correct that picture, in order to ensure that the outlay is increased at least three fold?

I think the Steering Committee, Working Group and the disability sector should advocate for a multi-sectoral approach in the Planning as well as the Funding process. As stated earlier, there should be a minimum 5 per cent allocation in all sectors for focusing on inclusion of disability.

The agreed outlay and expenditure in the Tenth Plan for the different components under the disability sector should be evaluated. The analysis should feed into the outlay of the Eleventh Plan.

8. The Tenth Five Year Plan advocated the introduction of a Component Plan for the Disabled in the budget of all concerned ministries and departments to ensure a regular flow of funds for schemes/programmes for empowerment of disabled people. The Mid-term Review document states that the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment (M.S.J.E.) expressed its difficulty in implementing this suggestion! In your opinion, what is the way forward?

I think M.S.J.E. should clearly state what the difficulties were in implementing the Component Plan. I am confident that there is a strong leadership available for the planning process in the country and the difficulties cannot be insurmountable.