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Union Budget sensitive to disability sector

DNIS News Network -- The Finance Minister has packed in whole set of exemptions relating to disabled people and their needs, in the Budget.

This year’s Budget comes with a whole bunch of surprises, which has brought a smile on several faces. It offers exemption of certain rehabilitation aids from customs duty, excise and CVD. The list of items exempted from customs duty include crutches, wheel chairs, walking frames, artificial limbs and stair lifts.

The Budget benefits not only the orthopaedically challenged but the visually challenged have reason to cheer as well. Sanjeev Sachdeva from Samarthaya says, “By exempting Braille computers, Braille typewriters and other Braille items from customs duty, the [finance] minister has assured that a blind person has access to the latest technology to be used in work, education and recreation. This will bring a revolution in their lives.” Mr Sanjeev Sachdeva is a muscular dystrophic patient who is working for an accessible environment for all through his organisation.

These tax exemptions are significant as initially 5 percent customs duty was charged for all these aids, which was the same as the amount levied on gold import!

The Budget is seen as a small but significant step taken by this government to further the development of the disability sector. “The last budget which spoke about benefits for the handicapped was in the year 1995 presented by Dr Manmohan Singh. That budget had offered exemption on income tax for the handicapped people. After that none of the budgets took up this issue,” said executive director of National Centre for Promotion of Employment of Disabled People, Javed Abidi.

The proposal to exempt computers from excise was also greeted with a lot of excitement. “it will ultimately help the disabled in the long term. They would be less dependent on others while computer-friendly environs in offices would open new job avenues for people like us,” said Mr Sachdeva.

However, the Budget does not offer any respite for that segment of disabled people, which has to depend upon high-cost equipment for their development. For instance, a single cochlear implant costs between Rs 5 and 8 lakh. So a 5 percent slash on customs duty offers a relief of merely Rs 25,000. Hence only a small segment of people would be able to afford it, despite the exemption.