On Febraury 7, 2005, in a press conference timed to mark the ninth anniversary of the enactment of the Disability Act, Javed Abidi, Executive Director, NCPEDP, unveiled a Shadow Report compiled for NCPEDP by Sakshi Broota, a disability activist. The Shadow Report analysed the annual reports of all government ministries from the perspective of disability.
While the government reports present a convincing picture of general progress, they fail miserably when it comes to disability. They read like a catalogue of neglect, with disabled people consistently being denied their rights to medical facilities, education, employment and leisure facilities. The bureaucracy seems either unable or unwilling to ensure that even the most basic needs of disabled people are met. Nine years after the passing of the Disability Act, most government buildings are still completely inaccessible to disabled people. Department after department and ministry after ministry fails to even mention disability in any way.
The Shadow Report is a wake-up call for the government. Javed Abidi admits to being frustrated by the ongoing situation: “We have done everything we could in the nine years since the Disability Act was passed, to change things for the better. We have held dharnas, lodged PILs, even gone on hunger strike; everything within the bounds of democracy,” he told a roomful of journalists from the national media. “But disabled people are being pushed into a corner and will soon have no option but to react strongly.”
He feels the core problem is the systemic neglect of the law by the previous Chief Commissioners of Disability, with the post not being treated as a priority. The first commissioner was appointed from the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, one of the departments being monitored by the Commissioner, while the second was from an NGO being funded by the SJ&E ministry. In both cases Abidi pointed out the huge ethical and moral conflict of the Commisioner being the regulator and the regulated. In the wake of the poor showing of the government, as revealed by the Shadow Report, he called upon the government to take the post out of the remit of the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment and to give it the due status and power it deserves.