Logo of Disability News and Information Service (DNIS)


Consultations or sham? Committee drafting new disability law makes a mockery of the process

D.N.I.S. News Network, India: Pressure from Disabled Rights Group (D.R.G.) and other disabled rights activists and a rap from Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment (M.S.J.E.), Mukul Wasnik may have compelled the Committee drafting the new disability rights law to extend the deadline to March 10, but that did not stop them from making a mockery of the whole process. Several States reported lack of translation and hurried Consultations with no participation from genuine stakeholders.

In Madhya Pradesh, the State Coordinator went ahead with the Consultation as early as February 15. This was done even without getting the latest draft of the new law translated into Hindi. Instead, participants were given Hindi translations of the old version of the law! Genuine stakeholders were not invited.

In Gujarat, the State Coordinator, Dr. Bhushan Punani, who is also a Member of the Committee, tried to pull a fast one. Only the Executive Summary of the draft was translated into Gujarati. This was sent to Disability Advocacy Group (D.A.G.) the evening before the supposed Consultation on February 19. It was only when D.A.G. raised hell at the Consultation that the organisers agreed to translate the entire draft into Gujarati and have another Consultation on March 5!

What has been most surprising is the hurry that the Committee showed to finish the Consultations despite strict instructions from the Minister that no one should be left behind! If the Minister himself extended the deadline, then what was the rush on the part of the Committee to go ahead with the Consultations in a haphazard manner?

It was only after continued pressure from D.R.G. that the Delhi and N.C.R. Consultation earlier scheduled for February 19 got postponed. Similarly, the combined Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab Consultation was also postponed to March 2 and 3.

Interestingly, no efforts were made by the organisers to get in touch with genuine disabled people’s organisations and disability activists in Himachal Pradesh and Punjab. It was D.R.G. which alerted its partners in those States to be proactive and get in touch with the organisers on their own.

Participants at the Dehradun Consultation
Participants at the Dehradun Consultation

Punjabi translation was not done as the Committee did not have 65,000 rupees to do so! In Uttar Pradesh, the truly credible disabled leaders were sidelined as was done in Orissa.

In Maharashtra too, it was only after several exchanges with the organisers there that D.R.G. was able to get the Consultation postponed.

Even in certain ‘progressive’ States with prominent disability sector leaders who jumped on to the Consultation bandwagon, translations were a question mark. Even where translations took place, they were not available in accessible formats like in Unicode, Sign Language, Braille or talking books. The Hindi translation was converted into Unicode by Civil Society.

Nobody knows what is happening in the North East, Kerala, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, etc. One can only hope against hope that the people who were soaking in self importance on being given the ‘huge honour’ of facilitating these Consultations did not botch up the whole process. But that will be wishful thinking.

While Mr. Minister did not want a single person to be left out, the way things are going, it seems almost a huge chunk of the genuine stakeholders will be left unheard!