DNIS News Network - A special meeting of people in the disability sector of Mumbai was organised by Disabled Rights Group (D.R.G.), in Mumbai on 30 June 2005.
Subhash Datrange, who convened the meeting on behalf of D.R.G., opened the meeting listing the various issues confronting disabled people and said that even after a decade of the enactment of The Disability Act, there is very little to show for it. Not more than three to five per cent disabled children are at school. Barrier free environment and access are still a far away dream, he lamented.
The Ministry of Social Justice Empowerment (M.S.J.E.) which has disability as one of its subjects, has failed in its mandate. Disability is not one of their priorities. The review of Ninth Five Year Plan carried out by the Steering Committee for Social Sector showed that the M.S.J.E. could not utilise the funds allocated to its Disability Division and return as much as Rs.178 crore out of the budget allocation of Rs. 954 crore (19%). No new and innovative schemes were launched during the last one decade. The Ministry is merely implementing only a few age old schemes, viz., Grants in Aid, etc. On the draft United Nations (U.N.) Convention on Disability M.S.J.E. had adopted a negative posture at the beginning. Disabled people were not consulted when finalising India’s stand on the Convention, Datrange said.
A proposal for creation of a separate Ministry for disability sector was put forth at this juncture by him for consideration. It was favoured by many participants. However, they emphasised that it should be only a Nodal Ministry, and subjects such as education, employment etc. should continue to be with the specialised ministries, as at present.
It was argued that the proposed Ministry should concentrate on employment in the Private Sector. The government has not formulated any schemes under Section 41 of the Act regarding Incentives, yet. The jobs must be identified first before provision of reservation can be implemented. The participants wanted punitive action to be taken against non-performance on the part of government officials. Ironically, such action was suggested only against N.G.Os earlier.
Responding to the counter proposal that disability division of M.S.J.E. should be transferred to the Ministry of Human Resource Development (M.H.R.D.), members observed that the M.H.R.D. was overloaded and the disability sector will be swallowed up, it was feared. One of the members stated that M.H.R.D. was in fact doing a better job and that the scheme should therefore be transferred to this Ministry.
One opinion was that a separate Ministry for Disability would be a wasteful expenditure as no results are guaranteed even after such a change. Creating a new Ministry for Disability issues should be the long-term plan and in the short run they should strongly take to activism, it was opined by some. Participants demanded that the National Disability Commission should be revived.
Other points made at the Meeting were that the rural disabled are neglected both at planning stages and during programme implementation; vocational training programmes must be market driven; parents do not get admissions for their disabled child at school because the State Government (Maharashtra) has not issued even such simple circular to this effect, ridiculous as it may sound; and, nomination of disabled persons to the Parliament and State Legislative Assemblies, on the lines of nomination of Anglo-Indians, be made.
The meeting was presided over by Dr. Rejender T. Vyas, National Association for the Blind.