The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Three per cent too steep a handicap
- Despite Central prods, state departments drag feet over job quota for disabled

Embarrassed by repeated reminders from the Centre, the social welfare department and the office of the commissioner for persons with disabilities in Bengal has asked principal secretaries of state departments to identify and reserve three per cent jobs for persons with disabilities.

At a state coordination committee meeting last year, it was decided that identification of jobs would be completed by November 30, 2002. The office of the commissioner has not heard from these departments since then, despite a reminder in February. The commissioner’s office had even observed in the letter: “As no development in this matter has been communicated to us and as the government of India has been pressing hard for an Action Taken Report on the statutory obligation, we feel highly embarrassed.” Social welfare department principal secretary Jaya Dasgupta, too, had reminded the departments of this “statutory obligation”.

None of the state departments has been able to comply with the statutory obligation of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995, in providing three per cent reserved posts in all establishments. This includes state government offices, public sector undertakings and local/autonomous bodies under the state government.

The Left Front government has even failed to provide a satisfactory answer to repeated inquiries by the ministry of social justice and empowerment. Worse, most departments are yet to even identify and reserve these posts. The Centre has already issued guidelines for identification of posts for persons with disabilities. And even the state labour department has issued a notification (no. 240 EMP, dated 20.8.01) and identified the 12th, 42nd and 72nd posts in its 100-point roster to be kept reserved for persons with disabilities.

It is the statutory obligation for the government to identify and reserve certain posts (not less than three per cent) for persons suffering from blindness or low vision, hearing impairment, locomotor disability or cerebral palsy in each establishment. The commissioner’s office also sent the government of India guidelines on job identification, prepared by an expert body, to all the state government departments. “But we have not heard from any department so far,” admitted a senior officer from the Pratibandhi Ayog.

It is, therefore, hardly a surprise that there are frequent visits and frantic calls to the office of the commissioner for disabilities by “differently-abled” persons desperately looking for employment opportunities. But finding none, or finding opportunities that are few and far between. “None of the departments are responding well,” rued principal secretary Dasgupta.

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