New Delhi, Sept. 16: Union minister of social justice Satyanarain Jatiya today announced the setting up of a National Commission for Persons with Disabilities, but the people the panel is meant for were unhappy they had not been consulted.
“This was one of our demands. But we find it painful that the government did not consult us at all before setting it up,” said Javed Abidi, chairperson of the Disabled Rights Group (DRG).
The minister retorted: “We will consult all the groups which have been actively working with the disabled people when the time comes.” The commission will be a “larger body” with an “overall view”, Jatiya said. The nine-member panel will have a chairperson, two full-time members, a member secretary and five associate members. It will make recommendations on issues related to disabled persons and review their implementation.
“There is no time frame for setting up the commission. We will set it up as fast as possible,” added the minister.
But Abidi wasn’t satisfied. “The government did not deem it fit to consult a body which has been working so hard to get the voices of the disabled people heard and place it in the public domain,” he said.
Describing the government as “cocky”, he added this could be an electoral gimmick. “Maybe the government is looking at us as a constituency.”
India has a chief disability commissioner under the 1995 Disabilities Act, but it has not made things easier for the disabled. Last year, the DRG staged a dharna, lobbied the political high and mighty and finally went on a hunger strike to make themselves heard. They had to wait for one year for the government to bring back the office of the commissioner from Noida to Delhi. “The office was shifted from Shastri Bhavan in the heart of Delhi to the interiors of Noida, where it was difficulty for us to go to,” said Abidi.
The experiences of persons with disabilities knocking on the doors of the government have been bitter. “The government has not bothered to identify jobs for us. I have a degree in mass communications — I have been a journalist — but am not eligible for the job of a copy-writer because I am confined to a wheelchair,” Abidi complained.
At present, challenged persons even after qualifying in the civil services examinations and interviews are pushed out by the bureaucracy. “The department of personnel and training has to carry out a medical test of the successful candidates. And persons with disabilities are pushed out at this stage for being ‘medically unfit’,” said Abidi.
The DRG believes the proposed national commission will mean little for whom the people it is aimed at if the government does not consult organisations working with the disabled.