New Delhi, Jan. 14: The government has decided to simplify the process of issuing disability certificates through a slew of steps that would among other things relieve disadvantaged people in rural areas of the trouble of making long, cumbersome trips.
The social justice ministry has decided to let doctors at primary health centres issue disability certificates to those with visible handicaps such as blindness, amputations and paralysis of limbs.
At present, a person with disabilities has to travel to district headquarters to get such a certificate from a medical board comprising a civil surgeon and an expert on disability.
Ministry sources said the plan would be of great help to the countrys 2.19 crore disabled, including those with mental illnesses, who make up 2.13 per cent of Indias population.
The disability certificate is crucial for a disadvantaged person as it makes him or her eligible to apply for facilities, concessions and benefits under schemes of governments or non-government organisations.
Disabled people, especially those from rural areas, had been finding it very difficult to get a disability certificate as they have to make trips to district headquarters. It has come to our notice that many disabled people in rural areas have been deciding not to get the certificate because of the cumbersome process involved. Hence we have decided to simplify the procedure, said an official with the social justice ministry.
But those with complicated disabilities not easily discernible and which need to be assessed scientifically will still have to get the certificate from the district medical boards.
These include non-visible locomotor disabilities, cerebral palsy, hearing impairment, low vision, mental retardation, autism and mental illnesses.
Certain disabilities like hearing problems and autism cannot be assessed by a general physician. They (people with such disabilities) will have to go and get their problems certified by doctors at higher levels, the official said.
But even in the case of people with such non-apparent disabilities the government has decided to make the process of getting a disability certificate easier.
It has decided to fix particular days in a week or month for issuing the certificates. It has also decided to hold camps for issuing the certificates at the taluka or block level.
The government is also planning to fix a time frame for issuing the certificates once an application is submitted with the district medical board.
In case the board does not have a government psychiatrist or a clinical psychologist or a paediatrician, it will be able to use the service of a private practitioner.
The government has decided to make it the responsibility of principals/headmasters of schools to arrange for disability certificates for students with disabilities. Under the new plan, the district medical board has to visit a school for evaluation of a students disability on the written request of the schools authorities.
While the governments move has come in for praise, many NGO activists voiced fears that it could lead to massive corruption.