Satish Singh Manhas
International Disability Day or International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) is celebrated every year on 3rd of December world over. Like many other programmes, this is also a UN initiative and it was proclaimed in 1992 with the aim to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights, upbringing and well-being of persons with disabilities. But no common definition of persons with disabilities exists and still it is undecided what basically constitutes a disability or who should be considered as having a disability as individuals with similar health conditions may not be similarly disabled or share the same perception of their disability, depending on their environmental adaptations. For example, having access to technical aid, services, medication, or physical adaptation to the environment many individuals overcome their disabling conditions unlike others. In a common parlance of the term, disability involves a degree of difficulty, limitation or dependence, ranging from slight to severe physically. Disability is socially considered a stigma as around 40 percent of the disabled persons remain unmarried, a serious concern. In many cases people are reluctant to even report it. This thinking needs to go from society so that a transformative solution for inclusive development of disabled is reached at.
Since disability makes it difficult for the person to do certain activities and limits them to interact with the world around, all disabled must be provided all inclusive facilities like schooling, health, shelter within a specific social environment so that they can be brought at par with the society although in their own way. Barriers like attitudinal, physical, moral, psychological, behavioural and financial which halt their march towards self sufficiency must be addressed and government and society together can do a great service in that direction. As a result the hundreds of millions of people with disabilities who are denied required access to health, rehabilitation, support, education, housing and employment can be brought to the national and social mainstream.
Constitutionally, the persons with disabilities also fall in the category of citizens, so all rights are also available to them and the government is duty bound to come to their rescue and redressal. Safeguarding the interests of weaker sections of society, including the handicapped and mentally retarded is the bounden duty of every state and union territory as per the directive principles of the state policy so no state or union territory must differentiate in providing relief to this category of citizens. But what is happening in our country is very shocking and astonishing as well. Where, in many proactive states like Telangana provide the highest monthly pension to its disabled people amounts to Rs 3,016 a month and other states like, Andhra Pradesh provide Rs 3,000 to its 659,163 beneficiaries. Pondicherry which has 20,952 numbers of beneficiaries, the pension ranges between Rs 2,000 and Rs 3,800 per month. Even India’s most populous state Uttar Pradesh provides Rs 1,000 to its 1,117,314 beneficiaries with disability. But shocking is that out of 34 states and Union Territories in the country, only seven provide more than Rs 2,000 pension to persons with disability. These include Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, Puducherry, and Andaman & Nicobar Islands. The rest of the UTs and some states are so insensitive that they provide pension ranging from Rs 100 to Rs 300 means Rs 3 per day to its disabled’ persons for their survival which is a mockery. Mizoram tops the table of shamelessness which gives a mere Rs 100 every month under the state disability pension scheme to the 200 beneficiaries registered with it. Things are no better in the bigger and populous states like Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh where the pension amount is a meagre Rs 300. Nagaland also falls in the same category. But more worsening are the states like Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Meghalaya where the state pension amount is as low as Rs 200. Can this amount fulfil the needs of disabled in any way? Shocking! This shows the apathy towards the disabled. Moreover, all this assistance has been static in many cases for over a decade now and the respective amount needs urgent revision. What is more important at the moment is that all states and union territories must follow an equitable pension’s distribution pan-India. In papers, in order to address the problems of disabled, the Central Government enacted The Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995.
The Act provides for education, rehabilitation, employment, non-discrimination and social security to persons with disabilities. But in actual practice much is still needed to be done on the ground. In India out of the 136 Cr population, 2.90 Cr persons are ‘disabled’ which is 2.21% of the total population. Out of the total disabled, around 1.4 percent is in rural areas and the rest in urban areas. Surprisingly, in an era where ‘inclusive development’ is being emphasized as the right path towards sustainable development, focused initiatives for the welfare of disabled persons are still lacking. Although they are recognized as valuable human resources for the country, their genuine concerns are still far from redressal. So the Government must further its efforts towards establishment of an inclusive, barrier-free and rights-based society for persons with disabilities. A permanent and long term initiative must be in place to ensure progress towards improving their quality of life, and the fulfilment of the rights of the persons with disability. Promoting inclusive economic growth, full and productive employment is the need of the hour for the social, economic and political inclusion of persons with disabilities. Another important aspect, for all this to be achieved is, if a proper schooling under one roof with boarding in every district, although in some districts such facilities exist, is made available for the sizeable percentage of our differently abled population who are suffering from many types of disabilities, in their own world, together we can bring them to social and national mainstream.
Since, the Modi government is popularly acknowledged for many new and desired initiatives so, when the entire nation is celebrating Aazadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav pan India to commemorate 75th year of India’s independence, the government must announce Rs 3000 a minimum pension for all disabled pan India along with housing on the pattern of Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) as Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana for disabled (PMAY-D). If this humane work is done for the needy, unrepresented and unheard, besides a social service it will be a worship of God as well. This in addition to making all disabled an inalienable part and parcel of society will give them a feeling of social and emotional oneness but that is still a remote dream for these disabled as those who after making national and international headlines besides making India proud are ignored to such an extent that they have to do menial work to feed themselves and not to talk of a common disabled.
An example is about the cricketers winning the world cup for India by defeating more than 10 international cricket teams for blinds who had to sell “COMBS’ in trains to earn their livelihood post the world cup win. This is very horrific but it is a reality. If such treatment is meted to the star, world cup winners, the condition of rest of the specially abled who are unnoticed can be imagined. So, unless there is an urgent intervention from PMO, especially Modi Ji, all talks seem cosmetic. But we all must note one thing, today if they are from some other family, tomorrow they can be from your family day after tomorrow from my family, so on and so forth. So all must work in tandem at all levels so that houses, good schools, better hospitals with suitable environment required for their development can be built because ”Disability is not just a health problem, it is a complex phenomenon, reflecting the interaction between features of a person’s body and features of the society, it is multidimensional and the product of an interaction between an individual’s certain conditions and his or her physical, social, and attitudinal barriers. So, multidimensional approach, multilevel involvement is the need of the hour. Hope, on World Disability Day, Jammu and Kashmir Union territory leads the nation in raising pension for disabled persons to a minimum of Rs 3000 per month.
(The author is serving as Assistant Director in Forest Protection Force)
Satish Singh Manhas