Empower persons with disabilities in India

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QuestionTo empower persons with disabilities in India, it is imperative to shift from a charity based approach to a rights-based approach. Analyse. – 18 December 2021

Answer According to the 2011 census, the disabled population in India is approximately 26.8 million, which is 2.21% of the total population of India. Despite the size of the population, policies in India have failed to address the infrastructural, institutional and behavioral barriers for persons with disabilities.

To  resolve  the  issues  and  challenges  related  to  persons  with  disability,  the  government  of  India  came up with a landmark act on disability – The Rights of Persons With Disabilities Act, 2016.  The  act  increased  the  number  of  disabilities  from  7  to  21.  It  also  increased  the  quota  of  reservation for  persons  with  disabilities  from  3%  to  4%  in  government  jobs  and  3%  to  5%  in  higher education institutions.

Despite  the  noble  intent  of  the  act,  the  act  has  not  been  able  to  yield  desired  changes.  This  is because  policy interventions in  India  have  been  followed  ‘charity  based approach’, which  has  the  following limitations:

  • Under this approach lies a power relationship between givers and receivers where the givers voluntarily fulfills the need of the beneficiaries. This limits the choice and benefits for the receivers.
  • The approach  gives  an  impression  that  the  problem  has  been  solved  by  rolling  out  doles,  without altering/modifying  the fundamental (economic, political, social and bureaucratic)  structure, which is the root cause of the problem.
  • In India,  the  statistics  point  out  the  lack  of  disability  prevention  orientation in  the  state  sponsored  policies  and  schemes  in    This  ignorance stems  from  the  society’s  and  state’s  attitude towards the persons with disability.

Therefore it is high time for state to move away from the ‘charity-based approach’ to the ‘rights based approach’: 

  • Rights based approach brings a new progressive paradigm especially for those disabilities that have so  far  been  neglected  and  marginalized  by  making  access  to  social  security  not  as  a  ‘doles’ but as rights.
  • It makes a commitment to its people with disabilities and mandates public institutions and its officials to protect, fulfill and promote all rights of all persons with disabilities.
  • So far, disability issues have managed to occupy only a small place in the minds of policy makers and decision makers. The rights based approach brings the required attitude and institutional changes in the bureaucracy.

Further,  there  is  an  urgent  need  for  political  will  to  ensure  that  disability  is  included  across  all  policies,  across  all  Ministries  and  Departments,  and  a  time  frame  is  fixed  to  make  our  facilities,  schools, colleges, public places, etc. accessible for all people with disabilities and adequate resources  are allocated.

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