disability-rights-in-india

It seems quite ironic that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) assign a high priority to prevent and overcoming disability, while the Union Budget for 2020-21 allocated a meager amount of Rs 9500 crore for senior citizens and persons with disabilities.

Significance

Accessibility to the physical, social, economic and cultural environment, to health and education and to information and communication is important in enabling persons with disabilities to fully enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Constitutional provisions related to Disability

  1. Article 15(1) of the Constitution enjoins on the Government not to discriminate against any citizen of India (including disabled) on the ground of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
    1. Article 15 (2) States that no citizen (including the disabled) shall be subjected to any disability, liability, restriction or condition on any of the above grounds in the matter of their access to shops, public restaurants, hotels, and places of public entertainment, etc.
  2. Article 17: No person including the disabled irrespective of his belonging can be treated as untouchable. It would be an offense punishable in accordance with law as provided.
  3. Every person has his/her life and liberty guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution and it includes Disabled too.
  4. Article 41 of DPSP - The State shall make effective provision for securing the right to work, to education and to public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness, and disablement.

SDGs and Disability

Of the world’s population, 15% live with some form of disability.  

  • Goal 10 strives to reduce inequality within and among countries by empowering and promoting the social, economic and political inclusion of all, including persons with disabilities.
  • The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol was adopted on 13 December 2006 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
  • It adopts a broad categorization of persons with disabilities and reaffirms that all persons with all types of disabilities must enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms. 
  • India has signed and ratified the convention.

The link between disability, loss of employment and impoverishment in rural India

India has the largest concentration of persons with disabilities who face multiple vulnerabilities and deprivations as the majority population continue to live in poverty. 

  • The central argument is that disabilities are likely to rise; they are associated with loss of long duration of employment causing a rise in poverty.
  • Data about poverty in disabled
    • The additional costs of disability increase poverty as the poverty rate amongst households with disabled members increases from 18 percent to 34 percent
    • Poor households with disabled members fall seven percent below the poverty line on average when the cost of disability is ignored.

Legislations for disabled persons

  1. Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016
    1. The Act replaces the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995. 
    2. It fulfills the obligations to the United National Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), to which India is a signatory.  
    3. Disabilities covered: The types of disabilities have been increased from existing 7 to 21.
    4. Rights and entitlements: 
      1. Additional benefits such as reservation in higher education (not less than 5%), government jobs (not less than 4 %), reservation in the allocation of land, poverty alleviation schemes (5% allotment), etc. have been provided for persons with benchmark disabilities and those with high support needs.
      2. Every child with a benchmark disability between the age group of 6 and 18 years shall have the right to free education.
    5. For strengthening the Prime Minister's Accessible India Campaign, stress has been given to ensure accessibility in public buildings (both Government and private) in a prescribed time-frame.
    6. Guardianship
      1. The Act provides for the grant of guardianship by District Court under which there will be a joint decision – making between the guardian and the persons with disabilities.
    7. Establishment of Authorities
      1. Broad-based Central & State Advisory Boards on Disability are to be set up to serve as apex policy-making bodies at the Central and State level.
    8. Penalties for offenses
    9. Special Courts will be designated in each district to handle cases concerning violation of rights of PwDs.
  2. The Mental Health Act, 1987
    1. Mentally ill persons are entitled to the right to be admitted, treated and cared for in a psychiatric hospital or psychiatric nursing home.
  3. The Rehabilitation Council of India Act, 1992
    1. This Act provides guarantees so as to ensure the good quality of services rendered by various rehabilitation personnel.
  4. The National Trust for the welfare of persons with autism, cerebral palsy, mental retardation and multiple disabilities act, 1999 for the purpose of the benefit of the disabled.

Government initiatives

  1. Accessible India Campaign: Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD) has launched the Accessible India Campaign (Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan) as a nation-wide Campaign for achieving universal accessibility for Persons with Disabilities (PwDs). 
  2. Indira Gandhi National Disability Pension Scheme (IGNDPS): It aims to assure a respectful life financial assistance are provided to severe and multi-disabled persons who are living below the poverty line.
  3. Deendayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme (DDRS):- Under the Scheme, funds for the welfare of persons with disabilities are provided to the nongovernmental organizations for projects like special schools for disabled, Early Intervention Centres for Disabled and Rehabilitation of Leprosy Cured Persons, etc.
  4. The Rehabilitation Council of India is responsible for creating experts to work with persons with disabilities.
  5. National Institutions (NIs):- The Ministry supports seven autonomous National Institutes which provide rehabilitation services and with the overall objective of providing rehabilitation services for different types of disabilities.
  6. Assistance to Disabled Persons for Purchase/Fitting of Aids and Appliances (ADIP):- Under the scheme, aids/appliances are distributed to needy persons with disabilities.
  7. The Institute of Sign Language: It is an autonomous center of the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), Delhi which aims to promote the use of Indian Sign Language as an educational model for deaf students at primary, secondary and higher education levels.
  8. The National Handicapped Finance and Development Corporation (NHFDC) provides concessional credit to persons with disabilities for setting up income-generating activities for self-employment.
  9. Income Tax Concessions: The Income Tax Act allows deductions from gross total income, before the levy of tax, if medical expenditure has been incurred on the treatment of a differently-abled person under Sections 80DD and 80U of the Income Tax Act.

Concerns: 

  • Non-inclusion: The disabled persons come under the care group of the govt. 's development agenda and not under the aspirational group. 
  • The Accessible India Campaign (AIC): It is focusing only on urban areas and more money should be allocated towards schemes for a rural disabled population so they have better education and employment opportunities. 
    • Lack of a financial framework has made it defunct.
  • Ignoring the newly enacted Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016: The 2020 Union budget allocates around Rs 251 crore towards the implementation of the 1995 Act, which only covered seven disabilities and not 21 as mentioned under the new Act. 
    • A National Fund for implementation of the Act of 2016  lacks budgetary allocations.
  • GST on aids: Goods and Service Tax (GST) is applied to aids and appliances used by persons with disabilities, and there has been no tax exemption for them.
  • Ignoring research: National Institute for Inclusive and Universal Design has seen a mere allocation of Rs 1 lakh.
  • Indira Gandhi National Disability Pension Scheme (IGNDPS): a small increase of Rs. 50 crore from 2019-20 (BE) will not do justice to the aspirations of persons with disabilities for an adequate standard of living. 
  • Ignoring the CRPD committee recommendations to compensate for the additional costs of disability as well as ensuring an adequate standard of living.
  • The specific allocation by the Department of Health and Family Welfare sees a decreasing trend in this year’s budget. 
    • The majority of budget allocation has gone to Psychiatric Institutions but there is a lack of transition plan for persons with psychosocial disabilities to live in the community on an equal basis with others.
  • Lack of data: The Department of School Education has an inclusive education component under the Samagra Shiksha Abhiyan. However, disaggregated data for the current year is not yet available. This is a key issue in ensuring accountability and monitoring.

Way forward

Recommendations of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The committee has specifically made recommendations for resource allocations. They are as follows:

  1. An action plan for implementation of the convention and the legislation in the country.
  2. Adequate resources for the removal of barriers and inclusive information for enabling the participation of persons with disabilities
  3. Allocation of financial resources to ensure inclusion in basic public services and support for all children with disabilities
  4. To arrive at a de-institutionalization plan
  5. Provision of sign language interpreter services
  6. Accessibility of infrastructure in rural areas
  7. Entitlements to cover disability-related extra costs, disability pensions
  • The procedure to avail customs duty relaxation/exemption on the goods for persons with disabilities should be linked with self-declaration to mitigate hardships caused in availing such as exemptions/relaxations. 
  • Persons with disabilities should be given a 0.5 percent benefit in interest similar to that given to senior citizens on account of disability-related costs and should not be denied health and life insurance.
  • Proper funds should be allocated for the implementation of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016. 
  • GST should be completely removed on goods used by persons with disabilities as it imposes a high cost on products. 
  • The income tax ceiling for people with disabilities and those with dependents with disabilities should be increased to Rs 5 lakh. 
    • Increase in 80U exemption from Rs 75,000 for people with less than 75% disabilities and Rs 1,25,000 for people with over 75% disabilities to Rs 1,50,000 and Rs 3,00,000 respectively. 
    • Increase in deduction on 80D from Rs 50,000 per dependent to Rs 1,00,000 per dependent.
    • A database of taxpayers availing 80U deductions must be maintained. This will throw light on the number of taxpayers who have a Disability. 
    • A deduction of up to Rs 40,000 is allowed for the treatment of specified ailments such as thalassemia. This should be increased to the actual expenses or at least Rs 1 lakh.
    • The list must be updated to align with the RPWD Act and ailments such as multiple sclerosis must be also recognized for such exemptions.

To conclude, it is time that the Government comes up with an action plan with financial commitments involving the sectoral Ministries and Departments as recommended by the CRPD committee in order to “Make the Right Real” for persons with disabilities.

Also read: Fundamental Rights And Fundamental Duties

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