Sunday, September 5, 2010



shared for udavikkaram readers





(Rajya Sabha, August 26, 2010)

SHRIMATI BRINDA KARAT (WEST BENGAL): Sir, I call the attention of the Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment to the discrimination being faced by disabled citizens and the urgent need to put in place an appropriate administrative and legal framework to address their requirements.

SHRIMATI BRINDA KARAT (WEST BENGAL): Mr. Deputy Chairman, Sir, I thank you and also the Business Advisory Committee for accepting this Calling Attention Motion. I also thank the hon. Minister for his statement. I have had the occasion of meeting the hon. Minister with many delegations of people suffering from various disabilities, and, I have found him to be very sensitive and open to our suggestions. So, what I say today, Sir, is not a reflection on the Minister because I know he himself is committed to the rights of the disabled but the fact of the matter is that today in spite of our good intentions, in spite of our legal rights, and, in spite of the various declarations in support of the disabled, the disabled in India suffer from multiple areas of discrimination. I am not going into all those areas but what I want to raise before the House are the anomalies and flaws in both our approach and in the administrative and legal frameworks which we have, at present, to address this issue of blatant discrimination. Sir, the first discrimination starts from the numbers. If we look at the numbers of those who are accepted as disabled, it is a gross underestimation. This is because over the last so many years, in our Census calculation and statistical calculation, we have not had a proper sensitive approach to recognize disability, and, because we are not recognizing disability, we do not have the mechanism to count disability. I believe, today, because of the efforts of various organizations of the disabled and ongoing movements; even I myself had met the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, he has assured that there will be a separate column, and, therefore, I hope the counting of the disabled will be in a more comprehensive and something closer to the truth. The Minister, in his statement, says that according to the Census, there are 2.9 crore persons with disabilities. Sir, according to all estimates, it is not below 70 million people. There is a minimum of, at least, seven to eight crore people today in India who suffer from some form of disability, and, therefore, the correct numbers have to be assessed so that we can look at other aspects. If the counting is wrong, then, definitely, Sir, 1

the amount of allocation that we require, the policies that we require will also be in error.

Secondly, let us look at our Constitution, and, in fact, I have moved a Constitutional (Amendment) Bill, wherein I proposed that in articles 15(1) and 16(2) of the Constitution of India, where we talk about discrimination against any citizen on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, or, place of birth, the word ‘disability’ should also be added.

SHRIMATI BRINDA KARAT (Contd.): The State cannot discriminate against any citizen on grounds of religion or sex or caste. This is not a semantic issue, Sir. If we do not include discrimination on the basis of disability in our Constitution, then, the legal aspect of accountability of those who discriminate against the disabled will be missing. I start with the Governments; I start with the public institutions and the ingrained attitude, we look at the disabled as objects of charity or welfare. We talk about modern India. But, unfortunately, in modern India, the civil and citizens’ rights of the disabled as equal citizens are not as rights but as charity or welfare. We are not looking at that. We have so many laws which the Minister has mentioned in his statement.

But under a single law, is any body held accountable for discrimination against the disabled? I know so many cases personally, Sir, where the disabled have gone to a public place and they have been discriminated against because of architectural barriers. They cannot enter shops; they cannot use buses, cannot even enter hospitals in some cases because the hospitals are not disabled-friendly. Who is going to be held responsible for this, Sir? Therefore, within the Constitution, accept disability as an aspect of discrimination, ensure Constitutional guarantee against discrimination against disability and make the laws accountable when there is discrimination against disability.

The third point I want to make, Sir, is that we have signed a United Nations Code which looks at disability as an issue of discrimination against the rights of citizens. But all the laws in our country still look at disability as a medical problem. It is not a medical problem, Sir. It is a problem of definition of disability. The definition of disability in our laws is far behind those because you have to look at how the functions of this or that person are impaired. Don’t look at the disabled as a homogenous group. There are different types of disabilities and within the framework of universal rights of all disabled citizens, we have to look at specific needs of specific aspects of disability related to the functioning of that individual. Within that framework, I want the Minister to come out with a categorical assurance. I am glad that they have accepted the demand of the disabled citizens for a separate law instead of going in for hundred amendments to the present law. Have a separate


law, but all the other laws also must be in tune with the approach of rights of disabled citizens.

Another important point, Sir, is the multiplicity of authorities which are there today to deal with the disabled. I want to raise just one example of it, that is, the right to education. When you look at the right to education, and we have included it in the Right to Education Bill because, I believe, the Minister has accepted the demand of the disabled citizens, that is, the Education Minister has accepted the demand of the disabled citizens that the grave omission in the Right to Education Act which did not include disabled children in the Right to Education Act as part of the 25 per cent disadvantaged section is going to be removed. That anomaly is going to be removed. That is good. But the right to education must be seen as part of the general right to education which must come under the HRD Ministry. In the present system of things, we are looking at education as rehabilitation (Time-bell) Sir, please, I still have got three or four points to make.

MR. DEPUTY CHAIRMAN: No, no, please conclude.

SHRIMATI BRINDA KARAT: Sir, we are having this discussion on disability after 15 years. I have been given to understand that the issue of disabled is being raised in Parliament after 15 years. So, I have to make three or four more points, Sir.

Therefore, the anomalies which are there in the present administrative structure have to be removed. The right to education should not be considered a rehabilitation measure. Therefore, education must be shifted to the HRD ministry.

SHRIMATI BRINDA KARAT (CONTD.): And, then, the schools can be held accountable. That is so-called—I quote and unquote—‘normal schools’ which is in line with the Government’s slogan of inclusive education. How can we have inclusive education unless you have proper training, unless you have proper teacher recruitment and unless you have a much lower student-teacher ratio than what we have at present? Therefore, while supporting the slogan of inclusive education, I demand that this important issue of multiplicity of different institutions can be removed only if education as a right is included in the Right to Education Bill under the Ministry of Human Resource Development.

Sir, the other important point is, a large number of disabled people are poor. Sir, in the vast rural areas of India, if you go to a village, you will find out the terrible inhuman treatment meted out to lakhs of our disabled children, single women, and particularly, the impact of disability on women, impact of disability on those who are already socially discriminated against, like the Scheduled Caste and the Scheduled Tribe citizens, etc. It is absolutely abominable. Therefore, when we look at disability, we have to look in all our 3

programmes at affirmative actions for the poor among the disabled. Why can’t we give BPL cards to all the disabled citizens? You can leave out those who do not require it. We must do that. We must ensure free ration, subsidised ration, free health treatment, free education, etc. and it is only when these universal rights are accessible to our disabled poor that we can think of a society where the slogan of equity is actually put into practice.

Sir, at the same time, I am surprised that the Minister has not mentioned the Tenth and the Eleventh Plan directions to the Government. Sir, they have said that three per cent of employment has to be for disabled. You say that you have done it. What are the figures? You say that you have included the private sector. What are the figures? Please give us the figures. The Eleventh Plan has directed that three per cent of all funds must be given as a component for the rights of the disabled. Where is it?

MR. DEPUTY CHAIRMAN: Please conclude. There are eight more speakers.

SHRIMATI BRINDA KARAT: Sir, I am concluding. It is only ten minutes.

MR. DEPUTY CHAIRMAN: You are entitled to only seven minutes. You know about rules. I need not remind you.

SHRIMATI BRINDA KARAT: This direction of the Tenth and the Eleventh Plans of three per cent component in allocations, I am sorry to say, according to my information, is not implemented at all. And, why is it not implemented?

As far as budgeting aspect goes, just as we have gender budgeting and we have desegregation of facts and data, similarly, Sir, we need to know how much of the percentage is actually being given to the component for the disabled and after that, we can do it. (Time-bell) Sir, in conclusion, I hope, these anomalies which are there in the Constitutional, legal and administrative structures which provide the worst type of barriers for the disabled to access their rights will be removed. Identification of the disabled must be made much more simpler and a universal identity card must be provided so that disabled citizens can access his or her rights anywhere in the country. Thank you. (Ends)


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