India has long way ahead to empower disabled: survey

December 5th, 2008 - 7:24 pm ICT by IANS  

Bangalore, Dec 5 (IANS) Almost 95 percent of India’s disabled population has no access to education, employment opportunities and health care services, said a survey Friday, a day ahead of a regional conference on disability in Asia here. The survey on the condition of the disabled in India was carried out in all 28 states and union territories by the Commonwealth Foundation, an inter-governmental organisation, and NGO Leonard Cheshire Disability, in association with many local NGOs.

“The survey brings to light some shocking revelations. In spite of laws in force in India, the condition of the disabled population is pitiable, having been denied of basic rights like education, health care facilities and livelihood opportunities,” said Javed Abidi, president of the New-Delhi based Disabled Rights Group and secretary of the Commonwealth Disability Forum, a wing of the Commonwealth Foundation.

“Huge gap between laws and implementation is blocking empowerment of disabled,” Abidi, who had vigorously campaigned for the passage of Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection and Full Participation) Act, 1995, told IANS.

The Commonwealth Foundation and the Leonard Cheshire Disability are organising a three-day conference, starting here Saturday, on Disability in Commonwealth Asia. The conference takes place three days after the International Day for Persons with Disabilities.

The conference will see the participation of 40 disabled right activists representing India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Brunei and Bangladesh.

The meet will press Asian governments to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Only India and Bangladesh have so far ratified the convention.

In India, apart from the Disability Act of 1995, the other two prominent legislations aimed at protecting the disabled are Rehabilitation Council of India Act, 1992, and the National Trust for Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities Act, 1999.

“All these laws are important landmarks and are significant steps in the direction of ensuring equal opportunities for people with disabilities and their full participation in the nation building. But the saddest part is that the laws are not being implemented properly by government agencies,” rued Abidi, who is himself wheelchair-bound.

Indian rights activists attending the meet will press for the formation of a separate ministry for disability in the country for proper implementation of laws, the organisers said.

“Our other two basic demands that are already enshrined in the 11th Five Year Plan (2007-12) of India are that each ministry have a clear cut plan on disability and each ministry allocate three percent resources on disability issues,” said K.R. Rajendra, regional representative of Leonard Cheshire Disability.

India is home to 60 million disabled people. Of them, 48 percent is visually impaired, 28 percent movement impaired, 14 percent mentally disabled and 10 percent hearing and speech impaired, states a recent report titled “People with Disabilities in India: From Commitments to Outcomes” prepared by the World Bank in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 2006, and opened for signature in March 2007. The Convention aims to ensure that people with disabilities enjoy human rights on an equal basis with others.

“The convention is an important instrument in taking disability into the area of human rights and recognising there are many social barriers and prejudices against persons with disabilities,” Mark Collins, director of Commonwealth Foundation, told IANS in an e-mail from London.

Some of the key issues to be discussed at the conference include ‘Disability - Global and Regional Scenario’, ‘Ratification to Implementation - Challenges and Progress to Date’ and ‘Ratification and Implementation - Role of Civil Society’

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