By Dr. Satyavan Saurabh
The Constitution of India is the protector of equality, freedom, justice, and dignity for all of us citizens and it emphasizes equality of the Divyang in society. In the current years, the attitude of the society towards the disabled has changed rapidly. It is also true that if disabled persons get equal opportunities and effective rehabilitation then they can lead a better quality of life.
According to the Census of India 2001, 2.19 crore people in the country are living with a disability, which is 2.13% of the total population. Of these, 75% of disabled persons live in rural areas, and 49% of disabled persons are literate and 34% are employed. Recently people with disabilities are entitled to equal benefits and rest, hence strengthening their social status and entitling them to equal benefits in the Scheduled Castes for education or employment.
Article 41 of our Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) states that the state shall, within the limits of its economic capacity, make effective provision for work, right to education, and public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness, and disability . The subject of relief for the disabled and unemployed is specified in the State List of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution.
Earlier the Delhi High Court had decided in 2012 that �people with disabilities are also socially backward, and therefore, entitled to equal benefits given to SC / ST. In educational institutions across the country, when SC / ST candidates get a certain percentage of exemption to qualify for admission, the same exemption will now also apply to candidates with disabilities.
The decision came before the High Court in the 2012 case when a university allowed a 10% concession in the minimum eligibility requirement for SC / ST candidates and 5% concession for disabled applicants. The High Court ruled it as discriminatory.
As such, without providing proper education to people with disabilities, there can be no meaningful enforcement of their rights “under the Constitution and then in the 1995 law to provide equal opportunities to the disabled and protect their rights”. It becomes the duty of the Union, states, as well as Union Territories, should also take up this matter.
Now the type of disabled has been increased from 7 to 21. The act encompasses many disabilities, including mental illness, autism, spectrum disorders, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, chronic neurological conditions, speech and language disabilities, thalassemia, hemililia, sickle cell disease, deafness. Blindness, acid attack sufferers, and Parkinson’s disease that were largely ignored in the earlier act. In addition, the government is authorized to notify any other category of specified disability.
It advocates reservation for people with disabilities from 3% to 4% in government jobs and 3% to 5% in higher education institutions. Every child with benchmark disability between the ages of 6 and 18 will have the right to free education. Government-funded educational institutions as well as government-accredited institutions must provide inclusive education.
Emphasis has been laid on ensuring access to public buildings within the stipulated time frame with the Accessible India campaign. The Chief Commissioner and State Commissioners for Persons with Disabilities will act as regulatory bodies and grievance redressal agencies, monitoring the implementation of the Act. A separate national and state fund will be created to provide financial assistance to persons with disabilities.
Accessible for the handicapped in India, India has emerged as Ayan Bhisanjivani, this campaign will enable persons with disabilities to have access to equal opportunity and participate fully in all aspects of living independently. This campaign is aimed at increasing the accessibility of appropriate environment, transport system, and information and communication ecosystem for the handicapped.
Many think that individuals selected under reserved categories, especially those under different Abled categories, are not meritorious candidates and their selection reduces the quality of the institutions in which they are selected. If this mentality persists, then we should expect systemic violations of disability reservations to continue. The 2016 law called for raising the quota for the disabled from 3% to 5% and envisaged appointing them for the private sector as well. Today it is important for the most and in the interest of the country that this important segment of the population should not be left out of social and economic progress.
Our view is that the High Court is correct in this aspect. The High Court has correctly held that the differently-abled are also socially backward, and therefore, at least, they are entitled to the same benefits as the SC / ST candidates. Along with this, the facilities of the disabled should be reviewed every five years under the National Policy. An implementation document should be prepared and a roadmap should be prepared for five years, which should be concluded at the national level conference. The government should encourage special incentives on special policy for the disabled from state governments and union territories for state policy and action plan.