Everyone agrees that the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 is a game changing legislation that has the potential to transform the lives of India’s disabled community. Why then over three years after it was passed by both Houses of Parliament, is it yet to show substantial impact? An RTI reveals the major gaps that persist. That’s the focus on #StoryOfTheWeek.
Consider this :
A checklist that gives an insight into how critical provisions of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act 2016 remain poorly implemented over three years after this path breaking legislation was passed. These are the latest findings of an RTI filed by the Disability Rights Action Group (DRAG) into the status of the RPWD Act’s implementation.
Compare this with a 2018 report released by the Disability Rights India Foundation (DRIF) in collaboration with the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) and National Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (NCRPD) and you see how little has changed. The increase is marginal, by barely two to three. The only jump, if one can call it that, is in the rise in the number of state advisory boards – from 12 to 26.
The DRAG has now written to the Office of the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities to issue “strict directions to state government and union territories for speedy Implementation of the RPWD Act 2016”.
The findings come at a time when India’s disabled community is reeling under the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown. The impact has been especially felt by people with disabilities and their families who are struggling to access basic services.
I filed the RTI on March 2020 to find out the status of the Act since the 2018 report. Only five to six states have set up advisory boards since 2018. I have now prepared a representation for the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment so they can issue directions to the states for speedy implementation. – Akeel Ahmed Ushmani, Disability Rights Advocacy Group
The findings have caused outrage among many in the disabled community. There have been strong reactions on social media. “We are 2% of the equal population of India. The government has given us the RPWD ACT 2016. Then why we are not getting our rights?”, asks Pranali Dhon.
The RTI findings become especially important when one looks at the struggles experienced during the lockdown. The lack of disability boards and committees in many states has meant that the needs of the disabled community were either not addressed at all initially or looked at in a piecemeal manner.
“The lack of disability-specific boards and committees has been felt deeply during the lockdown”, says Ushmani. “If all the states had set up a specific fund for disability it could have been used for the disabled population. COVID-19 is a lesson for us. What is the point of having a law for the disabled population when it cannot come to our aid at a critical moment?”, he asks.