As Mumbai revelled, the disabled marched for their rights
While the rest of the city geared up to welcome the New Year with revelry and celebrations, a pall of gloom hung over the disability community last evening, with members taking to the streets to express their anguish over the delay in the introduction of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill in the Rajya Sabha, which activists claim was drafted four years ago
“It has been the disability community’s goal to see the replacement of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995 with the fresh bill, but there has been no breakthrough. Several individuals came together and worked so hard to draft the new law, which was completed over four years ago,” said Parul Kumtha, secretary of the Forum for Autism.
A candlelight vigil was held last evening around 5 pm at Shivaji Park in Dadar. “It has been more than a year since the new draft of the proposed bill was uploaded on the website of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment,” added Kumtha.
Despite an assurance from the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment that the bill would be introduced in the winter session of the Parliament, their hopes of seeing it being passed in 2013 were dashed with the abrupt ending of the session on December 18. “The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill was given a green signal by the Lok Sabha and is now pending in front of the Rajya Sabha,” she rued. The disability community is now in the process of approaching major political parties to gain support for their cause. The candlelight vigil was the first step in this campaign.
The final draft of the bill attempts to bring India in line with the understanding of the rights of persons with disabilities as captured in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), ratified by India. The new bill states that at least 5 per cent of employees hired by an employer should be disabled, failing which the employer shall be required to pay an amount equivalent to the salaries of the employees, which will be added to his taxable income. This will allow disabled persons to have higher employment options.