Will the Modi govt go beyond slogans and pass the Disability Bill?

Martand Jha

It has been more than three years since the disability bill came out after a prolonged demand from various disability rights groups but still the bill is yet to see the light of that day when it becomes a law.

The Rights of Persons with Disability Bill was drafted in 2012 and after being dragged on in both the houses of parliament from session after session, the Modi government which came into power with an absolute majority sent the bill to the parliamentary standing committee in September 2014 and its report has also come out nearly an year ago but still the bill has not been passed.

The draft for this bill has been modified many times and both UPA and NDA has been promising to pass this bill which if comes into effect will increase the reservation for Persons with Disability from 3% to 5% in educational institutions and government jobs. The bill also includes the number of sub-categories in the PwD category being increased from 5 to 18.

But the question is why this bill is being dragged year after year while many other bills which were placed later in the parliament after disability bill have been passed. Political parties like BJP and Congress included in their election manifestos that once elected to power they will pass the bill in order to ‘empower’ the differently-abled population of this country.

India is a home to the largest differently-abled population in the world with more than 26.8 million people suffering various kinds of disabilities according to 2011 census. This is the official record that is available with Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, but one can imagine that these numbers might be quiet smaller, considering how accurately the census is done.

Also the fact that many children from poor background have been forced by human traffickers to work as beggars in public places like temples, tourist spots, railway stations etc and in public transports, of which the biggest example is Indian Railways where anyone who travels by train would come across many instances where persons with disability go on begging from one coach of the train to another.

This is a very grave situation and this further adds to the gravity of the matter because no one is taking accountability for these inhumane activities and why this business by mafias are going on. Where are all the political leaders who talk big on various issues but turn a ‘blind eye’ to this question. Remaining silent on this issue is not a solution to this problem and one can be very sure that these people who are forced to ‘beg’ by mafias are not included in 26.8 million population of differently abled in 2011 census with few exceptions, if at all.

There have been various protests by disability right groups to demand for this bill to be passed. In response to their demands, the then UPA government ordered lathi-charge on these protestors who were protesting outside the residence of Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi in Delhi.

One can imagine the brutality of the government in power when it ordered to attack its differently abled people just because they were demanding for their rights, they were even unable to run away to save themselves from being lathi charged by the police. Acts like these have put the humanity to shame but the disability rights movement has been a long battle which is still waiting for the bill to be passed.

It clearly shows the lack of ‘political will’ by the political system in all because for these political parties, differently abled population is not a ‘vote-bank’ for them. The ideal case should had been to provide reservations for differently abled people at the first place but in our country the persons with disability were provided reservation at last after providing reservations to SC, ST and OBC categories.

No one is challenging the reservation given to the minorities but the only question is why so much delay when it comes to differently abled population, who want the support of the whole society because anyone from us can become differently abled if we are caught in an accident.

Disability cuts across caste, class and religion and therefore for a democratically elected government like in India, the sufferings of its large chunk of population should matter and political class should rise above petty politics to take this issue with concern and find solutions to the existing problems.

The parliament is sitting for its budget session this month and the differently abled people who be looking at this session in the hope that the parliament’s will pass the bill in this session.

This is a chance for the Modi government to deliver on its promises which it made in 2014 election manifesto, the government should not let this chance go and if they succeed in doing so then they will actually put the definition of democracy into practice which according to Abraham Lincoln is “of the people, for the people and by the people”.