Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology St. Joseph’s College, Jakhama
December 3rd is observed as the International day of Persons with Disability. The year 2017 is especially relevant as India passed its Rights of Persons with Disability Act on the same year and with the many provisions in the Act, we can expect for the betterment of the Differently abled sections of our society. However it has been a long and continuous movement for these people. In the past century, differently abled people were neglected, worst of treated as an outcaste in the society. Many were disowned by families from early on or kept hushed up in the family, denying even the basic human rights to them. Our constitution itself denies discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth, but we find no mention of prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of disabilities. In the West, awareness and movements for rights of person with disability took an effective course after World War II, when thousands of soldiers returning home, were left with several kinds of disabilities as they garnered immense public support. When the United Nations announced 1982-1993 as ‘The Decade of Disabled Persons’, it marked another shift in the entire debate on the goals of rehabilitation. After a series of petitions and protests, the Government of India passed the Persons With Disabilities Act, 1995 (or PWD Act. The Rehabilitation Council of India was set up by the Government of India in 1986 to regulate and standardize training policies and programs for the rehabilitation of persons with disabilities. The very next year saw the Mental Health Act (1987) come into existence. The United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2006. The Union Government came up with a National Policy on Disability in the year 2006. India signed and ratified the UN convention in 2007. By 2016, the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2016 was passed by both houses of Parliament. With the Rights of Persons with Disability Act coming into force in April 2017, Supreme Court directed all the states and Union Territories to take immediate steps to comply with the requirements of the Disability Act and file compliance reports.
In the case of Nagaland, People with Disabilities have remained ignored and marginalized with their rights violated by the state Government and society at large. Even after more than two decades of the Persons with Disability Act coming into force in the country in 1995, there is no significant action taken for the upliftment of this section of our society. According to the 2011 census data we have a long way to go and it is perhaps another chance to rectify this negligence by the State Government by ensuring that SC directives are complied with strictly and immediately notifying steps to be taken to identify and certify persons with disabilities.
It is disheartening to know that Nagaland was supposed to have at least 3 District Disability Rehabilitation Centre (DDRC) (in Dimapur, Tuensang and Mon each). There is only one DDRC functioning (in Dimapur) that too in a very unsatisfactory way.
In the new Rights of Persons with Disability Act 2016, the number of disabilities listed has gone up from the existing 7 in the 1995 Act to 21, all the more posing a challenge for the government to come up with a better system than the presently practiced process of issuing Disability Certificates to Person With Disabilities which is in dire need of a review.
Regarding education, the Act states that appropriate government and local authorities should endeavor that all educational institutions funded or recognised by them provide inclusive education to the children with disabilities which includes things like admission without discrimination, providing reasonable accommodation, ensuring that the education to persons who are blind or deaf or both is imparted in the most appropriate languages and modes and means of communication etc. The act also provides special provisions for persons with benchmark disabilities between age of six and eighteen years with free education in a neighbourhood school, or in a special school, of his choice.
In terms of skill development and employment, the act calls for formulation of schemes and programmes. It also deals with social security, health, rehabilitation and recreation. Special provisions for persons with benchmark disability are also given in higher education and government employment too.
For the purpose of providing speedy trial, the State Governments have also been asked to specify for each district, a Court of Session to be a Special Court to try the offences under this Act.
This Act also requires that every State Government shall, by notification, constitute a body to be known as the State Advisory Board on disability to exercise the powers conferred on, and to perform the function assigned to it.
Finally, the Act requires the state government to, by notification make rules for carrying out the provisions of this act, not later than six months from the date of commencement of the Act. It has been already 9 months, since the Act has come into force, yet no notifications has been made by the state government. It is time to recognise the rights and status that the Differently-able sections of our society has been eluded with. Society needs to understand that they are as important and capable as any other human and they can contribute as a pool of human resource for the development of the states and the nation as a whole.