His Excellency Shri Pranab Mukherjee
Hon’ble President of India
Ref: 135/dwab/2012 Dated: 4th November 2012
Sub: Right to equality for persons with disabilities — a proposal for constitutional recognition — a humble submission for expeditious action-regarding:
Me, on behalf of the disabled community in consultation with several other organisations and like-minded individuals, hereby submit the following few lines for your kind enough consideration and request you with humility to do the needful in the direction of providing constitutional remedy to the historic injustice inflicted upon the citizens with disabilities in our land of rich heritage and culture of co-existence:
As his Excellency might be fully aware, nearly Three Crore Indians — 3% of our population — are officially counted as people suffering from various disabilities, visual-impairment, hearing-impairment and other locomotor disabilities in particular. Ironically enough, a large proportion of this population suffers gross negligence in the hands of our public institutions. It is now estimated that nearly Fifteen Million visually-impaired and around Sixty-four Million other disabled have been subjected to the cruelties of daily life, and almost all of them are living without basic amenities such as food, decent clothing, a shelter of their own and minimum education. At a time our policy echelons are busy ensuring human rights for other marginalised groups, SCs, STs and Women, here are the minuscule minority who live away in a shear silence a life that falls below the standards any civilisation can ever think of.
We hope his Excellency would agree with us in a candid admission that the socio-economic backwardness of persons with disabilities in our country stems from nowhere but our own constitution that fails to make any meaningful provision for the rights of this scattered community. While Articles 14, 15 and 16 of the Constitution took extra-care to ensure the right of equality for all citizens in India, with enough safeguards for such marginalised sections as SCs, STs and OBCs through affirmative policy in education and employment, persons with disabilities have been conveniently forsakening this thwarted war of vote-bank politics. Look at, for example, the speed with which Governments in the recent past have moved swiftly and brought about 27% reservation for OBCs in education and employment through the constitutional Amendment, and the same swiftness that can be seen in the present regime’s attempt to provide 33% reservation for women through another Constitutional Amendment. Persons with disabilities at times really feel let down in the present political climate where every community with a sizeable Vote-bank and social capital is frequently showered with all policy concessions, whereas, persons with disabilities, who are a scattered minority at best (with very little advantage for commanding vote-bank manoeuvring in a given place), are never taken seriously by our majaritarian democracy. Consequently, the real concerns of this genuinely deprived community hardly get any attention, whatsoever.
The depiction briefly outlined above may give you an impression that the signatories of this letter are unaware of the recent initiatives being undertaken by the Governments in favour of persons with disabilities, which we wish to clarify in unequivocal terms in the following lines with as much precision as possible:
The socio-economic deprivation of persons with disabilities and a well-found recognition that this deprivation is due largely to lack of constitutional safeguards is neither entirely new nor has been hidden from the ruling regimes of post-independent India. The Government of India under the leadership of Sri Rajiv Gandhi set up a committee to consider legislation for the physically challenged. Headed by Shri Baharul Islam, a distinguished parliamentarian at that time, the Committee was asked inter alia to work out the scope, objectives and general scheme of legislation for persons with disabilities covering various aspects of prevention, rehabilitation, social security and welfare of this section of society.
The Baharul Islam Committee submitted its report to the Government in June, 1988, with a prime recommendation, among other things, that Articles 14, 15, 16 and 46 of the Constitution be amended to include the words “persons with disabilities” and “mentally-handicapped” so as to provide constitutional recognition to the special circumstances under which the communities these underlying words invariably refer to. However, we have no hesitation to state that these path-breaking recommendations have been kept in a cold-storage by the subsequent Governments, and hardly anyone remembers that there was such a Committee set up to recommend the feasible framework for including persons with disabilities in the scheme of Indian Constitution. What followed thereafter, and still continues till date, in the discourse of Indian Disability Law is quite disturbing and remains far short of providing any satisfactory solutions to the problem of bringing the disabled citizens into the mainstream society.
To put succinctly, there have been nearly a half-dozen legislations enacted by the Indian Parliament, each one to address a specific requirement of disability. Mental Health Act 1987, Rehabilitation Council of India Act 1992, Persons with Disabilities (equal opportunities, protection of rights and full-participation) Act 1995, National Trust Act 1998, National Policy for Persons with Disabilities 2006 are prominent among them. After India signed and ratified the United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) 2007, however, now there is a new, perhaps a slightly renewed, buzz to enact an umbrella legislation for persons with disabilities.
With a pinch of apology to his Excellency, we wish to point out that the deepest political fraud in the whole discussion on a comprehensive legislation for persons with disabilities is that the inherent need for a suitable Constitutional Amendment declaring unequivocally that the rights of persons with disabilities are as worth protecting as that of any section is completely over-looked.
We also feel it is important to clarify at the outset that our unfailing stand for a constitutional Amendment in favour of persons with disabilities indeed stems largely from the unpleasant experiences often encountered in the implementation of various provisions contained in the existing legislations with regard to the empowerment of persons with disabilities. To take one example: a provision for the reservation of not less than 3% vacancies in all Government and Public Sectors in favour of persons with disabilities, clearly laid down by Section 33 of Persons with Disabilities (equal opportunities, protection of rights and full-participation) Act 1995, is never treated on par with the other legal provisions that otherwise prescribe 7.5%, 15% and 27% job reservation in favour of SCs, STs and OBCs respectively. The obvious explanation is that while the reservation provisions of the later type enjoy the Constitutional status, the former does not. The nodal Departments/Agencies in charge of implementing these provisions often find it extremely difficult to move forward under such extraneous legal conditions, and persons with disabilities are the ultimate losers in this whole technocratic, legal game. Unsurprisingly enough, the Universities’ Grants Commission (UGC), the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) and the whole Banking Sector in India took more than a decade to implement 3% reservation in favour of persons with disabilities, that too only after being sternly reminded by the Hon’ble Supreme Court about their lack adaisical approach in dealing with the issue at hand.
We feel quite painful to bring to the kind notice of his Excellency that no significant provision in PWD Act of 1995 has so far been readily implemented without a final word of interpretation from either State High-court(s) or the Hon’ble Supreme-court.
It is our firm conviction that there is a greater justification for the Constitutional protection for persons with disabilities than those belonging to SC, ST and OBC, because they can always command enough opportunities, thanks to their physical fitness and uninterrupted accessibility.
The present social and political trends are very such becoming benevolent even to provide 33% reservation for non-disabled, like women, so we the persons with disabilities also may kindly be given at least 3% reservation in the Bodies like Grama Panchayathi to Indian Parliament level and also for promotion reservation in government of india and state government services .
The last but not the least is that there is a need of following the modern concept of “The wearer knows where the shoe pinches”. In fact we the persons with disabilities also kindly are given opportunity to put forward our problems in Indian Parliament and other legislative bodies which can only be possible if we are provided 3% political reservation and also promotion reservation in government services.
It is peculiar to note, that in spite of spending lot of amount on the education of the Blind and other disabled so far their ideas and views were not entertained by the concerned authorities until they follow the colonial ideas and practices of seeking opinion from non- disabled agencies for the betterment of disabled communities. In short so afar the qualified and eligible blind were not given their due share in policy making and implementation of schemes for the betterment of blind it can be only achieved by; providing 3% reservation in all political bodies.
It may also be brought to the notice of his Excellency that apart from such developed countries as Canada; even some of the African countries like South-Africa and Eritrea have provided specific Constitutional provisions for safeguarding the rights of persons with disabilities. We, therefore, feel that incorporation of similar provisions in our Constitution would go a long way in ensuring persons with disabilities the fundamental right to equality enshrined in Part Three of our Constitution.
In the circumstances briefly outlined above, we humbly request his Excellency to kindly examine a note of proposals enclosed herewith and advise the union Government and the Indian Parliament for an expeditious action to move an appropriate Constitutional Amendment for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the Law of the Land.
The link below discribes for inclusion matters at Constitution of India as:
Thanking in anticipation,
For and on behalf of Persons with Disability,
Award Winner/Record Holder-International Biographical Note.
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