Daily Editorial Analysis for 17th July 2020

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For equal treatment: On upholding rights of the disabled


MAINS: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.


In holding that people suffering from disability are entitled to the same benefits and relaxations as candidates belonging to the Scheduled Castes, the Supreme Court has recognised the travails of the disabled in accessing education or employment, regardless of their social status.

Disabilities and relaxation for admission:

  • Even though drawn from all sections of society, those suffering from the several categories of disability recognised by law have always been an under-privileged and under-represented section, a fact noticed in official studies in the past.
  • Recently, the top court ruled that the Delhi High Court had correctly decided in 2012 that “people suffering from disabilities are also socially backward, and are therefore, at the very least, entitled to the same benefits as given to the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes candidates”.
  • Therefore, it took the view that when SC/ST candidates get a relaxation of a certain percentage of marks to qualify for admission, the same relaxation shall apply to disabled candidates too. In the 2012 case before the High Court, a university had allowed a 10% concession in the minimum eligibility requirement for SC/ST candidates, and 5% concession for disabled applicants.
  • The High Court ruled against this differential treatment, terming it discriminatory.
  • The larger principle behind this was that without imparting proper education to those suffering from disabilities, “there cannot be any meaningful enforcement of their rights” both under the Constitution and the then prevailing 1995 legislation on providing equal opportunities to the disabled and protecting their rights.
  • It can only be more applicable, now that a fresh law that aims for a greater transformative effect, the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, is in place.

About the distinction between the disabled and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes

  • A counterpoint to the idea of eliminating the distinction between the disabled and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes may arise from those questioning the attempt to equate physical or mental disability with the social disability and experience of untouchability suffered by marginalised sections for centuries.
  • For instance, the social background of disabled persons from a traditionally privileged community may gave them an advantage over those suffering from historical social disability. However, this may not always be the case.
  • The Delhi High Court had cited the abysmally low literacy and employment rates among persons with disabilities.
  • Educational indicators captured in the 2001 Census showed that illiteracy among the disabled was much higher than the general population figure.
  • The share of disabled children out of school was quite higher than other major social categories.
  • The 2001 Census put the illiteracy rate among the disabled at 51%.
  • There was similar evidence of their inadequate representation in employment too.
  • The 2016 law sought to address this by raising the quota for the disabled from 3% to 5% and envisaging incentives for the private sector to hire them too.
  • It is vital that this is fully given effect to so that this significant segment of the population is not left out of social and economic advancement.

What is Disability?

  • According to the social model, disability is the outcome of the interaction of a person’s functional status and his / her environment. People are not identified as having a disability based upon a medical condition. Instead, they are disabled by an environment that erects barriers to their participation in the social and economic life of their communities.

Programmes/initiatives for Disabled in India:

Accessible India Campaign :

  • A nation-wide flagship campaign for achieving universal accessibility that will enable persons with disabilities to gain access for equal opportunity and live independently and participate fully in all aspects of life in an inclusive society.
  • The campaign targets at enhancing the accessibility of built environment, transport system and Information & communication ecosystem.

DeenDayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme: 

  • Under the scheme financial assistance is provided to NGOs for providing various services to Persons with Disabilities, like special schools, vocational training centres, community based rehabilitation, pre-school and early intervention etc
  • Assistance to Disabled Persons for Purchase / fitting of Aids and Appliances (ADIP): The Scheme aims at helping the disabled persons by bringing suitable, durable, scientifically-manufactured, modern, standard aids and appliances within their reach.

National Fellowship for Students with Disabilities (RGMF):

  • The scheme aims to increase opportunities to students with disabilities for pursuing higher education.
  • Under the Scheme, 200 Fellowships per year are granted to students with disability.
  • Schemes of the National Trust for the Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities

Right of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016:

  • The Act replaces the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995.
  • It increases the quantum of reservation for people suffering from disabilities from 3% to 4% in government jobs and from 3% to 5% in higher education institutes.
  • Every child with benchmark disability between the age group of 6 and 18 years shall have the right to free education. Government funded educational institutions as well as the government recognized institutions will have to provide inclusive education.
  • Stress has been given to ensure accessibility in public buildings in a prescribed time frame along with Accessible India Campaign.

How Disability is linked with poor Socio – Economic Indicators:

  • If you have a disability, you’re twice as likely to be poor as someone without a disability. You’re also far more likely to be unemployed. And that gap has widened in the last one decade. This Situation is most severe in case of Rural and person with lack of education.
  • Disability is both a cause and consequence of poverty. It is a cause because it can lead to job loss and reduced earnings, barriers to education and skills development, significant additional expenses, and many other challenges that can lead to economic hardship.
  • Poverty is also a consequence because poverty can limit access to health care and preventive services, and increases the likelihood that a person lives and works in an environment that may adversely affect health.

Impact of Disability:

Risk of Poverty: Disability increases the risk of a person’s slide into poverty. Families or individuals with disability slid into poverty twice as fast as those that had not experienced a disability. Poverty as a social impact of disability is mainly due to a loss of paid employment. Even though there are provisions against discrimination, many disabled people still have difficulty gaining meaningful employment.

Social Exclusion: Social exclusion as a result of disability means a lack of belonging in a given social context. A person with disability may face limitations in interacting with colleagues at work, fellow students and also family members. This may be as a result of his pushing these people away or from the stereotypes and societal attitudes toward disability. The impact of exclusion is that a person with disability may lack social support and social skills, such as communication, to cope with the disability.

Access: Society still holds biased stereotypes toward people with disability. The social mode of disability indicates that the problem is with society’s attitude toward disability and not with the person with disability. There are increased efforts to ensure that people with disability can easily access education, employment and social amenities. But the impact of this is that it has resulted in the provision of segregated services for those with disability and those without disability. This segregation of services and limitation to access is not helpful for people with disability. It is also not helpful in eradicating stereotypes and discrimination.

Way Forward:

  • Preventive health programs need to be strengthened and all children need to be screened at a young age.
  • People with disabilities need to be better integrated into society by overcoming stigma. There should be awareness campaigns to educate and aware people about different kinds of disability
  • Safety measures like road safety, safety in residential areas, public transport system etc, should be taken up. Further, it should be made legally binding to make buildings disabled-friendly

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