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Missing element of Political participation in the draft disability policy

  • Published
    15th Jul, 2022
Context

The Department of Empowerment of Person with Disabilities (DoEPwD) recently released the draft of the national policy for persons with disabilities.

About
  • In 2006, India adopted its first National Policy on Disability.
  • In line with its obligation to harmonise all of its laws and policies with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), India constituted a committee in 2019, which finalised the draft policy in October 2021.

Assessing good and bad points

Good points

Misses

  • Ensuring disabled people are not called more than twice for disability certification to offices;
  • Sign language interpreters at district hospitals;
  • Training in disability rights as disability competencies (only for medical personnel);
  • dedicated sports centres;
  • Making cinema halls, museums and tourist places accessible to disabled people;
  • Guidelines to modify personal vehicles;
  • Maintaining data regarding crimes against disabled people;
  • Indigenisation of motorised wheelchairs; and
  • Maintaining year-wise data of employees with disabilities.
  • lacks inter-ministerial coordination.
  • does not provide pathways to mandate health professionals to acquire the right medical diagnostic equipment.
  • It does little to ensure that accessibility requirements are included in public procurement laws and policies for goods and services.
  • The policy is silent on repealing all types of guardianship that affect deafblind people and persons with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities.
  • Lack of way forward to provide high-support needs; prohibit insurance-based discrimination; and a national suicide prevention strategy.

Why the new policy is needed?

  • It is aimed to showcase the Government’s commitment to the inclusion and empowerment of persons with disabilities by providing a mechanism that ensures their full participation in society.
  • India’s signing of the United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities requires a policy change.
  • Enactment of new disability legislation (Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016) which increased the number of disabilities has been increased from the existing 7 to 21 and it authorized the Central Government to add more types of disabilities.

The issue of lack of political participation

  • There is a glaring omission in the absence of any commitment to the political uplift of persons with disabilities.
  • The inaccessibility of the voting process, barriers to participation in party politics, or a lack of representation at the local, state, or national levels have all aggravated the marginalization of the disabled.
  • It has changed the discourse around disability by shifting the focus from the individual to society,e., from a medical model of disability to a social or human rights model of disability.
  • The documents fail to take cognizance of such mandates such as provided in the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 which is committed to the anti-discrimination of differently-abled people.
  • The exclusion of disabled people from the political space happens at all levels of the political process in the country, and in different ways. India does not have any policy commitment that is aimed at enhancing the political participation of disabled people.

Inadequate Representation:

  • Disabled people are not represented enough at all three levels of governance.
  • The lack of rigorous and comparable data and statistics further hinders the inclusion of persons with disabilities.
  • The first visually disabled Member of Parliament in independent India, Sadhan Gupta, hardly finds mention in our political or disability discourse.
  • We have often failed to acknowledge disabled political personalities.

About political participation:

  • Article 29 of the Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities mandates that state parties should “ensure that persons with disabilities can effectively and fully participate in political and public life on an equal basis with others, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
  • The Incheon goals also promote participation in political processes and in decision-making.
  • The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016: The anti-discrimination commitment under this Act recognizes the political domain wherein disabled people should be allowed to realize their human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Make Functional Rights:

  • Inclusiveness and empowerment of the disabled cannot be achieved without political inclusion.
  • The policy can follow a four-pronged approach:
  • building the capacity of disabled people’s organizations and ‘empowering their members through training in the electoral system, government structure, and basic organizational and advocacy skills;
  • the creation, amendment, or removal of legal and regulatory frameworks by lawmakers and election bodies to encourage the political participation of the disabled;
  • inclusion of civil societies to ‘conduct domestic election observation or voter education campaigns;
  • and a framework for political parties to ‘conduct a meaningful outreach to persons with disabilities when creating election campaign strategies and developing policy positions.

Constitutional Provisions:

Article 41 of the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP) states that State shall make effective provisions for securing the right to work, to education, and to public assistance in cases of unemployment, old age, sickness, and disablement, within the limits of its economic capacity and development.

The subject of ‘relief of the disabled and unemployable’ is specified in the state list of the Seventh Schedule of the constitution

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