Not Counting In
Omitting disability-related information from the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-6) in India highlights the need for accurate representation of disabilities and the implications of overlooking invisible disabilities.
Incomplete Recognition of Disabilities
- Lack of Comprehensive Data: The government's decision to exclude disability-related questions from NFHS-6 disregards the sizable population of persons with disabilities i.e. around 68 crore people according to the 2011 Census.
- Under-representation of Disabilities: The Census data accounts for only seven defined categories of disabilities, excluding several categories recognized by the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 (RPWDA).
- Neglect of "Invisible Disabilities": The focus on visible disabilities overlooks "invisible disabilities," including mental health issues, leading to inadequate representation and understanding.
Importance of Comprehensive Data and Legal Mandates
- Significance of Data Collection: Comprehensive data collection is crucial for achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and complying with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
- Government Responsibilities: Sections 25, 27, and 28 of RPWDA mandate the government to promote research, formulate schemes, and conduct surveys to empower and safeguard persons with disabilities.
- NITI Aayog's Vision and Gap in Policy: Its 'Strategy for New India @ 75' acknowledges the lack of detailed data for formulating policies for persons with disabilities, especially those with invisible disabilities.
- Missed Opportunity: The exclusion of disability-related questions from NFHS-6 is a missed chance to sensitize a broad audience and promote inclusivity, considering the 2030 SDG deadline of "Leaving no one behind."
- Judicial Scrutiny and Oversight: The decision's underestimation of India's birth rate and contravention of RPWDA's provisions are under judicial review, reflecting the tendency to oversimplify disability issues.
- Challenges for Progress: Omitting disability questions raises concerns about relegating disability rights to a secondary status, hindering the goal of inclusive progress.