After a wait of over two years, the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 finally was passed through both the houses of parliament after members of Loksabha passed it on Friday, December 16.
After being at loggerheads on demonetisation, parliamentarians passed the bill within two hours on the last day of Parliament’s winter session this year.
The new bill mandates private institutions recognised by the government to also follow the rules of accessibility along with government organisations. Reservations for Persons with Disabilities (PwD) are now increased to four percent from the earlier three percent.
The number of categories of disabled has been increased from seven to 21 including shortcomings like mental illness, autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, acid attacks among other.
Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment, Thaawar Chand Gehlot moved the bill and said several steps are being taken to help PwDs lead a dignified life. He said sports infrastructure for PwD is being taken care of with universal identity cards and linkage with Aadhar cards.
Commenting on it, Sminu Jindal, Founder, Swayam Foundation said, “It’s a new dawn for our nation. I congratulate everyone for making Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 a reality. The 21 disability categories which have been passed in the bill will bring a major change in our society. Yet I feel that UID Card should be able to take care of disabilities by birth, education reservation, progressive and possibly age related disabilities. I hope enough thought will be put in composition of the medical teams which will be involved in deciding both disability and its percentage. Disability is directly affected by the environment and therefore infrastructure barriers both in urban and rural areas should necessarily be corrected for aiding a better quality of life.”
The CSR Journal had originally reported about Rajya Sabha passing the above mentioned bill on December 15, 2016:
With the government reaching consensus with opposition, towards improving the condition of people with disability (PwD), the much needed The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2014 was passed on 14th December, 2016.
The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill was first introduced in the Rajya Sabha in 2014. The bill was cleared with 119 amendments moved by Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, Thawar Chand Gehlot. The bill seeks to give effect to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
With reservation for PwD increased from 3% to 4% in government jobs and 3% to 5% in higher education, the bill will provide much needed support to PwD. Majority members of Parliament supported the bill addressing it as a big step towards improving the conditions of the disabled in the country.
PwD prima facie seem to be happy with the newly passed bill. However, there are concerns raised by them. “PwD were not consulted before making these amendments. Since they were not read in the Parliament, we do not know exact details. I wish for more involvement of the people for whom the bill is meant,” said Nipun Malhotra, Executive Director of Nipman Fastener Industries. Born with arthrogryposis (a congenital disorder due to which his muscles haven’t developed in arms and legs), he now leads Nipman Foundation to make India more sensitive and accessible for the disabled.
Congress member Karan Singh urged the government to ensure that reservation made for PwD should be filled. “In reality they (reserved seats for the disabled) are never filled adequately,” commented Singh.
21 different categories of disability have been incorporated in the bill from the existing seven. The types of disabilities include mental illness, autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, chronic neurological conditions amongst others.
Private sector plays an important role to the economy by providing employment opportunities to different sections of the society. It becomes crucial to have their participation in making infrastructure accessible for all. “From the details I have, I am glad that accessibility of government buildings has been insisted upon. But private sector also should be mandated to have accessibility in their buildings (for PwD). There can be an ‘Accessibility NOC’ from government like the way we have ‘Fire NOC’ for new buildings,” said Malhotra.
Discrimination against PwD will carry stricter punishment that includes imprisonment from six months to two years along with a fine of Rs 10,000 to Rs 5 lakhs. Replying to the query by members on definition of disability the minister said a medical board will come out with a clear classification.
The office of the Chief Commissioner and State Commissioner for PwD has been further strengthened through provisions in the bill which act as regulatory bodies. Many social workers believe if the government can engage in consultation with them, many issues which might have been missed out upon could be addressed.