The Act and the inaction

The law came into force on February 2, 1996. The Act is a watershed development in the sense that it defines various types of disabilities, sets out mechanism to provide a level playing field and also establishes a paraphernalia to enforce the Act. The law recognises seven types of disabilities: (1) Blindness (2) Low vision (3) Leprosy-cured (4) Hearing impairment (5) Loco motor disability (6) Mental retardation and (7) Mental illness.

The Act ensures equal educational, social and employment opportunities to people with any of these seven disabilities and provides a framework to guard their rights.

A latest case on this point is the contention of the Government that disabled people were not fit for the posts of panchayat development officers. The High Court rejected the contention. Neither the Government nor the departments concerned can decide the suitability of a job for the physically-challenged.

The authority vests with the job identification committee that comprises medical specialists and secretaries of various departments and the Government cannot overrule the decision of the committee.

According to the Act, three per cent of the posts in any department of any cadre should be reserved for physically challenged (one per cent each for the blind, people with low-vision, and physically challenged). The departments should discuss on the suitability of posts before inviting applications. Such posts could be filled with other category candidates only in case of non-availability of physically-challenged candidates.

Karnataka State Disabilities Commissioner K V Rajanna said the education policy too is not in favour of the disabled. He said educated persons with disabilities have become sparse and hence the benefit of reservation could not be exploited to the hilt. Quota is also available in admissions to BEd and DEd courses.

However, securing jobs again becomes a problem after the successful completion of the course. “Some private schools are now questioning whether physically-challenged can conduct classes by moving about in the classrooms,” Rajanna said.

The Act provides for payment of scholarship to disabled students. Even if presumed that the students are getting the facility, the quantum is a pittance. A student pursuing degree, medical and engineering courses used to get a ‘princely sum’ of Rs 250 per month in 2009-10. Those residing in hostels used to get an additional Rs 240.

A worker cannot be removed from job if he suffers disability during the course of employment. Disability cannot be ground to refuse promotion. It forms the responsibility of the State to rehabilitate the disabled.

Research into diagnosing disability at a preliminary stage is virtually nil at present. There is no action plan in this regard, sources said. To that extent, that State is also ‘disabled.’

The genesis

The genesis of Persons with Disabilities Act could be traced to the meeting to launch the Asian and Pacific Decade of Disabled Persons 1993-2002 convened by the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific. The meeting was held from December 1 to December 5, 1992 at Beijing. The meeting adopted the Proclamation on the Full Participation and Equality of People with Disabilities in the Asian and Pacific Region. India was a signatory to the Proclamation. The Act was introduced to realise the intentions of the proclamation. The objective of the Act was to provide equal opportunities to the disabled in education and employment. 

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