'Fulfill job reservation promise for the disabled'

'Fulfill job reservation promise for the disabled'

When Prasanna Kumar Pincha walked into the office of the Chief Commissioner of Persons with Disability (CCPD) office earlier this month, the sense of history was not lost upon the disability community.

Pincha, with years of experience working in the government and NGO sectors, is the first disabled person in the country to become commissioner.

A visually challenged person, Pincha was Joint Director at Social Welfare department in Government of Assam before joining international NGO Action Aid as regional manager.

He was also a special rapporteur for persons with disability with National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). With a clear understanding of issues dogging the community, Pincha is in a unique position to create a convergence between the government and the disability sector and play an important role in ensuring inclusion of the requirements of disabled persons in all government policies.

Speaking to L Subramani of Deccan Herald from his office in Delhi, in what is his first elaborate media interaction since his appointment as the CCPD last month, Pincha said he would focus on empowering the most marginalised groups within disabled community.

Excerpts:

How does it feel to be a disabled person and to take over an office that would have huge impact on members of your community?

This (having a disabled person as CCPD) is something the community has been asking about for a long time. Previously, CCPD, a statutory body under the prevailing Persons With Disability (PWD) Act both at the Central and state levels, was occupied by bureaucrats who could not get to grips with the issues affecting the community.

I am certainly overwhelmed with pride when I realise that I represent hundreds and thousands of fellow persons with disability. It is an evidence that the government has finally realised that people from the sector are capable of occupying higher offices (CCPD is equal to high ranking officers of the government).

But the real work has just begun for me. The task now is to ensure that the work done out of this office makes a real difference in the lives of disabled persons.

What are the priority areas for you?

As I said, empowering the most marginalised amongst the disabled persons is my first task. While all persons with disability have day to day challenges, groups such as women with disability and those with mental and intellectual challenges are facing more stiffer challenges than the others. Being a woman and a disabled person at that is somewhat perceived as a double disadvantage, especially when it comes to education and employment.

 There has been a clear disproportionate representation of women in government jobs, where men with disability far outnumber them. Also, the dropout rates of girls with disability at school is more. As my first action as CCPD, I have written to all state chief secretaries and state CCPDs to ensure the three per cent reservation in government jobs are filled.

We are also asking department of personnel and training to conduct a survey to determine the precise number of women with disability in government sector to gain a clear understanding of the inequalities existing in male-female ratio. Based on this, we would call for a special recruitment drive for women with disability that would address the issue.

Being an interface between the community and the government, that may still have roadblocks, seems like a huge challenge...

Of course, I am quite aware of the challenge. Expectation amongst the community is indeed very high. However, all of us know that the government has its own way of functioning. The pace with which things move may not be to our liking. To be fair to the government, it has several departments and agencies that are handling a lot of issues impacting the citizens of this country. So my job is to ensure the issues of persons with disability are given due consideration and acceptable resolution and I would work for it in all possible ways.

As CCPD, will you be representing the community in the processes of various government departments?

I shall certainly explore the ways of doing it. I think participating in the policies and programmes of key departments such as education could happen as they impact the community directly. It is important that our office works proactively to explore if other departments can include us in the process.

Your term would end by 2015 as CCPDs have just three years in office. Do you have any projects closer to your heart which you would like to implement within your term?

I would not like to elaborate much, but the office of CCPD, the way it was created, has no teeth. Orders passed by the CCPD are not binding. But thankfully, the judiciary, through a series of orders, has added strength to the disability legislation and offices established through the act.

Before I complete my term, I would like to  ensure that the CCPD is made reasonably assertive.

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