'New disability law should include social security scheme'

The Inquirer

J P Gadkari, director of Parivar, the umbrella organisation representing the parents’ association of persons with mental retardation across the country, was one of the persons included in the panel and is the only representative from Bangalore. After the first meeting of the committee recently, Gadkari (80) spoke to L Subramani of Deccan Herald about the process of designing the new law. Excerpts:

As a representative of a civil society organisation, how do you feel being part of the committee to draft the disability Act?

Initially, when the committee was constituted in April, there was no representation on it for persons with blindness, cerebral palsy, mental illness, deaf and speech impaired and parent representative for persons with mental retardation (intellectual disability). After a lot of agitation and representations from various organisations, six new members — including me — were included in the committee. The federation I represent has a membership of over 200 parents’ associations/organisations representing autism, cerebral palsy, mental retardation and multiple disability.

Usually, the interests of intellectually challenged persons are often ignored or they are partially represented...

It was true earlier, but during the last couple of decades things have changed. Among the parents of persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities there has been considerable awakening which resulted in the formation of Parivaar. The organisation has gained much strength since 1995 and it is now recognised as the only apex organisation of the parents of persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities at the national level. Despite the creation of the new disability law, Parivaar wants the National Trust Act to be retained as it is a supportive legislation and a service Act which provides for and fulfils the basic needs of such persons.

How has the committee begun its work? Is there  agreement on key issues like drafting a rights-based law?

The first meeting of the committee which took place on June 10 was a preliminary exercise where the basic principles and modalities to harmonise the new disability legislation with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities were discussed. The committee has formed 10 sub-groups to work on different aspects of the new law. Among them are: rights and legal capacity, education, health and rehabilitation, employment, accessibility and human resource development.

These sub-groups are expected to submit their reports at the full-fledged meeting of the committee on July 22-23 at Delhi. Of  course, there is total agreement among members on the key issue that the new law should be right based, reflecting the spirit and objectives of the UNCRPD.

Do you think this exercise would deliver what has been dreamed of and pursued by the disability community for so long?

We are very much optimistic of a positive outcome that it will give birth to a new legislation, meeting the challenges of the 21st century. After all, it was the strong voice of the disability sector which compelled the government to agree to bring a new law.

Will the new legislation provide more teeth to the law so that it would be possible to punish violators of its provisions?

The National Commission on Disability with full judicial powers enacted as law by parliament will provide the required powers and teeth to the new law.

Are you confident that the committee will wrap up its business in the stipulated time?
It is very difficult to say as the time frame is too short and the committee consisting of such a large number (35 in all) has to come to a consensus and common understanding during such a short span of time and produce a new disability law.

Any issues pertaining to the intellectually challenged which you would like to be included in the new law?

If the new disability act has to be in consonance with the UNCRPD, it should meet the requirements of Article 12 of the Convention, which will be the main guiding force in ensuring the rights of persons with disability. The legal capacity provision is most relevant in the case of persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Convention has made a provision of creating a support structure which can provide support to the persons with disability for taking decisions.

The other important provision which I would like to be included in the new disability law is a comprehensive social security scheme for all persons with disability, under which persons with disabilities must be provided cash benefits, if they cannot be provided gainful employment with a living wage.

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