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29 Jun, 2013

Indian State Commissioners review implementation of Persons with Disabilities Act


Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, 28-June, 2013 – The Union Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Kumari Selja inaugurated the 12th National Meeting of the State Commissioners for Persons with Disabilities to review implementation of PwD Act here today. The Minister in her address said that a meeting of this kind provides an important forum for exchanging views and experiences. The meeting will also help promoting a culture of shared learning and understanding of critical issues around implementation of the PwD Act, 1995.

The Minister expressed satisfaction that the disability rights discourse is now getting institutionalized in the larger legal and policy framework of India. The ratification of the UNCRPD and the setting up of a dedicated Department of Disability Affairs in the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, are glaring illustrations of Government’s commitment towards persons with disabilities. The Government is also working at replacing the old PwD Act of 1995 for providing more respect to individual dignity and protecting fundamental freedoms of PwDs. The proposed “Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill” contains elaborate and comprehensive provisions which are in harmony with the UNCRPD. The Bill will be a distinct improvement on the existing PwD Act, 1995.

Kumari Selja noted that the recent Five Year Plans including the current Twelfth Five Year Plan have adopted a rights based approach. The Plan recognizes persons with disabilities as a critical resource and also as active agents of change. The Twelfth Five Year Plan which earmarks a total allocation to the tune of Rs.3,000 crore envisages a number of ambitious and interesting initiatives. These include setting up of a National Centre for Universal Design, establishment of Indian Sign Language Research and Training Centre (ISLRTC) and setting up of Braille printing presses across various States of India. It also proposes to undertake the exercise of harmonizing all the relevant domestic laws (including the mainstream laws) and policies with the UNCRPD.

The absence of full-time Commissioners with independent charge in many States, ineffective functioning of State Coordination and Executive Committees and inadequacy of human & material resources for the State Commissioners are amongst major areas of concern, the Minister said and requested the State Government’s to have a dedicated Department to oversee the disability issues so that the State Commissioners can interact and coordinate well.

The Minister also noted that in respect of the thematic areas – education, employment, accessibility and social security need to be attended to with the urgency that they merit. While special recruitment drive should be launched across States to fill-up the backlog of vacancies in government posts, tangible steps need to be taken to improve the quality of education.

The Minister said that urgent initiatives to ensure barrier free environment to persons with disabilities must be initiated without any further loss of time and States should take advantage of the Ministry’s SIPDA scheme.

Speaking on the occasion Mr Sudhir Bhargava, Secretary, Department of Social Justice & Empowerment complimented Chandigarh, Jharkhand and Tripura for issuing disability certificates to 100% persons with disabilities in their respective States/UT and also requested the Commissioners of Arunachal Pradesh, Delhi, Nagaland, Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli where less than 20% persons with disabilities have been issued disability certificates, to prevail upon the concerned department to take up this matter on a campaign mode and cover all persons with disabilities.

The Secretary added that the role of Commissioners is crucial for securing the cooperation of and the coordination among various departments of the State Governments. Proper implementation of the scheme of the Ministry and full utilization of funds under Commissioners is important for realizing the Ministry’s goal to equip persons with disabilities and make them productive members of the society.

Present on the meeting were Mr Awanish Kumar Awasthi, Joint Secretary, Department of Disability Affairs, Mr Prasanna Kumar Pincha, Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities, Maj. Gen. Ian Cardozo, Chairman, Rehabilitation Council of India, Mrs Poonam Natarajan, Chairperson, National Trust, State Commissioners for Persons with Disabilities and other senior officers of the Ministry.