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Daily Editorial – Challenges facing disabled population and The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2014


  • Challenges facing disabled population and The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2014

  1. Present status of disability in India
  2. Constitutional framework for disabled population
  3. Challenges facing disabled in India
  4. Certification related challenges
  5. The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2014
  6. Amendments to Disability bill, 2014/ Disability Bill, 2016
  7. Criticisms of the proposed amendments

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Challenges facing disabled population and The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2014

Globally, 15 per cent of the population faces some form of disability. For protection of rights of disabled, there’s a UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which India signed in 2007.

Present status of disability in India

  • The 2011 Census put the number of disabled in India at 2.68 crore, or 2.21% of the population.
  • There has been a marginal increase in the differently-abled population in India, with the figure rising from 21.9 million in 2001 to 26.8 million in 10 years.
  • There are 14.9 million men with disabilities as compared to 11.8 million women in the country.
  • The total number of differently-abled people is over 18 million in the rural areas and just 8.1 million enumerated in the urban settings.
  • Social groups wise analysis shows, 2.45 per cent of the Scheduled Castes, 2.05 of the Scheduled Tribes and 2.18 per cent of the social groups other than SC/ST constitutes the disabled population. 
  • Age-wise break-up of the data suggests disability is more among people aged 80 years and above, and the least among children aged up to 4 years.

Constitutional framework for disabled population

  • Article 15(1): It enjoins on the Government not to discriminate against any citizen of India (Including disabled) on the ground of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
  • Article 17: No person including the disabled irrespective of his belonging can be treated as an untouchable. It would be an offence punishable in accordance with law.
  • Article 21: Every person including the disabled has his life and liberty guaranteed.
  • Article 23: There can be no traffic in human beings (including the disabled), and beggar and other forms of forced labor is prohibited and the same is made punishable in accordance with law.
  • Article 29(2): The right to education is available to all citizens including the disabled. No citizen shall be denied admission into any educational institution maintained by the State or receiving aid out of State funds.
  • Article 32: Every disabled person can move the Supreme Court of India to enforce his fundamental rights and the rights to move the Supreme Court.

Challenges facing disabled in India

  • There are no reliable figures available for the prevalence of disability in India.
  • The census-based figures on disability are usually lower than those based on specific survey data.
  • As they provide only very broad, self-reported data.
  • Comparability across 2001 and 2011 becomes difficult because the definition of disability wasn’t identical.
  • Additional transport, support and other costs associated with work for the people with disability.
  • Disabled face difficulties with physical access to the workplace, and getting to and from work, inadequate adjustments and adaptations to workplace equipment, inflexible working hours.
  • Limited scope and variety of jobs offered to people with disabilities, lower possibilities for promotion, lower paying jobs & lower retention rates.

  • A disability certificate is a basic document for any entitlement for a disabled person.
  • Certification is a major issue for the vast majority of the disabled people.
  • Even for registering a complaint under the Persons with Disabilities Act, a person requires a disability certificate.
  • According to 2015-16 annual report of the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, only 49.5 per cent of the disabled population has been identified by 2011 census.

The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2014

It will replace the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995.

The 2014 bill was drafted on the basis of the recommendations of the SudhaKaul Committee.

Following are the provisions of the bill:-

  • The Bill replaces the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995.  Instead of seven disabilities specified in the Act, the Bill covers 19 conditions.
  • Persons with at least 40% of a disability are entitled to certain benefits such as reservations in education and employment, preference in government schemes, etc.
  • The Bill confers several rights and entitlements to disabled persons.  These include disabled friendly access to all public buildings, hospitals, modes of transport, polling stations, etc.
  • In case of mentally ill persons, district courts may award two types of guardianship.  A limited guardian takes decisions jointly with the mentally ill person.  A plenary guardian takes decisions on behalf of the mentally ill person, without consulting him.
  • Violation of any provision of the Act is punishable with imprisonment up to six months, and/or fine of Rs 10,000.  Subsequent violations carry a higher penalty.

Amendments to Disability bill, 2014/ Disability Bill, 2016

Recently, Rajya Sabha and Lok sabha passed The Right of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2014 with amendments as Disability bill, 2016 .

Following are the amendments to the 2014 bill:-

  • Amended bill has recognized 2 other disabilities:-
    • Disabilities resulting from acid attacks and Parkinson’s Disease
    • It has increased the number of recognized conditions of disability to 21.
  • Bill lays down specific provisions on the guardianship of mentally ill persons.
  • The amendments include private firms in the definition of ‘establishments’, which previously referred to only government bodies.
  • All such establishments have to ensure that persons with disabilities are provided with:-
    • Barrier-free access in buildings
    • Transport systems and all kinds of public infrastructure,
    • And are not discriminated against in matters of employment,
  • While 1995 bill had 3% reservation for disabled in higher education and government, 2014 bill raised the ceiling to 5%, and now  amendment cuts the quota to 4%.
  • The provision for national and state commissions for persons with disabilities has also been discarded.
  • They instead continue with the status quo of having only a Chief Commissioner with far fewer powers.

Criticisms of the new bill

The bill has been criticized on the following grounds:-

  • While the number of disabilities has increased to 21, the percentage of reservation has been decreased.
  • Many orders of Chief Commissioner have been quashed by courts on the ground that it is only a quasi-judicial body.
  • Clause 3(3) states, “No person with disability shall be discriminated on the ground of disability, unless it is shown that the impugned act or omission is appropriate to achieve a legitimate aim.”
  • This clause is feared to provide unfettered power to the implementing agencies to discriminate against disabled.
  • While the numbers of disability have increased, amendments fail to specify the degree of disability for thalassaemia, learning disabilities or autism.
  • The bill has diluted the provision of punishment by removing the jail term entirely, in case of violation of the bill.

Despite its inadequacies, the current legislation is a big advance over the 1995 Act and brings in the rights-based perspective. However, the battle for its implementation has to begin in earnest.


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