2001 Observance of the
International Day of Disabled Persons
United Nations expert group meeting on disability-sensitive policy and
programme monitoring and evaluation
UNHQ, New York, 3-5 December 2001
Country Paper: India*
By B.L. Sharma, IAS (Retd.)
Former Chief Commissioner Disability - India
The Persons with Disabilities in India form largest disadvantaged group like in most
countries of the world. As a group they are starved of the usual services and facilities
available to the general public as they have been subjected to long history of neglect,
isolation, poverty, deprivation and at times pity as well. They yet do not have an
effective economic, political or media power in India. The issue of disability in India
touches lives of about 50 million persons, which is 5% of population. Out of this around
75% stay in Rural area. This number would be more than the population of couple of small
countries of the world. These persons frequently live in poor conditions, owing to
inadequate facilities of health, hygiene, poor means of transport and communication thus,
they find it difficult to get their due share.
The issue of disability directly pertains to the Human Rights. The whole process of
Human Rights is a result of devolution of individual. It has been a result of long
struggle. Procedural equality is legal. Doctrine of equality, affirmative action is there
to ensure that unequal are given facilities to come up like others, to be equal. It is
inspired by the principal of greatest happiness of the greatest numbers, Prof. Laski once
said "An unequal society lives in a constant fear of disaster. It would be
The ideas and concepts of equality and full participation for persons with disabilities
have developed very well on paper throughout the world, buy not so well on the ground so
far. The feeling of commitment is not evident. One contributing factor might be
insensitive media portrayal of disability which adversely affects policy and confidence of
disabled. Thus; the first and foremost is to break the mental barrier. The mind set of
executors and psychological barriers in the minds of disabled persons have to be
demolished. The persons with disabilities must break vicious cycle of society's negative
value judgements about them. Unless persons with disabilities change their own attitudes
about themselves, they will not be able to convince others to do so.
In an era, where priority ranking that an issue or a group receives in policy and
funding decisions is directly proportional to intensity, quality and quantity of media
coverage. The everyday struggles of persons with disabilities are not subject of media
sensationalism. On the other hand; adverse publicity robs them of the confidence needed to
deal with vicissitudes of life.
The disabled expect an active participation in all activities of their living. It has
to be realized by all concerned that persons with disability deserve same range of choices
and lifestyles like any other citizen. They only wish to be treated like any other
citizen, which they actually are if seen without prejudices. As a matter of fact the
treatment given to a disabled person define the inherent characteristics of a society and
highlight the cultural values that sustain it. It reflects the character of human being.
The Persons with Disabilities Act in India
The Parliament of India passed the Persons with Disabilities Act 1995. Passing of this
Act has been a landmark step to make people with disabilities an integral part of the
Indian main stream. The Act guarantees full equality, independence and accessibility to
all people with disabilities to the services and facilities needed in day today living.
Therefore, persons with disability in India see this as dawn of a new era in their lives.
The Act enlists the rights and facilities that a person with disabilities would be
entitled to and the responsibilities and obligations which are placed on the Govt. of
India, State Govt., local bodies, NGOs and citizens at large. It focuses on issues, which
are fundamental to the care of the disabled. It is a hope to lead a dignified life. The
Act is an embodiment of good intentions of a welfare state.
The act provides for 3% reservation in Govt. education institutions, in Govt. jobs,
protection against discrimination, harassment, opportunity for self employment,
accessibility to all facilities to lead a dignified life like any other citizen and
redressal of grievances.
The result of these intentions would be measured by the benefits that would actually
accrue at the grassroots level. Therefore, implementation of each and every provisions of
the Act in letter and spirit by the Government and all concerned is the key in achieving
the goal. However, our experience and observation indicates that there is only modest real
progress in areas most crucial to their immediate well being --rehabilitation, service
delivery, education and training, employment, access to the general services in society,
and other tools they need for equalization.
The Govt. has on 30 Nov. 2001 made education a Fundamental Right for the Children up 14
years age. It will really help all disable children to get education.
The Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities
The Act provides for a Chief Commissioner at the Government of India level and a
Commissioner in each State. The Chief Commissioner is responsible for giving policy
recommendations to the Govt., monitoring, evaluation and working of safeguards provided
under the Act. In addition there are a large number of Govt. executive orders concerning
day to day working and quality of life of this segment of society.
To provide adequate and speedy redressal to the grievances of disabled persons the CCD
has been made a Quasi Judicial authority having powers of a judicial court. Defaulting
Governments, Organizations, Official thus; can be issued court summons, records can be
called for to issue suitable directions. He has to also supervise working of Disability
Commissioners in States. He can initiate-Suo moto proceedings. The Chief Commissioner is
to annually submit a report to the Parliament of India, with his recommendations.
Advocacy of the Act
To assess the implementation of the Act and to spread the message of the Act the Chief
Commissioner visited various states and became proactive in advocating cause of
disability. During the state visits, following three activities were undertaken:
- A workshop on advocacy and implementation of the Act was organized, of 100-150
participants, where concerned officers, organizations, NGOs, experts, person with
- Meeting with Secretaries of different departments and senior officers concerned with the
implementation of the Act was done. A meeting with the Chief Minister and the Chief
Secretary was scheduled to apprise them with the progress and problems.
- Visit to NGOs, organizations/ institutions working in the field of disability was
In order to ensure implementation of wide ranging provisions of the Act in whole of
India, creation of administrative, monitoring & enforcing institutions was given high
priority. Through persistent & vigorous efforts of CCD, co-ordination committees were
formed in 24 states. Appointment of 8 full-time & 23 CD s on additional charge basis
has been done. Similarly, State Executive Committees have been provided in 24 states. The
focus in first two years was on creation of these mechanisms, in subsequent years effort
has been on activating these.
In pursuance of its obligations, a number of initiatives have been taken by Govt. at
various levels. However, despite the statutory provisions, schemes, administrative orders
etc. the benefits meant for PWDs do not reach them. In order to address this critical
problem CCD devoted its attention on creating awareness about the Act and facilities made
there under. 50 workshops, 21 States/U.Ts & in about 26 districts were organised. In
these workshops Govt. functionaries, local NGOs persons with disabilities were
For better enforcement of the Act, several apex level organizations were approached.
These organizations have been encouraged to included relevant Chapter of the Act in the
training for professionals and field functionaries. As a result of this, (a) Council of
Architects included the barrier-free model building byelaws in the foundation course for
architects and town planners. 20 refresher courses were organized for practising
architects, builders, and civil engineers across the country. (b) Pharmacy Council of
India provided reservation to disabled students and organized sensitization workshops. (c)
All India Council of Technical Education has taken measures for starting non-formal and
formal courses for PWD. (d) Medical Council of India has also been approached for
inclusion of relevant Chapter of the Disabilities Act, particularly the Chapter on
Definition and Prevention, in the training of medicos (e) National Legal Authority has
been approached for conducting workshop to generated awareness among the disabled about
the provision of free legal aid. (f) UGC has been approached for taking a number of steps
to sensitize academic institutions about their responsibilities under the Act.
Short training modules have been introduced in National Academy of administration for
sensitizing all Administrators. Institute of Secretarial Training & Management have
also included a module for training other officials. NHRC has been approached to initiate
a training programme on Human Rights of disabled for lawyers, law academician, Human
Rights and Disability Rights activists. The teachers training programme would include a
component on education of children with disabilities form the next academic session.
Exposure to such training would sensitize various govt. functionaries and service
providers to the needs of PWDs and their own responsibilities towards them. In the absence
of any such exposure, the tendency prevails to ignore statutory provisions and govt.
directives. In order to ensure proper implementation of the Act in the field the
Government, at the initiative of the CCD, has constituted a District Execution Committee
under the collector. The Government of India under took New Delhi Pilot Project, with the
assistance of the ESCAPE to make 14 buildings in one Sq. K.M. area barrier free. It was
completed in 1998 and created a good impact.
Grievances Redressal And Suo-moto Action
Complaint redressal mechanism has not only been successful in terms of providing relief
to the aggrieved disabled persons but it has also created awareness about the rights of
the disabled at various levels, of Government. It would be pertinent to mention that
earlier only 2-3 employment advertisements per annum catering to reservation for PWDs were
issued. However, ever since the Chief Commission started taking Suo moto action against
defaulting establishments who initiated recruitment process without reserving 3% vacancies
for PWDs, the situation dramatically improved. It is now common to see 2-3 advertisements
per week with-such reservation.
Another benchmark of quasi-judicial function of CCD has been in the area of education.
Earlier only few universities and some technical educational institutions made provisions
for disable students. Today the scenario has undergone a noticeable change. In the last
three years over 300 educational institutions have given 3% seats to disabled. This
arrangement has created 26,000 seats in Central Schools and Navodaya Sangathan. In
addition, IIT, Polytechnics, School of Architecture, School of Hotel Management, Tourism,
Pharmacy and Medical Colleges have also incorporated 3% reservation in admission.
Due to slow action in filling up of 3% quota of vacancies in Government establishments,
backlog of vacancies cumulated in large volume. The office of CCD initiated suo-moto
action resulting in launching of special recruitment drives by Ministry of Railways,
Banking Division, Ministry of Defence and large PSUs like NTPC, BHEL, Indian Oil
Corporation, Bharat Petroleum etc. It is estimated that over 5000 jobs were created in
various sectors as an outcome of suo-moto action. Most importantly as a consequence of
complaints before the Chief Commissioner such administrative rules and laws got amended
which were in derogation of the provisions of the Act.
Quasi Judicial Work
The office of CCD, soon after its creation in Oct. 1998, took up matters pertaining to
deprivation of rights, violation of the Act, laws and orders passed for the PWDs from time
to time. In the first 6 months, only 65 complaints were received. As awareness increased
among PWDs about their rights and about the existing of office of CCD, the number rose to
529 in the year, 1999. This further increased to 800 in year 2000. During the year 2001
out of total 1118 complaints received 803, 72%were decided.
- Analysis of the complaint received would reveal that subject wise these were as follows
- On Employment issues 55%, Education 11%, Concession/Entitlement 9%, Harassment 8%,
Property 4%. Barrier Free Environment 2% and Misc. 12%.
The category of organisations, institutions against whom complaints were lodged were:-
Government undertakings and Corporation 20%, Educational Institution 14%, Ministry of
Government of India 14%, State Government and their Organization 13%, Private Sector and
Individual 9% and Misc. 31%.
In pursuance of monitoring responsibility following monitoring tools were developed by
the Chief Commissioner to obtain information:-
- Incorporation of the relevant portions of the Act in the Ministries Performance
- Schemes and policies framed - Implementation thereof
- Allocation of budget towards the disability sector
- Number and nature of beneficiaries
Tools have been circulated to Departments for quarterly reporting. Based on the
information received in Chief Commissioner's Office the performance is evaluated,
programmes are reviewed and a detailed analysis is done to assertain impact. Based on this
appraisal the Chief Commissioner formulates his recommendations in the annual report to
the Parliament of India.
- · Though the Act is in operation from Feb. 1996 but the message of the Act has not
percolated at the grass-root level. All advocacy efforts like seminars, workshops and
meetings have been largely confined to metropolitan cities, State Capitals or major towns.
- The concern for the disability sector and commitment to implement the Act, in letter and
spirit, in majority of implementing authorities is not visible.
- There is considerable increase in budget allocation in the Ministry of Social Justice
& Empowerment and by certain State Govt.. During the period 1996-97 the allocation was
only Rs. 650 Million which was increased to Rs 2300 Million in 2000 and in 2001 it is Rs
5500 Million. The percentage share of disabilities budget has also increased from 4.8% to
8 % This is appreciable.
- No action plan has been made and no time frame provided for implementing various
provisions of this Act by majority of Ministries and States.
- The Meetings of Coordination and Executive Committees are not held regularly. Members do
not show desired knowledge and sincerity toward the cause. In a few States Committees have
not been formed. In certain committees NGOs and disable persons are not included despite
- Three States have provided more than 3% reservation in Government jobs namely, M.P.(6%),
Karnataka (5%), Gujarat (4%). In Meghalaya and Nagaland no such reservation has yet been
- Government of India has made 3% reservation in all group, A, B, C & D posts while
only in Maharashtra & Mizoram reservation for all the 4 groups have been provided.
States of M.P. and Orissa have such reservation for group B, C & D posts while all
other States have made 3% reservation for C&D group posts only.
- The Ministry of Rural Development, Govt. of India has reserved 3% funds in poverty
alleviation programmes for persons with disabilities. This is a welcomed step. In 11
States benefit of this provision has been taken.
- The States of Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka have undertaken a survey to
ascertain the number of persons with disabilities and their requirements. This has enabled
them to know the quantum of problem and the relief and resources required to meet.
- The Act clearly stipulates for providing a barrier free access to such persons in all
public places but it is not so. This is one single factor, which inhabits such persons
from getting their due and living a quality life.
Disability in the New Millenium
The number of disabled people is likely to increase significantly both as a global
figure and as a percentage of their national population. Many disabled people in both
developed and developing countries will be elderly, often without traditional family
support system. Prevention programmes may be off set by the effects of urbanization,
pollution, environmental degradation and increased accidents and conflict. In number of
countries where populations are exploding, like India, amid poverty - may have a
significantly higher incidence of persons with disability. As a result of improved health
care and nutrition the life expectancy will increase, thus; having people living longer
with incapacities due to age.
Such projections in scenario raise major ethical, social and economic questions of
concern for the persons with disabilities and Governments. It is the economic dimensions
of the solution that concerns the Government. How much, they want to know, is equalization
of opportunities going to cost the exchequer in the 21st century.
By the year 2025, with increasing life expectancy, the prevalence for mild and severe
disability may well push up to around 7.5%. This affects the fundamental rights of a
massive group of people who transcend very barrier of nationality, gender and age.
Therefore, the Governments will have to spend resources for more detailed census, welfare,
monitoring and evaluation.
It is pertinent to outline here future course of action for disabilities in India.
- The PWD Act has broadly adopted a multi-sectoral approach, which is not effective as
except the nodal Departments, no body owns the programme. The implementation needs clear
focus, goals and sense of accountability.
- A ten year perspective plan, demarcating responsibilities and milestones is needed. A
goal of covering at least 25% of disabilities population in a given time must be set.
- The NGO set up has largely confined itself upto larger urban areas. Thus, rural areas
have no access to most of the facilities through Govt. or NGO channels. The Govt. may
consider providing, to NGOs, as an incentive, higher level of grant in aid for services
and for manpower engagement in rural and semi-urban areas.
- Sensitization workshops must be organized for Government functionaries, professionals
like lawyers, doctors, architects, construction engineers, police personnel, para-medical
staff, grass-root level functionaries, who could help such people in daily life. The
disability certificate should be uniform and be acceptable to all Govt. organizations for
- All facilities/concessions provided to such persons be published at one place for
information and easy accessibility. It would need periodic upgradation also.
- Education is the first step for empowerment. At present about only 4% of disabled
children have access to education facilities in India. Instead of providing for a separate
education setup it is socially desirable, economically viable and educationally
appropriate to provide for education of disable children at every level of normal
- The 3% reservation in educational institutions must be taken up vigorously as this would
empower them with necessary knowledge, skills and qualification to lead a productive life.
All Training institutes in the country must have disability component in their curriculum
- As the employment in the Govt. sector and in the PSUs, cannot meet the needs and
aspiration of the eligible & employable disabled persons schemes for their self
employment be formulated and linked with credit. Important component of such a scheme
would include training, skill upgradation, providing equipment support, technical, design,
marketing assistance and financial support.
- It would be appropriate to have a National Resource Centre for disabilities at the
Central level for collecting, collating and dissemination of information on every aspect
of disability. This Centre should be on the Net. The TV and Radio Channels must be
proactive and give programmes on regular basis highlighting disability related issues,
Mr B.L.Sharma, IAS (Retd.) Chairman, Lok Jumbish Parishad, Jaipur-302004 Raj. (India)
Tel.:00 91-141-515850 F/ No: 00 91-141-510445 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
* The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily
represent those of the United Nations Secretariat. This document has not been formally
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