Excerpts from a letter sent to the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment by the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled

Delhi, March 25, 2017: The National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD) today urged a number of changes to the Draft of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Rules in an urgent missive to K. V. S. Rao, Director, Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, Government of India. The letter was sent in response to a gazette notification of March 10, 2017.

Among other issues, the letter highlighted complete neglect of rules that would ensure education, social security, health, rehabilitation and recreation facilities for persons with disabilities. It said: “What we find appalling is that no rules are proposed for many chapters of the [Rights of Persons with Disabilities] Act, including for provisions contained in the two crucial chapters dealing with ‘Education’ and ‘Social Security, Health, Rehabilitation and Recreation’.”

The letter was also critical of the private sector being let off from the rules under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act: “What is intriguing is that many positive provisions contained in the draft rules put out on the department’s website earlier are found missing in the version put out through the gazette notification later. Some of these pertain to proposed rules governing private establishments.”

On another contentious issue, Section 3(3) of the Act that talks about discrimination against persons with disabilities on grounds of a legitimate aim, “. . . the draft rules fail to address the assurance the Minister for Social Justice & Empowerment, Shri Thawar Chand Gehlot had given on the floor of the Rajya Sabha in response to amendments moved by Shri K. K. Ragesh and Shri C. P. Narayanan supported by Shri Sitaram Yechury, while the RPD Bill was being discussed [in December 2016].”

Quote: The government plans to frame a policy for implementation of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act. This is a fallacious line of thinking akin to putting the cart before the horse. While an Act should follow a policy, it cannot be the reverse.

The letter further states: “We are given to understand that the Department is proposing framing of a policy for implementation of the Act. This is a fallacious line of thinking akin to putting the cart before the horse. While an Act should follow a policy, it cannot be the reverse. In any case, a policy cannot be merely confined or restricted to implementation of a piece of legislation. A policy should ideally spell out of the overall approach of the government to a particular issue and its long term perspective. The mistake was committed earlier, too. When the [Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act] was legislated there was no policy in place. What came out as a policy 11 years later in 2006 was a replica of the 1995 Act as also containing measures to implement it.”

The NPRD also urged that the “government should not rush through this process of framing the rules with the ill conceived aim of meeting some self-set deadline for publication”. Its letter pointed out that the committee constituted for the purpose of framing the rules had only three representatives from the disability rights sector, whereas the number of disabilities recognized by the Act had gone up from seven to 21. “It would therefore be in the fitness of things if consultations with stakeholders are held at both the state and national level where representatives from all the 21 conditions specified in the Act plus representatives of [Disabled People’s Organisations] are invited and their inputs taken.”

The letter concluded by saying that, “Rushing through the process and coming out with half baked rules will do more harm, complicate the process of the implementation of the law, subject it to varied interpretations and lead to unnecessary litigation etc. We, however, would like to emphasize that we too are very much eager to see that the provisions of the Act come into force at the earliest. But this should not be at the cost of leaving out crucial chapters and not addressing all concerns adequately.”

Contact: Muralidharan, Secretary, NPRD: 0091 98687 68543

Also read: Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 Is a Reality! in the December 2016 issue of Varta – Editor.