New Delhi: The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill was passed in Parliament on Friday. The Bill, aimed at safeguarding and enhancing the rights of the differently-abled, got the Lok Sabha’s nod today after being passed in the Rajya Sabha yesterday, paving the way for it to become law.
While the previous Persons with Disabilities 1995 Act had seven listed disabilities, the current bill after amendments, has added 14 more, taking the list of disabilities to 21. It now includes those attacked with acid and also those with autism, cerebral palsy and Parkinson’s Disease. The Centre will have the power to add more disabilities to the list.
Javed Abidi, Founder, Disability Rights Group, said, “The passing of the bill has catapulted us from the present level to the next level. I call this second phase ‘Disability 2.0’. It’s the maturing of the Indian disability movement and there’s a lot of excitement in the group.”
“This is a historic moment for us who have been fighting to get autism included in the “Persons with Disabilities (PwD) Act, but I must say, it’s just the beginning,” said Merry Barua, founder director of Action for Autism who was also part of a committee that drafted the bill.
Ms Barua said how the bill is implemented on the ground will be crucial. “The bill is already a watered down version of the original draft. We had proposed a 5% reservation for people with disabilities, we got 4%. In the Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995, there was a 3 per cent reservation, but even that was not being implemented, so implementation is going to be the key,” Ms Barua said.
In the proposed law, special infrastructure in public buildings (private and government) will be made accessible for the differently-abled. Mr Abidi said, “A paradigm shift is happening and it is for the first time that private sector has been made accountable to provide better accessibility to the differently-abled. Educational institutes will also fall under the ambit. It’s a landmark move.”
The proposed law also provides for four per cent reservation for the differently-abled in government jobs up from three per cent. Those caught discriminating against the differently-abled will be fined between Rs 10,000 and Rs 5 lakh. The earlier clause of a jail term of six months to two years has been dropped in the amendment.
Elated and thankful, activist Syamala Gidugu, said, “We are very, very happy and thankful to the government who passed it on the last day of the winter session. I know it is getting some criticism, but I feel it’s a righteous bill and the clauses mentioned would be beneficial for a large number of people with disabilities.
Ms Gidugu who is Executive Director with Action for Ability Development and Inclusion (AADI), added, “Inclusive education has been given a major thrust and the government’s effort is laudable.”
The proposed law would ensure that differently-abled children in the age group of six years to 18 years will have the right to free education and special courts would be set up to handle cases concerning the violation of rights of persons with disabilities.