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In notifying RPWD Act, Delhi government stands tall above other states

It may have been late in coming, but the manner in which the Government of Delhi has notified rules under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, has shown the way to other states, and even the Centre.

By notifying the rules, Delhi joins a handful of states, including Chandigarh, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur Meghalaya, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, and Bihar. Shameful that that over a year after RPWD Act 2016 was enforced, most states have not notified rules, which is the first step towards implementing the Act.

The approach of the Delhi government has been refreshingly different, points out disability rights leader Dr Satendra Singh, who was a member of the advisory committee set up by the government to look into the process.

"The Delhi government constituted a separate committee to discuss all the stakeholder suggestions it received on its draft rules. Because of the involvement of disability experts, Delhi state rules are progressive and more accountable, and in some ways even better than central rules", says Dr Singh.

So, what does this mean for the people of Delhi? It means disabled people can now avail of concessions and benefits in education, health services, loans, jobs and other schemes offered by the state government.

The other significant takeaway is that establishments can no longer discriminate on disability grounds.

We have specifically mentioned that the Health Department of the Delhi government will notify the certifying authorities for issuing of disability certificates. The process will be simplified now such that different departments concerned with the respective disability will issue the certificate. We have also clearly pinpointed which authorities are responsible for creating awareness. This way we can ensure that everyone in invested. - T D Dhariwal, State Commissioner, Disabilities, Delhi Government

There are several other welcome steps to improve the monitoring and efficiency of schools for children with disabilities. "Anyone can open a special school as of date, but standards of teaching are poor. They are not bound by any syllabus, so the terms and conditions for recognizing special schools have been laid out", added Dhariwal.

There are many other aspects in which the Delhi government's approach is progressive. While the Centre says that every establishment must publish an equal opportunity policy for people with disabilities, it does not specify a time limit. The Delhi government has clearly set down a six-month timeframe.

"This is very progressive when we compare it to larger states like Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu where equal opportunity policy do not even find a mention", points out Dr Singh. "There is accountability there. Telangana has this rule but no timeframe. This defeats the purpose of the Act. Disability is a State subject and the onus is on the States to promote welfare over and above the minimum prescribed in the Central Rules."

Some other notable differences are:

  • All complaints to the State Commissioner, Delhi, by aggrieved persons must be settled within 30 days at the most. The Centre has a time limit of 60 days, as is the case with Tamil Nadu and Telangana. Uttar Pradesh has no time limit.
  • The Delhi government committee on research into disability will include a disabled doctor so the needs of the community are reflected. None of the other states have done this.
  • Terms and conditions relating to recognition of educational institutions specified, which has not been done in the Centre.
  • The Delhi government will offer assistance to people with disabilities with high support needs. Again, not specified by the Centre.

Dr Uma Tuli, Founder, Amar Jyoti Charitable Trust, an organization that works for the rehabilitation of people with disabilities in New Delhi, was also a part of the advisory committee. She hopes that the rules will finally pave the way towards better implementation of RPWD Act 2016. "The problem has been weak implementation. We have all these guidelines in place but nothing has happened in a concrete way on the ground. Hopefully that will now change."

A change that Dr Singh says, "bring hopes of a new era".

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