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CPI(M) releases election manifesto in audio version, disability rights groups call it a historic move

They may not be front runners in the national elections, but the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has taken the lead when it comes to inclusion by releasing an audio version of its election manifesto, the first time a political party has done so.

On Thursday, the CPI (M) released the audio and the printed versions of its manifesto simultaneously and the audio version is available at https://cpim.org/pressbriefs/audio-cpim-election-manifesto.

Section on disability

The manifesto has a separate section on people with disabilities, a practice that the party started ahead of the 2009 elections. The section has many provisions, some of the key ones being:

  • Implementation of the provisions of the RPWD Act 2016 and the Mental Health Care Act supported by adequate budgetary allocations.
  • Harmonizing all laws in India in tune with the United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
  • Reviewing, amending the National Disability Policy.
  • Simplifying process of certification, speeding up the issuing of UDID.
  • Creation of newer employment avenues taking the capabilities of disabled persons into account.
  • Making all buildings, public places, all modes of transport, information and other avenues fully accessible and barrier free for people with disabilities; provision of sign language interpreters; making TV and other broadcast media accessible for people who deaf /hard of hearing and the visually impaired.
  • Zero tolerance for abuse of disability/disabled persons. Enhancing the pension to at least Rs. 6,000/- and link it up with the price index.
  • Free provision of aids and appliances. Zero GST with input tax credit on aids, appliances and vehicles used by disabled persons.
  • Making education, school infrastructure and curriculum inclusive. Making health facilities accessible and free for persons with disabilities.
  • Extending assistance under MPLADS fund to all assistive devices and facilities.

In doing so, the CPI (M)'s has struck a radical and refreshing note especially in an election season which has seen leaders across the political spectrum make mocking, even abusive comments about disabilities.

In a statement, the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD), a nationwide cross disability rights group, has welcomed the move.

We sincerely hope other political parties will follow suit and address genuine concerns of one of the most stigmatized and marginalized sections of our society. - National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD)

The move is perhaps an indication that mainstream political parties are increasingly starting to recognize that disabled people are an important vote bank, who cannot be brushed aside. There is also a concern that this could be just a gimmick to garner the community's votes.

"It is a great initiative and people with disabilities in Kerala have been asking the government to introduce exclusive schemes and programmes for us, said Lys Bin Muhammad, President, All Kerala Wheelchair Rights Federation. "I am glad that a national political party has finally come up with something exclusive. But is this going to be a mere election manifesto where the party is doing this to get votes of disabled people?

Whether other parties choose to emulate the CPI (M) or not, this is a good first step, says Professor Raghu Raman, of the Disability Rights Alliance India (DRAI), and founder, Karna Vidhya Foundation, an organization that trains visually impaired people for the workplace.

"This could be a smart wave or a colourful attractive initiation. Whatever be the case, it is definitely a good move. No small steps for inclusion must be under estimated. This initiative symbolises inclusion and opens up new doors of opportunities for people with disabilities. It is indeed a sign of progress and I appreciate this. It is high time that people with disabilities are involved in decision-making.

ALSO READ:Warn politicians who use abusive language, disability rights activists tell Election Commission

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