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As PM Modi takes charge again, India's disabled community outline key priorities

Tomorrow a new government takes charge of India for the next five years. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his cabinet of ministers will be sworn in by President Ram Nath Kovind at the Rashtrapati Bhavan at 7 PM.

It's an incredible mandate that the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance has received in this election. A mandate that shows the enormous hopes and aspirations that the people of India have from PM Modi and his team.

India's disabled community, an increasingly visible, vocal and articulate presence, is also looking to this government with hope. Accessible India was one of the key campaigns launched by PM Modi in the previous term. In the coming years, what should be the priority areas- that's the focus on Story of the Week.

Rajyavardhan Rathore for Sports Minister - Mohammed Shams Alam Shaikh, para swimmer

"We are hoping that Rajyavardhan Rathore will again be the Sports Minister as he has worked for the welfare of para sports. We won more medals in the Asian Games and will to better our performance in the future. The foundation stone of an excellence centre for para sports was laid in Gandhinagar in 2016 and we want the work to be completed soon so aspiring para sportspersons can get better training and practice. We also want the National Federation to organise training camps, selection trials and national-level championships regularly to help identify and encourage potential talent. There is also a grave need of funding for disabled players to help them realize their potential.

Financial commitment for RPWD Act - Meenakshi Balasubramanian, Equals Centre for Promotion of Social Justice

"The government, during its last term, has not taken into account the vision document or the strategy paper while making budget announcements. In the last five years, allocation towards people with disabilities is stagnant compared to the total budgeted expenditure of the union govt. In fact, there is huge under-utilisation. There is no financial commitment for the implementation of the RPWD Act, 2016. Data and statistics is also a huge issue. In the forthcoming census, we want to adopt the Washington group disability short survey questionnaire. The government does not want to hear us. Instead, they adopt their own methods which has proved to be in effective globally. Administrative and financial data disaggregation on people with disabilities is poor. We want a change for the better. Everything must be rightly implemented.

Priority for Mental Health Care Act

This version of the Modi government should take measures to provide a dignified life for persons with disabilities. It should sincerely implement its manifesto promise of taking forward the gains of the Sugamya Bharat (accessible India) campaign backed with adequate budgetary allocations. That itself would make a huge difference. Priority should be accorded to the implementation of the provisions of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act and the Mental Health Care Act. Pensions should be enhanced, the Unique Disability ID should be speeded up.- - Murlidharan Vishwanath, National Platform for Rights of the Disabled

Unfinished agenda - Dr Satendra Singh, Disability rights activist

  • Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan needs to be revised as it failed to achieve its targets which were continuously extended. The deadline under RPDA to make all buildings accessible is early 2020 which is certainly not possible so new strategies are needed.
  • UDID has not been provided to people who applied 2- 3 years ago. This should be top priority.
  • The BJP Sankalp Patra, sadly fell short of expectations for the disability sector. The error can be amended by the party's historic mandate. Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution must be amended to prohibit discrimination on the ground of 'disability' or 'impairment'. If the government can amend the Constitution for economically weaker sections, they can certainly do for disability too.
  • GST on our body parts (read assistive devices) must go.
  • regarding promises, mention of early intervention is nothing new as identification of developmental disabilities is already there in the Rashtriya Bal Swasthya Karyakram. What is needed is to strengthen this program with 14 newer disabilities.
  • More clinical psychologists and psychiatrists needed in India to manage learning disabilities and mental illnesses respectively.<./li>
  • Ministry of Human Resource Development needs to monitor universities to set up Disability Studies Centres as mandated under RPDA. Similarly incorporate our disability competencies in all health education.

Facilities to nurture para sports - Sajesh Krishnan, Kerala's first blade runner

"Para sportspersons do not have any financial support from the government. Recently, I had gone to Kenya to play amputee football. Our players had to fund themselves or find sponsors. There are many disabled aspiring athletes who wants to enter the world of sports. But they are denied opportunities due to lack of proper guidance and training. The government must ensure that we have facilities to nurture our love for sports. I have completed over 18 marathons, and still has not got any government support.

Implement existing policies - Jasmina Khanna, Systems analyst

  • First and foremost, implementation of existing policies for persons with disabilities.
  • Infrastructure accessibility should be taken into consideration seriously.
  • Process of getting a UDID should be made simpler and faster.
  • Consider disability and accessibility when starting any new projects.
  • If any new schemes or projects are started for persons with disabilities, they should propagate the same so that people become aware about them.

Give statutory backing to Accessible India Campaign - Amar Jain, Lawyer

"The first and critical thing is that when the Accessible India measures were announced, it was not a regulatory mandate. The RPWD Act happened later, in 2016, so the first thing I would do is to give statutory backing to the campaigns and say that within the stipulated time every government department and private establishments should be held accountable. The other thing is to enhance the effectiveness of the Department of Disability Affairs. The chief commissioners of disability affairs must be enabled enough to ensure the disability law is followed. Harmonisation of all building standards is important. Our standards are not on par with international standards like in the United States. Also when we talk of web content accessibility, we are behind international standards. Internationally, (WCAG) 2.1 is in force while in India we are still on WCAG (2.0). So, there's a need to keep in pace with international developments.

Rights-based terminology needed - Smitha Sadashivan, Disability Rights Alliance

  • Consult persons with disabilities on evolving a rights-based terminology to refer to persons with disabilities instead of forcing Divyang on the community.
  • Come up with reservation for persons with disabilities in both Houses of Parliament, state legislative assemblies and local bodies.
  • Amend Article 15 of the Constitution to include persons with disabilities.
  • Amend all laws in line with United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD).
  • Come up with disaggregated data of persons with disabilities reached out through all social protection measurement.
  • Nullify GST on all assistive devices/technologies, nutrition and services used by the community.

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