Accessible India Campaign extended due to ‘slow progress’
The Accessible India Campaign also known as the Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan was launched in December 2015 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The project that aimed to make the country accessible for people with disabilities is yet to meet its target. The government has announced that deadline of Accessible India campaign has been extended.
The campaign aimed to ensure that people with disabilities get access to equal opportunity and are able live independently in an inclusive society. The Accessible India Campaign was launched with some fixed targets that are yet to be achieved. While presenting the status of the campaign in Lok Sabha, the government has stated that due to ‘slow progress’ the deadline has been extended to March 2020.
Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment Krishanpal Gurjar said “Due to slow progress, revised deadlines have been extended to March 2020.”
Campaign progress until now
Gurjar also informed in the Lok Sabha that 211 Central government buildings that are maintained by the Central Public Works Department have been made accessible so far. Under the Accessible India Campaign, the government has released ₹354.45 crore that is to be used for the accessibility related work on 1,058 public buildings across the country.
At least 50% government buildings were to be made accessible for disabled people in each of the state capital and central capital till end of May 2018. While 25% of the public transport vehicles under government were to be made disabled friendly till the middle of 2017. Not only buildings, the campaign extends to providing accessibility in the media, transportation system, banking, etc.
Disability rights’ activists are disappointed
Several disability rights activists have expressed their disappointment over the lax attitude of the government departments at center and state level. Disability rights leader Dr Satendra Singh shared his thoughts with Newz Hook.
This is not the first time they have shifted the deadline. They have changed it multiple times that too to make 60 plus urban states accessible. The strategy they are using is not correct as they are relying on NGOs to do access audits and many of whom are not trained. This should be the responsibility of Government officials from Public works department in consultation with disability sector. – Dr Satendra Singh, Disability Rights Activist
The guidelines of the Rights of People with Disabilities Act, 2016 call for all existing and new public buildings to follow the accessibility standards. As notified in 2017, old buildings were given five years to make the necessary alterations.
Nipun Malhotra, CEO, Nipman Foundation also feels that extension of deadline indicates the commitment of the government towards making the campaign a success on time.
He said, “It’s extremely sad that the deadline for the Accessible India campaign has been extended, again. Since the start, the goalpost has changed multiple times. Deadlines have been pushed countless times. It is said to see the lack of priority given to this campaign. I’m not even sure what the campaign that started off as a well-intentioned one to empower Persons with Disabilities stands for now.”
The extension of the deadline highlights the apathy of the system that is not taking the cause of accessibility seriously while millions of people with disabilities in India are struggling.