Budget 2021-22: Disabled Cold Shouldered
Budget 2021-22: Disabled Cold Shouldered
The Union Budget has once again failed the disabled. Given its track record, especially so during the pandemic period, when it even sought to dilute penal provisions contained in the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, apart from various other regressive proposals, there was no expectancy in the air from the government. But that it would go to the extent of further reducing already squeezed spending for the disabled was unanticipated. Especially so when hit by the pandemic, thousands of disabled have lost their jobs and livelihood.
The allocations to the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities have been substantially reduced from the budget estimate of Rs. 1325.39 last time to Rs. 1171.77 crores this time. This drastic reduction of nearly 12 per cent, without doubt will adversely impact various schemes and programmes that are being undertaken by the department.
The total expenditure earmarked for the national programmes for welfare of persons with disabilities has been reduced from Rs. 655 to Rs. 584 crores. The total expenditure towards schemes/projects has been reduced from Rs. 780.00 to Rs. 709.77 crores, this time. The sum total towards Social security & welfare has gone down from Rs. 1126.79 to Rs. 988.59 crores.
Over the years there has not been a single rupee addition to the amount of disability pension. It stands at a meagre Rs. 300 for the past many years, to avail which one has to have a disability of over 80% and be in the BPL category. No wonder only 3.81 per cent of the disabled population, identified by the 2011 census, are covered.
The overall reduction results in cut in allocations to various schemes, institutions and programmes. The “Scheme for Implementation for Persons with Disabilities Act” sees a cut in its allocation from Rs. 251.50 to Rs. 209.77 crores. The National Trust which caters to persons with autism, cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities etc. is also witnessing lesser budgetary support. It has been reduced from Rs. 39.50 to Rs. 30.00 crore. Even allocations to the National Programme for Prevention of Blindness have been reduced by nearly 50 per cent from Rs. 20.00 to Rs. 10.50 crores as compared to last year. Grant in aid to state governments have also been reduced substantially.
When more disabled people are joining the ranks of the unemployed, it would have been prudent to enhance allocations for the National Handicapped Finance and Development Corporation, to enable it to provide loans to small businesses set up by disabled people. On the contrary budgetary support to the NHFDC has been drastically reduced from Rs. 41 crore provisioned in the 2019-20 budget to a mere Rs. 0.01 crore this time. The announcements made to vigorously pursue privatization of various public sector undertakings will adversely impact the disabled also. With the government unrelenting on the demand to extend reservations to the private sector, shrinking employment avenues in the government sector will see the ranks of the unemployed disabled bourgeoning.
Another important area is of Mental Health. India was already having a huge mental health issue. The NIMHANS Bengalure in a report in 2018 estimated that nearly 82% do not have access to treatment.
The pandemic only exacerbated the crisis. One would expect an acknowledgment of the crisis and an adequate response. Far from it. Allocations to the National Mental Health Programme remains constant at Rs. 40.00 crore. No support has been earmarked for the National Institute of Mental Health & Research for the last two years. However, unlike last time, there has been a slight increase in allocations to the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bengaluru and the Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoli Regional Institute of Mental Health, Tezpur.
It came as no surprise that the Finance Minister, not once during her entire speech referred to the disabled. She had nothing to offer. Only cuts from the meagre sums that were budgeted last time.
(The author is General Secretary of the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled)
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