Make disabled people a priority in COVID-19 battle plan : NCPEDP appeals to PM Modi
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) has pointed out how the disabled community continue to be excluded from all essential services during the COVID-19 lockdown. They have sought the PM’s urgent intervention in the matter.
Pankaj Parida in Bhubaneswar has a lower limb disability and works with a catering company. Since the lockdown was declared there have been no orders and work and he has been unable to earn. His wife is disabled too and their two children are currently being fed by their neighbours. “How long will they keep doing this”, he asks. “After all, they are affected by the lockdown too”.
The COVID-19 lockdown has hit India’s disabled community doubly hard. And with the Centre likely to extend it given the increasing cases, the uncertainty and stress looks set to grow. Accessing food, medicines, and other essential supplies remains a struggle for a majority of the country’s nearly 10 crore disabled community.
Disabled community doubly affected
Given this scenario, the disability sector has asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to personally intervene and ensure that steps are taken immediately to include disabled people in the COVID-19 battle plan. In a letter to the Prime Minister, Arman Ali, Executive Director, National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) has highlighted their exclusion on several fronts.
What makes this even more worrying is that 20% of India’s poorest are people with disabilities
with nearly 70% of the community either unemployed or engaged in the informal sector. They are also the first to be sidelined during a food and medicines shortage which makes them even more vulnerable.
People with disabilities have an additional cost of living with a disability that should be factored in while arriving at any compensation for them. Under the circumstances and from the hundreds of calls we are receiving on the various helplines operational, we do realise that this section of people would have been badly hit during the last three weeks of the lockdown and the impact would be even more adverse in the coming phase. – Arman Ali, Executive Director, National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People
PM Modi’s personal intervention sought
Under these circumstances, the NCPEDP has made these five key demands:
- Uniformity in pensions for people with disabilities across states and urgent release of the same.
- Increase of ex-gratia amount as declared by the Government to be increased from ₹ 1,000 to ₹ 5,000.
- Announcement of an adequate economic package for rehabilitation of persons with disabilities affected by this lockdown, for them to resume their lives with dignity and independence.
- Strictly enforce the ‘Comprehensive Disability Inclusive Guidelines for Protection and Safety of Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan) during COVID 19’ released by the Department for Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities.
- All announcements should be in accessible formats with preferred use of electronic media such as radio and TV. Currently all the guidelines issued are inaccessible. This includes education during the lockdown period which fails to include accessibility mandates for disabled students.
A personal intervention by PM Modi, says Arman, would send out a strong message to all those involved in the battle plan to fight COVID-19 to prioritise people with disabilities so they are not merely an “afterthought”.
“It is not good enough to just say that we need to think about people with disabilities as the beneficiaries of any assistance. We need to really think about the entire ecosystem and the entire discourse around it and we have to ensure that we foolproof our methodology, healthcare and all kinds of services to ensure that Persons with Disabilities are not left behind”, Failing to do so, he says, will mean a repeat of such a scenario yet again.
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