Delhi High Court tells Centre to consider providing free food grains to disabled people
In a strongly worded statement, the Delhi High Court has said that people with disabilities have been excluded from welfare schemes for a long time and that the Centre should consider the idea of providing them with ration based on their disability certificates.
“The problem is they are excluded from (welfare) schemes from time immemorial. If the Centre is not aware about this, we will make it aware“.
This strongly worded statement from the Delhi High Court bench of Justice DN Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan was in response to a public interest litigation filed by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). The NGO moved the PIL seeking directions to the Department of Food and Public Distribution to direct all state governments and union territories to provide food grains free of cost to people with disabilities as is being done for migrant labourers during the pandemic.
Disabled people historically neglected
The judges said that people with disabilities have been excluded from welfare schemes “from time immemorial”. It said it was time the Centre looks into providing them ration based on their disability certificates. It said the “Fact that persons with disabilities get marginalised from every scheme does not require a debate”.
The PIL has sought directions to ensure that benefits of welfare schemes, like Pradhan Mantri Garib Anna Kalyan Yojana are also offered to people with disabilities. The bench has suggested that the Centre initially provide one month’s ration to disabled people based on their disability certificates. It has also asked that while doing so, it should get all their details so a ration card can be issued. This way they will have a ration card as is mandated under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) for receiving food grains.
Senior advocate Santosh Kumar Rungta, who appeared for NFB, said people with disabilities are neglected when it comes to relief under many food security measures as most of them do not have ration cards.
Lack of ration cards deprived many PwD
In court, the Centre was rebuked for stating that the onus was on disabled people to show why they were not able to get ration cards.
The onus is not on PWD to they could not get ration cards. Onus is on government to show it has provided ration cards to everyone. It is unharmonious if you implement the National Food Security Act but not the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016. The disharmony is due to ignoring of the RPWD Act while implementing the NFSA. – Delhi High Court
In its PIL, the NFB has said that under the RPWD Act 2016, the reservation for disabled people in poverty alleviation schemes was increased to 5% and therefore the Centre should ensure that at least 5% is reserved for disabled people under various schemes like Antyodaya Anna Yojana and Pradhan Mantri Garib Anna Kalyan Yojana.
Mr Rungta, who is the General Secretary, National Federation of the Blind, has called the order historic and said it would lead to 5% reservation for disabled in all poverty alleviation schemes.
The court has directed the Department of Consumer Affairs and Food and Civil Supplies to take instruction by 29 July.
This comes a week after the Supreme Court order that people with disabilities are entitled to the same benefits as Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe candidates in public employment and education. In doing so, the apex court had upheld an earlier judgement of the Delhi High Court.
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