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Kerala government drafts guidelines, ahead of implementing RPWD 2016 Act

In spite of the RPWD Act, 2016 being introduced almost three years back, the act has not been successfully implemented across India. Now, the Social Justice Department of Kerala government has drafted rules and is waiting to get this cleared from the cabinet so that they can introduce this at the earliest in the state. Disability rights groups are hopeful of this but also questions whether it is going to be something that is only in papers.

It has been over three years since the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 (RPWD) has been introduced. But there is widespread criticism that the act has not yet been implemented yet. The government of Kerala is gearing up to draft rules, clear it from cabinet and introduce this at the earliest. According to reports, the Social justice department of the state has joined hands with organisations to implement this at the earliest.

The new disability act has more provisions than the previous Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995. Moreover, number of disabilities have also been increased from seven to 21 in the new act. It added acid attack survivors, people with language, learning disabilities, muscular atrophy, dwarfism and blood disorders like Haemophilia and Sickle Cell disease as well. According to the new limited guardian provision, a close relative, sibling or parent can become the legal guardian for the person with a disability.

"We have been working on this draft for a while now and this will be submitted to the government by first week of October. There has been a delay because we need to take opinion on what the public has to say about this", says Sheeba George IAS who is in charge of drafting the guidelines.

Dr Mohammed Asheel, Executive Director, Kerala Social Security Mission says that the department has been working relentlessly on drafting the guidelines at the earliest.

The initial works are over. We want to know what the general public has to say about this and have been gathering opinions on that. A broad discussion involving people from various spheres of life was also taken into account. It is clearly not a delayed process. It is one that takes time- Dr Mohammed Asheel, Executive Director, Kerala Social Security Mission.

According to the RPWD Act, 2016, the state and central governments must work together to ensure that people with disabilities are given their rights without fail. This includes providing jobs and education to disabled people without fail. Lack of ensuring these rights to a disabled person is a clear a violation of the law.

"I think the state government planning to implement this at least after three years of introduction of RPWD Act, 2016 is something great. But its success can be determined only after seeing how well it comes into effect across Kerala. Will the provisions that are implemented become useful for people from the disabled community? Even today, parking at public places for people with disabilities is difficult. Something basic like that could not be successfully implemented in Kerala", says Unni Maxx, a disability rights activist from the state.

Once the draft for guidelines are issued, the government must also ensure that a service protocol will cover therapy schedule. Cost of services must be maintained by these centres without fail. All this must be implemented by 1 January 2020, at the earliest. "In 2015, when we petitioned for guidelines at therapy centres, we realised there was nothing substantial anywhere in India. So the first step was to get that in place. It took us five years to get it done. Our focus is always in best interest of the child. Parents and professionals must work together for that. We have to find a way or make one", says Seema Lal, Co-founder, TogetherWeCan, a parent support group from Kerala.

Also Read: Curated tours, sign language interpreters planned in Kerala as part of Barrier Free Tourism project

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