Education December 12, 2020
Proposed amendments to Rehabilitation Council of India Act cause for concern say disability rights activists
A statement by the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled expressing concern over the proposed amendment to the Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI) Act has found support among disability rights activists.
First the move to decriminalise certain offences in the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act 2016 to “improve business”. Now comes a proposal to amend the Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI) Act with the aim to harmonise the RCI in tune with the RPWD Act.
A move that has been slammed by the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD).
In a statement, the NPRD said it would have been prudent to pass an alternate legislation, adopting a holistic approach to the myriad issues rather than make piecemeal amendments.
No RCI chairperson for years
What is more blatant is the stated objective of fine tuning it with the New Education Policy 2020. Apart from other things, the proposal is to convert the RCI into a “self-sustaining” body, within a period of four years. By implication, budgetary support to the RCI would be withdrawn and institutions and professionals seeking registration with the RCI would have to shell out more. – National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled
Enacted in 1992, the RCI is mandated mainly to regulate and monitor the training of rehabilitation professionals. It has been without a chairman for years and there have been numerous complaints about its functioning.
In November a Newz Hook report had highlighted instances of fraud in the online certification process of rehabilitation professionals. Shortly after the NPRD had sought the intervention of the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD) when reports emerged that the RCI had violated the reservation policy mandated in the RPWD Act.
All this, says the NPRD, calls for legislation that is in harmony with provisions of the UNCRPD and the RPWD Act while retaining the RCI’s autonomous nature. “It has to be ensured that there is accountability and the Council functions in a democratic and transparent manner”, the statement adds.
Autonomy vital, say experts
Concerns shared by educationists and experts working in the field.
“The top-down approach of the Council that mandates (read dictates) registrations and regulations on professionals should change to a more enabling one”, said Seema Lal, Co-founder, Together We Can, a parent support group in Kerala. “They should have mechanisms in place to reach out to impart skills and knowledge, update syllabus, and so much more. RCI should get more decentralised”.
“Like the Medical Council of India and the Bar Council of India, the RCI should be an autonomous body”, adds Kavita Sharma, Vice President (North), Autism Society of India. “Yes, there is a need for greater professionalism, but this should not be at the cost of losing autonomy. The RPWD Act deals with 21 disabilities and these are further placed under six or seven categories. Ideally we should have two domain experts from each category in RCI who can deal with the executive functioning of the organisation”.
The NPRD has demanded that the government hold consultations with all stakeholders. It plans to work with other disability rights groups and send detailed submissions.
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