Disabled and disheartened

Disabled and disheartened

Progressive legislation and enabling administrative orders constitute the policy framework under which the government deals with the rights of persons with disabilities and seeks to provide them equal opportunities.

Progressive legislation and enabling administrative orders constitute the policy framework under which the government deals with the rights of persons with disabilities and seeks to provide them equal opportunities. However, it is only when tested in practice that the real efficacy of the policy is known. Recent court verdicts suggest that the implementation of measures conferring rights on the people with disabilities is still far from adequate. This is in spite of statutory reservation in jobs and other measures formulated with great care. The Supreme Court’s recent verdict, declaring illegal two office memoranda of 1997 and 2005 on the manner in which reservation of seats for the disabled should be handled, is the latest instance of the government’s policy approach being exposed as inadequate. Though the verdict in Rajeev Kumar Gupta and Others v. Union of India arose out of a specific grievance that the disabled were denied the benefits of reservation in Group A and Group B posts in the Prasar Bharati Corporation, it is applicable across the entire spectrum of public employment in the two categories. The court ruled that limiting the disabled quota to posts filled through direct recruitment in the two groups is in contravention of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995; also, that the disabled quota will extend to promotions. It directed that vacancies among posts identified for the disabled must be filled through the reservation, regardless of the mode of recruitment — be it promotion or direct recruitment. The ruling has significantly enhanced the scope for the disabled to gain employment in the higher echelons. In October 2013, in Union of India v. National Federation of the Blind, the court had noted the “alarming reality” that the disabled were out of jobs not because their disability came in the way, but rather due to “social and practical barriers”. Even then, the court had noted that some provisions of the 2005 office memorandum were inconsistent with the 1995 Act. However, the government is yet to modify it suitably. In the latest ruling, a Division Bench has said it is disheartening to note the admittedly low numbers of persons with disabilities — much below the 3 percent earmarked for them — in government employment years after the enactment. It is time the Centre evolved a more inclusive policy that is in full conformity with its legal obligations. It should activate the UPA government’s proposal to enact an improved law. If necessary, the draft Bill of 2014 could be revamped after wider consultation with stakeholders. The ultimate objective should be to render complete justice to the country’s estimated 2.68 crore disabled people.

Source: The Hindu

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