Nudge for clarity in disabled bill
New Delhi, Jan. 29: Maneka Gandhi has pushed for clarifications of the terms "disability, illness and disease" in a bill that seeks to provide the disabled 5 percent reservation in government jobs.
The women and child development minister sought the clarifications at a recent meeting of a group of ministers on the bill, arguing that the proposed law differentiates between the three conditions. The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill, 2014, is meant to replace a 1995 law that provides a 3 percent quota.
"What I suggested at the meeting was that instead of a gross mix-up of the physically disabled, mentally ill and mentally challenged, and the diseased for reservations, we refine the list," Maneka said today.
The bill, drawn up by the social justice ministry, has identified 19 disabilities and clubbed them under five categories, proposing 1 percent reservation for each.
The categories are: (a) blindness and low vision (b) hearing impairment and speech impairment (c) locomotor disability including cerebral palsy, leprosy cured and muscular dystrophy (d) autism, intellectual disability and mental illness (e) multiple disabilities.
Maneka said she had pointed out at the meeting that clubbing leprosy with autism, for instance, was not fair as leprosy was a disease and autism, an extreme level of disability. She argued that putting leprosy alongside disabilities could trigger demands for similar inclusion of diseases like cancer and kidney failure.
She also wants the term "mental illness" clarified further to specify which kinds can be deemed employable.
Disability rights activists insist, however, that all the 19 identified conditions are disabilities and not diseases. "All these are disabling conditions, each one as disabling as the other," said activist Javed Abidi. He argued that people suffering from all such conditions faced discrimination and stressed that the law should protect them from such prejudice.
"For example, a person may be qualified but may not be given a job once his prospective employer comes to know he or she has cerebral palsy. This is the discrimination that people with such disabilities face," Abidi added.
Others argued that clubbing of certain disabilities was necessary as all 19 disabilities cannot be given a common quota.
"One has to understand that no one who is not qualified can even apply for a job. The reservation is only to ensure that the person is not discriminated against because of his condition.
"Those with disabilities who cannot work, or are not qualified to do a certain job, obviously will not apply for the post. I cannot understand why there is so much confusion," said Muralidharan of the National Platform for the Rights of the Disabled.
Senior officials in the social justice ministry, headed by Thaawar Chand Gehlot, said they were considering Maneka's inputs but added that no decision had been taken yet. The group of ministers, headed by home minister Rajnath Singh, will meet again in the second week of February.
Source: The Telegraphindia