by Dr. P.J. Sudhakar
The Constitution of India ensures equality, freedom, justice and dignity of all individuals and implicitly mandates and inclusive society for all including the persons with disabilities. The Constitution in the schedule of subjects lays direct responsibility of empowerment of persons with disabilities on the State Governments. Therefore, the primary responsibility to empower the persons with disabilities rests with the State Governments also. As per Census, 2001, there are 2.19 crore persons with disabilities and they constitute 2.13 per cent of the total population of the country. These include persons with visual, hearing, speech, locomotors and mental disabilities. India is a signatory to the Declaration on the Full Participation and Equality of People with Disabilities in the Asia Pacific. India is also a signatory to the Biwako Millennium Framework for action towards an inclusive, barrier free and rights based society. India signed the UN Convention on Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities and India ratified the Convention on 1st October, 2008. National Policy for Persons with Disabilities has been formulated in 2005. The policy focuses on the prevention of disabilities, the physical and economic rehabilitation measures for disabled persons. The policy is to be implemented by Government and other agencies. According to United Nations directives the international day of people with disability is being celebrated across the world on 3rdDecember on every year.
National Institutes for Disabled
In order to effectively deal with the multi-dimensional problem of the disabled population, the following National Institutes/ have been set up in each major area of disability namely; (i) National Institute for the Visually Handicapped, Dehradun, (ii) National Institute for Orthopedically Handicapped, Kolkata, (iii) Ali Yavar Jung National Institute for the Hearing Handicapped, Mumbai, (iv) National Institute for the Mentally Handicapped, Secunderabad, (v) National Institute of Rehabilitation Training and Research, Cuttack, (vi) Institute for the Physically Handicapped, New Delhi, (vii) National Institute for Empowerment of Persons with Multiple Disabilities, Chennai. These institutes are mainly responsible for conducting innovative researches, organise training programmes for manpower development and deliver services in the country.
Regional Rehabilitation Centres in five Composite Regional Centres (CRCs) for the Persons with Disabilities are located at Srinagar, Lucknow, Bhopal, Sundernagar and Guwahati. These centres conduct training programmes to prepare professionals in the field of rehabilitation as well as provide rehabilitation services to the disabled. Four Regional Rehabilitation Centres for Spinal Injuries and other Orthopaedic Disabilities at Mohali, Cuttack, Jabalpur and Bareilly are providing services for basic management and follow-up of the spinally injured so as to make the affected persons functionally independent. Artificial Limbs Manufacturing Corporation of India (ALIMCO), Kanpur, is a public sector body, engaged in manufacturing of aids and appliances for persons with disabilities. The products manufactured by the Corporation conform to ISI standards approved by the Bureau of Indian Standards. Marketing of products organised through Regional Marketing Centres at Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Bhubaneswar and Delhi and also through National Institutes, and voluntary organisations.
National Handicapped Finance and Development Corporation (NHFDC) is an apex-level financial institution for extending credit facilities to persons with disabilities for their economic development. Funds assistance is disbursed through the channelizing agencies authorized by the State Governments/UT Administrations and Non-Government Organisations. It also extends loans for pursuing education at graduate and higher levels. Besides, it assists in the upgradation of technical and entrepreneurial skills to enable beneficiaries to manage their production units efficiently. Government of India is implementing Scheme for Assistance to Disabled Persons for Purchase/Fitting of AIDs and Appliances. The objective of the Scheme is to assist needy and disabled persons in procuring-durable, sophisticated and scientifically manufactured, standard aids and appliance that can promote their physical, social and psychological rehabilitation by reducing the impact of disability and enhancing their economic potential. The scheme is implemented through agencies like voluntary organisations, National Institutes under the Ministry of social justice and empowerment ALIMCO, Zila Panchayats, DRDAs, etc. The implementing agencies are provided grant-in-aid for purchase, fabrication and distribution of aids and appliances. The scheme also includes under its ambit medical/surgical correction and intervention that may be essential prior to figment of aids and appliances.
Supreme Court Directives
The Supreme Court of India had recently delivered landmark Judgement directing the government that 3% reservations allotted to disabled to be filled on priority basis. The apex court also directed the government to protect the human rights of disabled and ensure barrier free environment at public places and offices.
Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995
A comprehensive law, namely, the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995 has been enacted and enforced from February 1996. The law deals with both prevention and promotional aspects of the rehabilitation such as education, employment and vocational training, creation of barrier-free environment, provision of rehabilitation services for persons with disabilities, institutional services and supportive social security measures like unemployment allowance and grievance redressal machinery both at the Central and State-level. Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities is an important statutory functionary, appointed under Section 57 of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995. The functions and duties of the Chief Commissioner include coordinating the work of State Commissioners for persons with disabilities, monitoring of utilisation of funds disbursed by the Central Government, taking steps to safeguard rights and facilities made available to persons with disabilities and also to look into complaints with respect to deprivation of rights of persons with disabilities. The Chief Commissioner can also take suo motu notice of non-implementation of any rule, law meant for persons with disabilities and is vested with the powers of a civil court relating to summoning of witness, discovery, requisitioning and production of any documents. The National Trust for disabled is a statutory body set up under “The National Trust for the Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities Act, 1999″.
The main objectives of the Trust are to enable and empower persons with these disabilities to live independently as fully as possible, to extend support to registered organisations providing need-based services and to evolve procedures for appointment of legal guardians for persons with disabilities requiring such protection.
Rehabilitation Council of India
The Rehabilitation Council of India is a statutory body set up under the Rehabilitation Council of India Act, 1992. The Council is responsible for regulating the training policies and programmes for various categories of professionals in the area of rehabilitation and special education. Its functions includes, standardisation and regulation of training courses at different levels in all the training institutions throughout the country, recognition of institutions/universities running training courses in the area of rehabilitation of the disabled within and outside the country on a reciprocal basis, promotion of research in rehabilitation and special education, maintenance of a Central Rehabilitation Register for professionals possessing the recognised rehabilitation qualifications in the area of rehabilitation, and encouragement of Continuing Rehabilitation Education programmes in collaboration with organisations working in the area of disability.
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