Deadline for states on rights of people with disabilities

New Delhi, April 10 (IANS) Concerned over the delay in response from some states to the draft bill on the rights of people with disabilities, Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Selja has shot off a letter setting a deadline for feedback on the legislation, which seeks to remove gaps in existing law.

In her letter to seven chief ministers and a governor late last month, Selja said that lack of comments from states had led to a delay in giving final shape to the “important” Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPwD) Bill.

She urged the concerned states to send their views by April 12 and noted that in the absence of comments, it will be presumed that the state has no comments to offer.

Sources said letters has been written to the chief ministers of Uttar Pradesh (Akhilesh Yadav), Punjab (Parkash Singh Badal), Bihar (Nitish Kumar), Andhra Pradesh (N. Kiran Kumar Reddy), Tamil Nadu (J. Jayalalithaa), Assam (Tarun Gogoi) and Tripura (Manik Sarkar). The letter has also been sent to Jharkhand Governor Syed Ahmed as the state is under president’s rule.

Selja said in her letter that a copy of the RPwD bill had been sent by the secretary, department of disability affairs last September and the matter had been subsequently followed up but the states had not sent their comments.

“In view of above, I shall be grateful if you could instruct the concerned officials to send the comments/suggestions, if any, on the draft RPwD bill by April 12, 2013 to enable this ministry to further proceed in the matter in getting the proposal finalized. If no comments are received by that date, we would presume that your state government has no comments on the matter,” the letter said.

Selja, who was moved to the social justice and empowerment ministry in last October’s cabinet reshuffle, said the states were primarily responsible for the welfare of people with disabilities and their observations and comments on such an important bill would serve as valuable inputs for taking a final view in the matter.

Sources said the ministry had appointed a committee to draft the new legislation to replace the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995 and the committee gave its final draft in June 2011.

They said that the draft legislation was revised to “make it more realistic” and incorporate suggestions from other agencies, including the National Advisory Council.

They said that the draft bill had been posted on the ministry’s website for wider publicity.

The officials said they were keen to table the bill during parliament’s monsoon session in July-August.

“We will send the bill for inter-ministerial consultations once we are through with the stage of getting comments from states. We will then move the cabinet,” a ministry official told IANS.

He said that many of the states that had not sent their comments were large with a sizeable proportion of disabled people and the ministry was keen to get their views.

India has ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and is obliged to ensure full realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of people with disabilities without any discrimination.

The official said that the new bill reflects commitments made by India under the UNCRPD.

He said the draft bill expands the scope and definition of physical impairments and recognises people with disabilities as equals.

The draft bill also lays down procedures by which the civil-political rights guaranteed in the constitution and UNCRPD can be realised for people with disabilities.

The 2001 census had found 21.91 million disabled people in the country but there were concerns over methodology and definition.

The World Bank had estimated in 2007 that disabled people constituted between four to eight percent of India’s population.

(Prashant Sood can be contacted at [email protected])

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