By Anuradha Gandhi and Rachita Thakur
The Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, (DEPwD) Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment had put up the draft National Policy for Persons with Disabilities (hereinafter referred to as the “Draft Policy”) for public scrutiny in June 2021 inviting comments from the public.1
The enactment of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 was in line with the signing of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Person with Disabilities (UNCRPD) by India in October 2017 and adoption of New Education Policy 2020. Accordingly a committee of experts was constituted to review the existing National Policy for the Persons with Disabilities, 2006 and to suggest a new National Policy.
The Committee then formulated a Task Force under the Joint Secretary, DEPwD to draft a New National Policy for Persons with Disabilities for consideration. The Draft Policy has been recommended by the Task Force on October 12, 2021 and upon deliberations by the Committee was put up for public comments on July 09, 2023.
The Draft National Policy on Persons with Disabilities
The Draft Policy contain provisions for education, health facilities, employment and access to sports facilities, among other things.
The Draft Policy attempts to identify the principal areas of intervention that include early-identification, rehabilitation, human resource development, education, employment, barrier-free environment, social protection, research, sports, recreation and cultural activities.
To achieve the purpose, that is, to state the clear commitment of the Government to empowerment and inclusion of persons with disabilities and provide a mechanism for creating an environment for their participation in the society, the Draft Policy is based on the following key principles:2
a. Recognizes that persons with disabilities are valuable human resource
b. Recognizes that the persons with disabilities are entitled to all rights and freedom equally with others.
c. Recognizes also that the discrimination on the ground of disability is violation of inherent dignity.
d. Recognizes further the diversity of persons with disabilities.
e. Recognizes the need to promote and protect the human rights across all categories of persons with disabilities including those requiring high support.
f. Recognizes that women and girls with disabilities are at greater risk and are prone to violence, abuse and exploitation.
g. Recognizes that children with disabilities should have the freedom on equal basis at par with children without disability
h. Emphasizes the need to provide a gender perspective thrust to promote inclusion and empowerment of persons with disabilities.
i. Recognizes the greater role of Government in ensuring, promoting and upholding the rights of persons with disabilities and in 16 promoting the inclusion of disability dimensions in the development agenda in line with SDGs 2030.
The Draft Policy, based on the foundation of inclusive growth proposes for developing a network of Cross Disability Early Intervention Centres in every district to provide the services in accessible and appealing environment under a single roof. The Draft Policy further proposes to set up a national level employment portal for persons with disabilities.
The New chapter dedicated to Women
While the Draft Policy has been finalized by the Department, it is also reported that a separate chapter is being planned to be added on women with disabilities to ensure that they get adequate attention. The decision to add a chapter dedicated to women comes as a post-response decision from several suggestions received from various stakeholders.3
The New Policy on Persons with Disabilities will replace the existing policy that was notified in 2006 in accordance with the Persona with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995. However, the Act of 1995 has been replaced by the Persons with Disabilities Act, of 2016 which recognizes 21 disabilities in total and 14 more than the Act of 1995.