Draft leaves many questions unanswered
Doubts over what the government, the legislature and the new disability law drafting committee are doing about discrimination we hear from various quarters are raised every now and then. Are people with mental illness not disabled people? The draft says that it is a law that covers all rights for all disabled people but there is not a single mention about those with mental illness. What happens to their rights?
The government and the drafting committee say that they want a law in line with UNCRPD. Can this law be a sufficient one without dealing with legal capacity?
The draft says that plenary guardianship is to be abolished. If the basic functions of the National Trust, appointment, monitoring, dismissal and reappointment of guardian, are taken away from the trust what would be the work of the trust and why should it exist as a separate legislation at all? Or is it that despite abolishing plenary guardianship, the National Trust would continue to do these things?
There is yet another perception in the disability sector that if one comprehensive law comes into existence the National Trust won’t exist. It is not a true perception. Instead the National Trust would become stronger and wealthier, and would serve more disabled people who need support.
For inclusion to be a way of life reasonable accommodation (to create an equal playing field) is mandatory. What would ensure reasonable accommodation? Where does human resource for reasonable accommodation come from? Does the government mean to say that only special educators and care givers can make our country inclusive for disabled people? What about legal capacity? What about access? What about employment? What about other aspects of life?
Speaking about inclusive education, why is information technology in communication and access not a part of reasonable accommodation? When the whole world is moving towards inclusion and cross disability, why at all do we need a separate clause on establishing special schools? What about special education being a compulsory part of teachers’ training at all levels and languages? There are a few mentions about the choices of parents and caretakers. There is also a mention of the word ‘custody’. What does this mean? Are we forgetting the child rights’ convention?
What happens to the evolving capacity of the child? Without the consent of the child how can one decide on a crucial subject such as education?
The new Act speaks about National Disability Commissioner’s court and State Disability Commissioner’s court in the chapter on the Disability Rights Authority. Are we striving towards inclusion or towards segregation? Don’t we want our judiciary to be accessible for all, including the disabled people? Do the disabled people need a separate judicial system?
The draft says that one can approach the district commissioners for disabilities for violation of legal capacity. There is no mention about the District Disability Commissioner in the draft. How can one approach a non-existent authority?
The draft law reserves 6 per cent in employment for disabled people according to their disabilities. How did the committee arrive at this number? What is the logic behind the figure? Doesn’t this mean that a visually impaired woman in the remotest of the villages without any qualification, without any support services is being treated as equal to her counterpart in a metropolis with all support service and educational facilities? How fair is this? What about people with other disabilities such as mental illness, mental retardation, autism and disability in movement? It is worth keeping in mind that most of the service providers in all these categories are urban based or semi urban based.
A group of members in the committee are against the concept of one comprehensive law. Do they realise what they are doing by this? Why don’t they want the implementation, monitoring and redressal mechanism in the same law as the same one that recognises all rights of all disabled people?
Why do we need a law only to recognise the rights of disabled people when the Constitution says all citizens are equal before the law? If the law only recognises the rights, then who will protect these rights and how?
If we look at why all these questions have come up about the draft law there can be only one answer — the drafting committee is full of rehabilitation professionals and parents when it should have been a committee of disabled people, legal experts with representation for parents and rehabilitation professionals.
The drafting committee claims to hold consultations with stake holders. How does one consult with stake holders when one doesn’t know anything as to what is there in the draft? How did the consultation take place in Gujarat, Jammu & Kashmir and Madhya Pradesh without the draft being translated in the regional languages? How did the committee expect a 115- page legal document to be read by the stake holders in 5 to 7 days as is happening in Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Haryana? If two three states are clubbed together why is it being called a state consultation? In Tamil Nadu why is the so-called local coordination committee not willing to pay TA/DA and give accommodation for out-station participants? It is worth noting that the state is having only a two-day consultation schedule.
(The writer is a disability rights activist)