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- The differently abled are not ‘disabled’ only because they are physically or mentally ‘impaired’ but also because society is built in a manner that does not cater to their needs (1)
- In the society, disability is understood to be biological. Whenever a disabled person is confronted with problems, it is taken for granted that the problems originate from her/his impairment. The very idea of disability suggests that they are in need of help.(1)
- The very term ‘differently abled’ challenges each of these assumptions. Terms such as ‘mentally challenged’, ‘visually impaired’ and ‘physically impaired’ came to replace the more negative terms such as ‘retarded’, ‘crippled’ or ‘lame’. (1)
- The disabled are rendered disabled not because they are biologically disabled but because society renders them so. Hence, as society and a nation, efforts have been shifted to make places and institutions more inclusive and accommodative, thereby tackling the “social” aspect of disability.
Issues faced by persons with disability
- Access to public places, institutions etc are restricted due to limitations of infrastructure and un-supporting public perceptions of disabilities.
- Opportunities in various domains of education, employment etc are highly restricted
- Disability and poverty have been deeply inter-linked. Poverty may lead to disabilities and similarly, disability may lead to an individual falling into the trap of poverty.
- Access to appropriate healthcare is further restricted due to inadequate public health care infrastructure and high expenses associated with private healthcare.
- Societal perceptions and stereotypes lead to further anxiety and exclusion for the differently abled.
- There have been multiple government interventions in the legal domain to ensure against any injustice to the persons-with-disabilities. Further, the state has recently instituted some schemes and initiatives to ensure that society becomes more inclusive for the differently abled.
- Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995- The Act has the following objectives
- To spell out the responsibility of the state towards the prevention of disabilities, protection of rights, provision of medical care, education, training, employment and rehabilitation of persons with disabilities;
- To create a barrier free environment for person with disabilities in the sharing of development benefits, vis-a –vis non disabled persons;
- To counteract any situation of abuse and exploitation of persons with disabilities; and
- To make special provision of the integration of persons with disabilities into the social mainstream.
- Office of the chief commissioner for persons with disabilities
- The Persons with Disabilities Act 1995, provides for the creation of the office of Chief Commissioner for persons with disabilities
- The Chief Commissioner coordinates with the State Commissioners, monitors utilisation of funds from Central Government, takes steps to safeguard the rights of persons with disabilities and also looks into any complaints regarding ingressions into rights of such persons
- The Chief Commissioner can also take suo motu notice of non-implementation of any Rule, law etc.
- The Chief Commissioner is vested with the powers of a civil court realting to summoning of witness, discovery, requisitioning and production of any document etc.
- National trust for the welfare of persons with autism, cerebral palsy, mental retardation and multiple disabilities
- The trust seeks to enable the persons with these disabilities to live independently , to extend support to organisations involved in the area and to evolve the procedure for legal guardians of such persons.
- Accessible India Campaign or Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan
- to enable persons with disabilities gaon universal access, equal opportunity for development, independent living and participation in an inclusive society
- The campaign is in line with UN Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities to which India is a signatory.
- It sets various targets such as
- Making railway stations and airports in the country fully accessible to the disabled
- To make atleast 10% of government owned public transport fully accessible to the disabled
- Making public documents more accessible to persons with disabilities
- program comes with an index to measure the design of disabled-friendly buildings and human resource policies
- Rehabilitation Council of India
- It is a statutory body responsible for regulating the training policies and programmes for various professionals in the areas of rehabilitation and special education.
Recent SC judgements
- In July 2016, the Supreme Court declared 2 office memoranda of 1997 and 2005, on the manner in which reservation of seats for the disabled should be handled, as inadequate.
- The case related to limitation of reservation for disabled to posts filled through direct recruitment in the groups A and B services as per the above memoranda.
- The Court ruled that the memoranda are in contravention of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995; also, that the disabled quota will extend to promotions.
- It directed that vacancies among posts identified for the disabled must be filled through reservation, regardless of the mode of recruitment — be it promotion or direct recruitment.
- Largely, the case highlights the manner in which implementation of the measures conferring rights to differently abled persons, is far from adequate on the ground.
- In October 2013, in Union of India v. National Federation of the Blind, the court had noted the “alarming reality” that the disabled were out of jobs not because their disability came in the way, but rather due to “social and practical barriers”
- An important aim of the society is to integrate persons with disabilities in the society so that they can actively participate in society and lead a normal life. Ideally, a disabled person should be able to commute between home, work place and other destinations with independence, convenience and safety. The more persons with disabilities are able to access physical facilities, the more they will be part of the social mainstream.
- Further, there is a need to Change public perceptions towards the disabled. They need to be treated in a special manner, neither looked at with pity. Accommodation and inclusive attitudes are the key.
- The various provisions meant to safeguard and empower persons with disabilities need to be implemented in the letter and spirit of law. Correct intent would automatically lead to correct implementation and application.
The article analysis India’s poor ranking in the Global Information Technology Report 2016 despite so many new initiatives by the government.
- India’s low ranking on the Networked Readiness Index (NRI) 2016, a key component of the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) The Global Information Technology Report 2016 that was released on 6 July, reveals that the government’s Digital India programme has to overcome steep challenges before it can claim success.
- Not only has India been ranked 91 among 138 countries in 2016, but WEF’s figures also show that India has actually fallen 23 places in the NRI ranking in the last four years.
- In 2013, India was ranked 68 on the NRI index out of 144 countries. The following year, in 2014, the ranking slipped to 83 out of 148 countries.
- In 2015, India’s ranking fell to 89 out of 143 countries. And this year, it slipped further to 91 out of 138 countries.
- One can argue that Digital India’s Rs.1.3 trillion programme—which envisages a plethora of e-governance services across sectors like healthcare, education and banking, and promises to introduce transparency in the system, reduce corruption and achieve inclusive growth—was only given the green light in 2015.
- However, one cannot ignore the fact that the Modi government is simply building on the National e-Governance Plan (NeGP) that was approved in 2006 under the previous government.
- The NDA government is now using technologies like mobility, analytics, cloud and the Internet of Things to implement the Digital India programme that dovetails with its other initiatives like Smart Cities and Make in India.
- But the 2016 WEF report underscores that despite improvements in its political and regulatory environment (78th, up four in 2016) and in its business and innovation environment (110th, up five), India slipped two positions to an overall rank of 91 from 89 in 2015.
- The report attributed the drop, in part, to the fact that other countries are moving ahead at higher speeds but it was categorical that lack of infrastructure (Rank: 114) and low levels of skills among India’s population (Rank: 101) remain the key bottlenecks to widespread information and communications technology (ICT) adoption, especially in terms of individual usage (Rank: 120).
- On a positive note, one can indeed see various initiatives by the government:
- Digital Locker that allows you to store important files and lets you authenticate them online with your Aadhaar number,
- e-bastas (basta is Hindi for satchel),
- Linking of Aadhaar to bank accounts and availing of subsidies.
- It’s also true that these e-services ride on a robust GI Cloud, also known as Meghraj, and that over 1,700 government departments and agencies across the country already use the mobile platform, Mobile Seva.
- Bharat Net (earlier known as the National Optical Fibre Network, governed by the department of telecom), the digital infrastructure has components like common service centres (CSCs) for every panchayat. All post offices and the CSCs are being upgraded and expanded.
- Moreover, Digital India seems to be picking up pace on the broadband front too.
- Mobile calls still drop when having a conversation in Digital India.
- Many people in villages still do not have an Internet connection or enough content in their mother tongues.
- The WEF 2016 report highlights that a third of the Indian population is still illiterate (Rank: 95) and a similar share of youth is not enrolled in secondary education (Rank: 103).
- Only 15 out of 100 households have access to the Internet and mobile broadband remains a privilege of the few, with only 5.5 subscriptions for every 100 people.
- A deep divide persists between well-connected metropolitan hubs and remote rural areas, where even the most basic infrastructure is insufficient.
- Many parts of our country lack basic electricity to power Digital India.
- Execution too, will continue to remain a challenge since Digital India has to be coordinated by DeitY, but the implementation has to be done by all government departments, state governments and the Union territories.
- Programmes like Smart Cities and Make in India will require considerable investments in terms of manpower, technological upgrades, skill development, digital literacy and, most importantly, a plethora of standards to be laid out and adhered to.
Question:WEF’s network readiness index numbers are indeed a wake-up call for the Indian government. The index reveals that the government’s Digital India programme has to overcome steep challenges before it can claim success.
Discuss. Suggested approach:
- India’s performance according to report.
- Government initiatives and the challenges.
- How to overcome those challenges.