Skip to main content

Whither disabilities rights? Modi govt 'prioritizes' safeguarding business sentiment

Counterview Desk
The National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) has asked the Narendra Modi government to stop patronizing the rhetoric of ‘Divyang politics’ towards the physically challenged persons, insistng, it should instead ensure “accessibility” of basic services to them as a fundamental right.” 
In a statement, India’s top civil society network demands that the government must immediately “roll back problematic amendments to the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act, 2016”, insisting upon the need for broader sections of society to “resist attempts to weaken penal provisions that hold entities accountable for violation of RPWD Act”. 
It emphasises on the need to stress on the rights of the marginalized citizens instead of ‘business sentiments’.

Text:

National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) is outraged at the spree of pernicious changes that the current dispensation is bringing forth to various laws to undermine the hard-won rights of citizens. Even as we deal with Covid and lockdown, we have witnessed problematic provisions being introduced through ‘proposed amendments’ to environment, labour, electricity, transgender rights and many other laws.
As part of its ‘Post-Covid Economy Revival Strategy’, the Central government has now hurriedly come up with a proposal to amend the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act (RPwD), 2016, a legislation that has a painful history of decades of struggle by lakhs of persons with disabilities across the country.
Notably, while the Act itself has not been effectively implemented in the past four years, the Government seeks to dilute its provisions since it is ‘impacting business sentiments’ and investments from both domestic and foreign investors! Thus, far from creating an enabling and empowering environment required under the Act, the Modi government is launching a veiled attack on the one of the most marginalised and neglected sections of our society.
We express our outright condemnation of the current move to weaken the penal provisions of the RPwD Act that actually ensures accountability towards the other enabling aspects of the law. It is most unfortunate that the Union Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry (MoSJE), which is charged with the responsibility to strengthen the rights of the marginalized communities has been spear heading some of these retrograde changes! 
After pushing the deeply objectionable Draft Rules for the Rights of Transgender Persons Act during lockdown, the Ministry has now, through the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, embarked on this process of amending the RPwD Act!
The proposal put out by the Ministry a couple of days back expresses the need for “De-criminalizing Minor Offences for Improvising Business Sentiment and unclogging Court Processes” and thereby adversely strike at the core of the Act itself. The proposed amendment aims to debilitate the penalty clauses under Sections 89, 92 (a) and 93 of the RPwD Act by making certain offenses ‘compoundable’. The law, as it exists provides for the following penalties:
a) Sec 89: Any person who contravenes any of the provisions of the RPwD Act or Rules, shall for first contravention be punishable with fine up to Rs 10,000 and for any subsequent contravention with fine not be less than Rs. 50,000/- and up to Rs 5 lakhs.
b) Sec 92 (a): Whoever intentionally insults or intimidates with intent to humiliate a person with disability in any place within public view shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than six months but which may extend to five years and with fine.
c) Sec 93: Whoever, fails to produce any documents or information required as per RPwD shall be punishable with fine upto Rs. 25,000/- in respect of each offence, and in case of continued failure or refusal, with further fine upto Rs. 1,000/- per for each day, of continued failure.

The proposed amendment seeks to introduce a new Sec 95-A which provides that any offence under Sec 89, 92 (a) and 93 may either before or after the institution of proceedings, be ‘compounded’ by the Chief Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities or the State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities with the consent of the aggrieved person with disability, by such amount and in such manner as the Central government may, by notification, specify in this behalf.
Where an offence has been compounded, the offender, if in custody, shall be discharged and any proceeding in respect of such offence, shall be dropped.
Activists working on the disability front for long, opine that penal provisions for contravening the provisions of a law enabling a marginalized section must be seen not as an ‘impediment’, but as necessary for robust compliance, leading to an inclusive and equitable society. Diluting these penalties, is akin to legitimizing offensive behaviour against persons with disabilities and making public and work spaces more unsafe and inaccessible for them.
Proposal to amend disabilities Act is inaccessible in diverse languages, Braille, tactile communication, large print, audio, video
The provision against humiliation is already quite restricted, in that, it can be invoked only if such an act happens in a public space. To compromise even on that, is a complete affront on the dignity of lakhs of disabled people.
Be it noted that, for over two decades, the absence of effective penal provisions was one of the reasons for non-implementation of various provisions in the (now repealed) Persons with Disabilities Act, 1995. Further, in the absence of adequate and credible data available with the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) regarding actual number of cases registered under the said provisions of RPwD Act and penalties imposed, these amendments are completely preposterous.
It is also understood that while initially the ‘invitation’ to submit comments on these proposed amendments was extended towards end-June, only to seven organizations mostly in Delhi, the Ministry, responding to criticism, subsequently put up the proposal on its website two days back, ‘seeking public feedback’.
However, the deadline ‘to furnish comments’ by July 10 (mere 10 days) is woefully inadequate! Concerns have been expressed that the State Disability Commissioners have not even been informed or taken into confidence about this move.
The proposal is also in an inaccessible format of communication, i.e. not inclusive of all official and other diverse languages, display of text, Braille, tactile communication, large print, accessible multimedia, written, audio, video, visual displays, sign language, plain-language, human-reader, augmentative and alternative modes and accessible information and communication technology.
Sadly, the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016 (RPwD) Act itself has never been effectively implemented as per the United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2006. 
RPwD Act is a stated commitment of Government of India under international law that the provisions of the UN Convention (which it ratified in Oct, 2007) would be complied with in letter and spirit. However, many aspects of the Act including accessibility in all government buildings, full and effective participation and inclusion in society etc., ensuring adequate budgets and setting up the necessary monitoring infrastructure are far from implemented. 
‘Ease of doing Business’ should not mean a vile negation of the hard-won rights and dignity of the marginalized. Instead of being a democracy of, by and for the people, the current regime is pushing India to become a land of, by and for corporates and big businesses! 
By amendments to Sec 89, 92(a) and 93, the government is attempting to take away the limited teeth of the RPwD Act to ensure its compliance. This move is also in violation of the fundamental right to dignity, equality, non-discrimination, free movement and right to life of persons with disabilities under Articles 14,15,19 & 21 of the Constitution. 
The Union Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, in a Report of 2018 indicates that persons with disabilities constitute at least at 2.2 percent of our population, which is a huge number. The Government cannot bring in amendments in such a cavalier manner that would affect almost 2.68 crore people. If all the patronizing rhetoric of 'Divyang' and Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas aur Sabka Vishwas', ends up leaving the disability community more marginalized, it only exposes the utter callousness of this regime.
NAPM unequivocally opposes these amendments and calls upon the Government of India to listen to the experiences and concerns of disability community and immediately roll back these changes that will have an adverse impact on their well-being.
We demand that no changes to the RPwD Act, 2016 must be made in violation of the UN Convention on RPwD and without wide-ranging, inclusive and accessible consultations with the disability community and its allies, at large. Instead, the 2016 Act must be implemented, as per the framework of the UN Convention.
We stand in solidarity with all persons with disabilities, disability rights organisations and activists in their legitimate struggle against the proposal to dilute and nullify the penal provisions contained in the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.
We call upon all supportive political parties, state governments and other socio-political organizations and unions to take a stand against these highly violative amendments and amplify the voices of the persons with disabilities.
---
Click here for signatories

Comments

TRENDING

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Examples of support to Hindu temples, scriptures, saints by 'Muslim' rulers galore

Siya Ram coin issued by Akbar By Bharat Dogra* At a time when the country as well as the world are passing through very difficult times leading to more urgent need for strengthening national unity for meeting several big challenges ahead, unfortunately disputes relating to religious places have been allowed to raise their ugly head once again. It is well-realized by now by many people that it is not historical facts but narrow considerations of political gain and spreading of fanatic ideas of intolerance which are behind such mischief, but due to the increasing threat of mob violence and patronage available at higher levels to groups spreading intolerance many people are reluctant to openly and fearlessly express their views. Hence there is urgent need for broad-based peace committees with wider social support to spread the message of communal harmony and to appeal against the dangers of spreading false messages regarding places of worship which can ultimate

Gyanvapi case: Use of 'illegal' lawfare to keep the communal pot simmering

By Venkatesh Narayanan, Bobby Ramakant, Manoj Sarang* With a steady drumbeat of bad news for the lives of ordinary citizens --  inflation at a multi-year high , rupee at an all-time low , negative job creation and when all forward indicators as seen by industry leaders point to recessionary clouds on the horizon , what’s a serially-incompetent government to do?  Dust out their time-tested-citizen-distraction playbook. The Gyanvapi-Masjid case is all of this -- as a weapon of mass distraction. This zeitgeist of our times is best captured by a recent opinion piece : "The idea is to keep the pot on a perpetual boil, simmering at the top, whirling feverishly beneath. A restless society forever living precariously on the precipice arouses distrst, uneasiness, fear and discomfort, That is a toxic panoply for manufacturing rage, which can then be effortlessly mobilized at short notice. BJP is creating an eco-system of real-time instant delivery of hate-mongers. That is how we are sudde

Targeting mosques, churches: 'Roadmap' for 2025, RSS' centenary year?

416 years old Our Lady of Health Church, Sancoale, Goa  By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*  Fascists use manipulative strategies aimed at whipping up sympathy and support from the majority community, to which they normally ‘belong’. They do so in a variety of insidious and subtle ways. In the past few months, they have gone overboard in their efforts to denigrate and demonize minorities in India, particularly Muslims and Christians. They have spewed hate and divisiveness through their venomous speeches; incited people to violence and have effectively used officialdom to further their vested interests. The results are there for all to see: greater polarisation of the majority community in a country which prided itself for its pluralism and diversity. Their meticulously planned agenda is in order to gain absolute power of the country in the 2024 national elections. More so it is also a roadmap towards 2025 when the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) will complete one hundred years of its existence.

This varsity succumbed to extra-academic mobocracy, 'ignored' Hindutva archives

By Shamsul Islam* Open letter to Sharda University vice-chancellor Sub: Discarding a Question on Linkages of Hindutva with Nazism/Fascism is blatant Academic Dishonesty! Dear Professor Sibaram Khara Saheb, Namaskaar! According to your esteemed University’s portal: “The name of University, 'Sharda' is synonymous to 'Goddess of knowledge and learning-Saraswati'. She is identified with 'veena', an Indian musical instrument and the ‘lotus’, where she resides. The lotus in our logo symbolizes the seat of learning that the University is created for.  "Variety of colours signify the variety of disciplines the university offers and the overlap between petals creating new colours demonstrate the ethos of collaboration between students and teachers of different programme, nationality, creed and colour working towards creating new knowledge…the University's cherished mission to provide education beyond boundaries and to facilitate the students and faculty to achie

Whither climate goal? Increasing reliance on coal 'likely to worsen' India's power crisis

By Shankar Sharma*  Recent news articles, How to shock-proof India’s power sector and Power minister points finger at states for worsening electricity crisis , have highlighted a few current problems for the ongoing power sector issues as in April 2022. However, there is a lot more to it than a few temporary solutions as indicated in the articles. It should also be emphasised that it is techno-economically impossible to completely shock-proof a highly complex and geographically wide-spread vast power network, such as the one in India, which is only getting more and more complex with the passage of each year due to some irrational policies/ practices in the sector. A business-as-usual (BAU) scenario, wherein more and more of conventional technology power plants, including coal power plants, will be added in the near future, will also necessitate the increased complexity in the integrated national grid, and as a result the instances of power shortage/ disruptions can only escalate for

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

A former Modi ally, Prashant Kishor wanted to enter Congress 'on contract, as trader'

By Anand Sahay*  The Congress Party and the election campaigns specialist Prashant Kishor, whose company has done strategic communications for a host of political parties across ideology, should both count themselves lucky that they could not reach an agreement for Kishor to join the party. News reports suggest that the Congress rejected Kishor’s terms. This is not wholly unexpected. People join a party because they are attracted to it, and wish to serve it in any capacity that the party may see fit. But that isn’t Kishor at all. He gave the impression of entering into a contract, as a trader might. If news reports are to be believed, he sought freedom to report directly to party chief Sonia Gandhi, and sought untrammeled control over party communications. When such ideas did not find favour, the consultant withdrew. It is clear he has no particular love for the Congress, and its ideas, ideology and politics. In contrast, look at the key personae in G-23. They

Govt of India 'compromising' on mandate to regulate gene technologies, protect nature

Counterview Desk  In a letter sent to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and other related ministries and departments, the Coalition for a GM-Free India has raised "serious concern" over the guidelines notified for Genome Edited Organisms, in which major exemptions from regulations have been offered to certain categories of Genome Edited Organisms/Plants and products. A letter signed by Sridhar Radhakrishnan and Kapil Shah, co-convenors of the NGO network, addressed to Union Minister for Environment, Forest & Climate Change Bhupender Yadav, said, the Office Memorandum, dated May 17, 2022 of the Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science & Technology about Safety Assessment Guidelines, which follows the Office Memorandum dated March 30, 2022 of the MoEFCC, said, the move "essentially amounts to entry of risky GMOs through the backdoor. Text : Coalition for a  GM-Free India is a national volunteer-driven platform of hundre

A Marxian trend that queries undemocratic customs and traditions of capitalism

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*  A very well-meaning comrade called me a pluriversal Marxist with a wild smile full of English irony, while chairing my book release function in the Marx Memorial Library, London. I dedicate this piece to her… There is no other philosopher who is more abused and misunderstood like Marx. There is no other philosophy like Marxism which is more demonised on a regular basis. The mindless vilification campaign against Marx and Marxism continues without any form of reason. The propaganda and portrayal of Marxism as a devilish doctrine signify its importance as a philosophy of human emancipation from the very forces who demonise it. Marxism is a philosophy of praxis which helps us to understand the centrality of creative power of labour in producing socially meaningful value. It helps us to analyse the laws governing production, distribution, consumption, exchange, market, profit, pricing and private property in the development of class-based society. As a humanist p