Necessity for a new national policy for persons with disabilities

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    In News 

    • Recently ,The Department of Empowerment of Person with Disabilities (DoEPwD) released the draft of the national policy for persons with disabilities (“Policy”) .

    Need 

    • The necessity for a new policy was felt because of multiple factors such as
      •  India’s signing of the United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
      •  Enactment of a new disability legislation (Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016) which increased the number of disabilities from seven conditions to 21 and
      •  Being a party to the Incheon Strategy for Asian and Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities, 2013-2022 (“Incheon commitment”). 
    • These commitments have changed the discourse around disability by shifting the focus from the individual to society, i.e., from a medical model of disability to a social or human rights model of disability.

    About  the policy

    • It replaces the 2006 policy .
    • The policy document highlights a detailed commitment to education, health, skill development and employment, sports and culture, social security, accessibility and other institutional mechanisms. 

    Objectives

    • It aims to showcase the Government’s commitment to the inclusion and empowerment of persons with disabilities by providing a mechanism that ensures their full participation in society.

    Laws and Legislations 

    • Article 29 of the Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities mandates that state parties should “ensure that persons with disabilities can effectively and fully participate in political and public life on an equal basis with others, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
    • The Incheon goals also promote participation in political processes and in decision making. 
      • It was prepared under the aegis of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) which identifies 10 goals for Asia-Pacific countries to ensure the inclusion and the empowerment of persons with disabilities and conformity with the Sustainable Development Goals 2030.
    • The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 embodies these principles within its fold. 
      • The anti-discrimination commitment under this Act recognises the political domain wherein disabled people should be allowed to realise their human rights and fundamental freedoms. The documents fail to take cognisance of such mandates.
      • Section 11 of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act prescribes that “The Election Commission of India and the State Election Commissions shall ensure that all polling stations are accessible to persons with disabilities and all materials related to the electoral process are easily understandable by and accessible to them”. 
    • The Election Commission of India has developed its own procedures for handling PwDs during the electoral process.

    Challenges faced by persons with disabilities

    • Political empowerment and the inclusion of the disabled are an issue that has not found traction in India’s democratic discussion. 
    • India does not have any policy commitment that is aimed at enhancing the political participation of disabled people.
    • The exclusion of disabled people from the political space happens at all levels of the political process in the country, and in different ways. 
    • Political parties in India still do not find the disabled as the large electorate to specifically address their needs.
    • The lack of live aggregate data on the exact number of the disabled people in every constituency only furthers their marginalisation. 
    • Inadequate representation
      • Representation plays an imperative role in furthering the interests of the marginalised community. 
      • Disabled people are not represented enough at all three levels of governance. 

    Ways to handle them

    • The goal of the policy document — of inclusiveness and empowerment — cannot be achieved without political inclusion. 
    • The policy can follow a four-pronged approach: 
      • Building the capacity of disabled people’s organisations and ‘empowering their members through training in the electoral system, government structure, and basic organisational and advocacy skills’
      • The creation, amendment or removal of legal and regulatory frameworks by lawmakers and election bodies to encourage the political participation of the disabled;
      • inclusion of civil societies to ‘conduct domestic election observation or voter education campaigns’ and 
      • a framework for political parties to ‘conduct a meaningful outreach to persons with disabilities when creating election campaign strategies and developing policy positions’.
    • Central and State governments must work together with other stakeholders to “make the right real”.
      • A few States have begun the initiative at local levels to increase participation.
        •  For instance, Chhattisgarh started the initiative of nominating at least one disabled person in each panchayat. 

    [Q] Persons with disabilities are not represented enough at all three levels of governance in India ,Comment