Human Rights Issues

India’s Population with Disabilities

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Disability in India

December 3 is marked by the UN as International Day of Persons with Disabilities in a bid to promote a more inclusive and accessible world for the differently-abled and to raise awareness for their rights.

Try this question from our AWE initiative:

What are the legal provisions and policy initiatives in India for the welfare of persons with disabilities? What are the challenges faced by persons with disabilities in India? 10 marks

Disability in India

  • About 2.2% of India’s population lives with some kind of physical or mental disability, as per the National Statistics Office report on disability released last year.

How are the disabled identified?

  • Until the 2011 census, there were questions on seven kinds of disabilities in the questionnaire.
  • This list of disabilities was expanded to 21 when the Rights of People with Disabilities was introduced in 2016.
  • Accordingly, the 2019 report included questions to identify people with temporary loss of ability as well as neurological and blood disorders in addition.
  • The earlier definition included mental retardation and permanent inability to move, speak, hear and see.
  • Significantly, the revised definition recognizes deformities and injuries of acid attack victims as disabilities, entitling them to various relief measures.

Who are disabled and in what way?

  • Rural men had the highest prevalence of disability in India, according to the NSO report.
  • A higher proportion of men were disabled in India compared with women, and disability was more prevalent in rural areas than in urban areas.
  • Inability to move without assistance was the most common disability. More men experienced locomotor disability than women.
  • These numbers were self-reported. In other words, the respondents were asked if they experienced any difficulty in performing tasks like moving, talking, etc.

Are these measures in line with those from other surveys?

  • The 2011 census estimated that the number of people with disabilities in India is close to 2.68 crore (or 2.2% of the population) — that is more than the entire population of Australia.
  • This number was based on the older definition of disability, yet the proportion of disabled people in the population is not different from the 2019 NSO report, which used the expanded definition of disability.
  • Other metrics for evaluating disability have provided different estimates.
  • A group of doctors from AIIMS found that alternate questionnaires like the Rapid Assessment of Disability have resulted in a prevalence ranging from 1.6%-43.3%.

How can the range be so wide?

  • The proportion of population facing disability becomes bigger as one move from a narrow definition to a broader one.
  • For instance, if one defines disability as the difficulty in accessing public services for all kinds of reasons, even social or economic, then the proportion goes up.

Why is it important to map disabled people?

  • Like other disadvantaged groups, the disabled in India are entitled to some benefits, ranging from reservation in educational institutes to concessions on railway tickets.
  • To claim these benefits, they have to furnish certificates as proof of disability.
  • At the macro level, data on the prevalence and type of disability is useful while making allocations for welfare schemes.
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