Draft disability policy

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Incheon commitment

Mains level : Paper 2- Political inclusion of persons with disability

Context

The Department of Empowerment of Person with Disabilities (DoEPwD) recently released the draft of the national policy for persons with disabilities.

Why new policy?

  • Signing of UN convention: The necessity for a new policy which replaces the 2006 policy was felt because of multiple factors such as India’s signing of the United Nations Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
  • Increased number of disabilities: Enactment of Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016, which increased the number of disabilities from seven conditions to 21 necessitated the change.
  • Incheon Strategy: Being a party to the Incheon Strategy for Asian and Pacific Decade of Persons with Disabilities, 2013-2022 (“Incheon commitment”).
  • Changed discourse from medical model to human right: 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.
  • The principle of the draft policy is 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.

Absence of commitment to political uplift

  • 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.
  • The Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 embodies these principles within its fold.
  • 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.
  • 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”.
  • Although this mandate has been in existence for a few years, the disabled people still report accessibility issues before and on election day. 
  • There is often a lack of accessible polling booths in many locations.
  • Lack of aggregate data: The lack of live aggregate data on the exact number of the disabled people in every constituency only furthers their marginalisation.

Lack of 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.
  • However, 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.
  • If a disabled person is not elected then they are nominated as a panchayat member as per changes in the law concerned.
  • This is a step that has increased the participation of the disabled in the political space at local level.
  • The goal of the policy document — of inclusiveness and empowerment — cannot be achieved without political inclusion.

Suggestions: Follow four pronged approach

  • The policy can follow a four-pronged approach:
  • 1] Capacity building: 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’;
  • 2] Legal and regulatory framework: The creation, amendment or removal of legal and regulatory frameworks by lawmakers and election bodies to encourage the political participation of the disabled;
  • 3] Participation of civil society: Inclusion of civil societies to ‘conduct domestic election observation or voter education campaigns’;
  • 4] Framework for outreach by political parties: A framework for political parties to ‘conduct a meaningful outreach to persons with disabilities when creating election campaign strategies and developing policy positions’.

Conclusion

The document lays emphasis on the point that central and State governments must work together with other stakeholders to “make the right real”. This right can be made real only when it includes political rights/political participation within it.

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