by M. I. Habibullah (Freelance Writer from Tamil Nadu)
Realising the problems of the handicapped, the Government has included Handicapped Welfare in its Five Year Pans and from one Pan to another, this area has been given an enhanced outlay. Moreover, the Article 41 & 46 of the Constitution of India also insists on the “all-round betterment” of the handicapped community. The handicapped are classified into five categories:- (1) Visually handicapped (2) Orthopaedically handicapped (3) Hearing handicapped (4) Mentally retarded and (5) Leprosy-cured.
Total population of all categories of the handicapped in our country is quiet large and they take any task as a “Challenge” and that is why the Government began to refer to them as “Physically Challenged Persons”.
Towards empowering the disabled, India signed the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, on 30th March, 2007, the day it opened for signature. India was also among the first countries to ratify it on 1st October, 2007. The Convention has come into force from 3rd May, 2008.
The purpose of the Convention is “to promote, protect and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedom by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity”. Article 3 of the Convention enumerates the eight guiding principles and Article 4 lays down the General Obligations.
As a step towards rehabilitation of the handicapped, the Government established a Special Employment Exchange for the Physically Handicapped (SEEPH) at Bombay in 1957. As this first venture proved successful, the Government has increased the number of SEEPH’s to 43 at present. As a second step, it has setup Vocational Rehabilitation Centres (VRC) at key stations of the country to assess the vocational capabilities of the handicapped persons. Of the 20 VRCs, Patna (Bihar) and Vadadora (Gujarat) Centres are specially meant for the women handicapped.
National Level Institutes
In order to provide National level facilities in the field of training, education and employment, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment set up four National Institutes for each category of the handicapped as under:-
1. National Institute for the Visually handicapped at Dehradun in Uttarakhand State
2. National Institute for the Orthopaedically handicapped at Calcutta in West Bengal
3. Ali Yavar Jung National Institute for the hearing handicapped at Mumbai
4. National Institute for mentally handicapped at Secunderabad in Andhra Pradesh
The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (earlier known as the Ministry of Social Welfare) set up a National Institute for Multiple handicapped at ‘Muttukkadu’ near Chennai. The “Team Speciality Hospital” at Pudukkottai in Tamilnadu treats the Handicapped in a special way through the services of expert doctors.
Concessions and Facilities
The Government through it’s various Ministries provides a number of facilities for the all-round betterment of the handicapped community. Three percent job reservation is provided to the handicapped job-seekers in the group A, B, C & D Posts (Class I,II,III & IV) since 1977. The job reservation is one percent to the blind. One percent for the deaf and dumb and one percent for the orthopaedically handicapped persons. All the State Governments and the Union Territory Administrations are observing the same policy.
The National Policy for Disabled People, adopted in 2006, has comprehensively spelt out the goals towards full acknowledgement and exercise of all human rights of persons with disabilities as well as promoting a broad commitment to accessibility, autonomy and equality of opportunity for them. These measures would stand India in good stead in discharging its accountability to the international community under the UNCRPD.
Age relaxation upto 10 years is given to the handicapped job-seekers as compared to the normal age-limit for all the posts. It a handicapped person is unable to type due to this disability, they are exempted from the typing test (as it is compulsory for Group ‘C’ posts). The Ministry of Communications, Department of Telecommunications has opened telephone-booths for the handicapped persons (under self-employment scheme). Most of the handicapped persons are manning telephone booths and earning their livelihood through this beneficial scheme. The Ministry has also exempted affixing of postage stamps on the letters of “Braille Scripts” meant for the blind community.
Re-caning of chairs in the Central as well as in the State Government Offices has been strictly reserved for the blind caners. The Ministry of Petroleum and Chemicals has reserved fifteen percent of all types of dealerships/agencies of the Public Sector Oil Companies to the handicapped candidates only. Under the direction of Ministry of Finance, all the Nationalised banks are providing Differential Rate of Interest (DRI) loans at the rate of four percent interest per annum upto Rs. 6,500/- without any surety to the disabled. This type of loan is provided for self-employment of the handicapped persons.
The Ministry of Social Justice has recently formulated a corporation, entitled “The National Handicapped Financial Development Corporation” for the all-round development of the handicapped community of the Nation. The Corporation is specially meant for starting self-employment programmes of the un-employed handicapped. The corporation also makes arrangements to dispose the manufactured goods of the handicapped people in their workshops. The Ministry also provides National Scholarship to poor handicapped students.
During 2004-05, 2005-06 and 2006-07, Rs 130.55 crore, Rs. 124.71 crore and Rs. 122.19 crore were released for the various programmes connected with persons with disabilities mainly Non-Governmental Organisations, National Institutes, Artificial Limbs manufacturing Corporation of India and National Handicapped Finance and Development Corporation.
Taking into account the past experience, the procedure for sanction of grant-in-aid to Non-Government Organizations has been streamlined from current financial year. The State Governments had been advised to send consolidated proposals after getting them scrutinized by a multi-disciplinary committee. To ensure proper utilization of funds, periodic progress reports are obtained apart from audited statement of accounts, list of beneficiaries and utilization certificates.
RTI in Braille
In order to provide equal opportunities to the handicapped people also, the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment published the RTI (Right To Information) Act in “Braille Versions” also to cater to the Visually Handicapped people. The copies of “Braille Versions” of the RTI Act can be obtained from the National Institute for the Visually Handicapped, 16, Rajpur Road, Dehradun (Uttarakhand).
In addition, the Central Board of Secondary Education has provided the following concessions to physically handicapped students:
· Option of studying one compulsory language as against two for general candidates and option to offer other subjects in lieu of Mathematics or Science.
· Facility of a writer in the examination, if requested for.
· Additional time ranging from 30 minutes to sixty minutes provided to answer the question paper.
· Separate question papers in enlarged print for visually impaired candidates.
· Alternative questions provided for the visually impaired candidates, in lieu of questions having visual inputs in Social Science and English Communicative for class X and in History, Geography and Economics for Class XII.
· Special seating arrangement for the conduct of the examination on the ground floor as far as possible.
· Physio-therapy exercises are considered as equivalent to physical education and health education course.
· Answer Books of such candidates are evaluated separately.
The above concessions are being extended to the candidates of all CBSE affiliated schools throughout the country.
Thus, the Government integrates the handicapped people in the National Mainstream by implementing various welfare measures in a big way to help them stand on their own feet.